LONDON, December 15, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- New research among young people, including school leavers and those in full time education, indicates that Religious Education (RE) is a valued subject that leaves a lasting impression on those who study it. This timely research comes as the government sets out its Schools White Paper, calling for a return to traditional humanities-based subjects.

The study was commissioned by the RE Council of England and Wales (REC), and involved 1,000 young people aged between 16 and 24 years. It found that 80% of respondents thought studying RE could promote better understanding of different religions and beliefs. This figure rose to 83% amongst those who had studied RE at GCSE and was consistently higher for young women (85% amongst the 19-21 year olds). There was notable support for this sentiment from all religions and beliefs, including 77% of those who said they were atheists.

Professor John Howson, former government advisor and managing director of Education Data Surveys said: "This is an authoritative survey that clearly demonstrates the key place of RE in the school curriculum. In our increasingly diverse world, it's important that young people have the opportunity to understand about the nature of faith and belief in society. It's very encouraging that 83% of those who took a GCSE felt that studying RE in schools can help to promote a better understanding of different religions and beliefs up to eight years after taking the course."

RE lessons are part of every school's core curriculum and a majority of students go on to choose to take a GCSE in RE as one of their humanities subjects. Respondents were asked if they had been positively influenced by studying RE at school; those who had taken a GCSE were more likely to have been positively influenced.

Dr Brian Gates, Emeritus Professor of Religious and Moral Education at the University of Cumbria and chair of the REC added:

"Our research has shown RE has a measurable impact on those who study it; RE in schools shouldn't be viewed as controversial or a minefield but an essential part of the humanities mix. RE is a rigorous academically based subject that will equip and inform future generations about the origins and meanings of the different beliefs, ethics and opinions found in Britain and around the world."

Contact: Colin Hallmark +44(0)2077361888 info(at)