Frequently Asked Questions – GCSE Religious Studies

Frequently Asked Questions – GCSE Religious Studies

Will there still be a short course in RS?

No. The design proposal for GCSE Religious Studies states there will not be a short course. This decision was based on several factors:

Firstly, during co-construction teachers raised concerns around workload for example, some were teaching the full-course GCSE within the time allotted for the short course.

Secondly, the decision was influenced by the need to maintain a clear distinction between the GCSE qualification and requirements for schools under the statutory Religion, Values, and Ethics (RVE) guidance. GCSE Religious Studies is intended to support the statutory RVE guidance and not to directly assess it. In this way, schools would not be expected to enter whole cohorts of learners to the GCSE Religious Studies in the belief that it would meet the statutory requirements in respect of the RVE guidance.

Thirdly, this decision is consistent with the approach taken in other subjects as we have not included a short course in any of the other GCSE subjects that we are consulting on.

Will there be a separate route through the GCSE for Catholic schools?


Why have you included an element of non-examination assessment (NEA) within GCSE RS?

The changes we are proposing to all GCSEs include a different mix of assessment methods with less emphasis on exams and more opportunities for learners to be assessed during their course of study.

In each humanities subject we have proposed an enquiry project, and in each case the project will contribute the same percentage of the overall grade (30%). During the co-construction process, which involved teachers, it was felt that an enquiry project as part of NEA was the preferred option to reflect the first Statement of What Matters within the Humanities Area of Learning and Experience.

Learners who choose GCSE Religious Studies will have experience of the Curriculum for Wales and will have developed enquiry skills; this qualification builds on the conceptual understanding learners will have developed through their learning, prior to the age of 14, and this will reflect the statements of what matters and descriptions of learning within the Humanities Area of Learning and Experience.

Why is the proposed proportion of NEA less for RS than other humanities subjects?

GCSE Religious Studies has the same 30% proportion of NEA as an enquiry project as the other Humanities subjects.

We have proposed an additional element of NEA for Social Studies, History, Geography, and Business, because there was evidence during co-construction that the assessment of content within these qualifications, could be done via additional NEA tasks.

In addition to the NEA, in all five humanities subjects (History, Geography, Business, Social Studies and Religious Studies) we are proposing more than one external examination for each subject. Thereby ensuring a level consistency in assessment approach across all humanities GCSEs.   

How many hours are expected to be allocated to the teaching of GCSE RS?

The GCSE Religious Studies specification must include content that is deliverable within 120-140 guided learning hours.

It will be a school’s decision in terms of how many hours of a schools’ timetable is allocated to individual subjects.

How does GCSE RS fit in with the RVE guidance?

GCSE Religious Studies is a qualification and is different to the RVE statutory guidance. While GCSE Religious Studies is not intended to directly assess the RVE guidance, we expect the specification, when it is developed by the awarding body, to support the RVE guidance.

We are in parallel working on a wider offer of qualifications at entry level and level 1, to support the Curriculum for Wales, and part of this work will consider whether there is a need for a qualification that relates to the RVE statutory guidance for learners between the age of 14 and 16.

Did you consider changing the title of the qualification?

During co-construction, consideration was given to changing the name of the GCSE for Religious Studies. However, no alternative titles were suggested that were better able to fully articulate and reflect the scope and focus of this qualification.

It was considered important to maintain the purpose of the GCSE Religious Studies, on the basis of concerns that changing the name of the qualification could undermine its importance as a subject within the Humanities Area of Learning and Experience. Changing its name could have caused confusion between GCSE Religious Studies and GCSE Social Studies for example.

Similarly, changing the name of the GCSE qualification to Religion, Values and Ethics, the same as the statutory guidance could also cause confusion and fail to respond to problems that had been reported during the co-construction process around teacher workload due to how the short course and the full course GCSE have been used to try and meet statutory guidance.

Have any steps been taken to deal with the significant workload implications for teachers of Religious Studies who have whole-cohort entry due to including an enquiry project with the design proposals?

As the GCSE Religious Studies does not include a short course and has a clear distinction with the RVE statutory guidance, it is not envisaged that many schools would continue to have whole-cohort entry.

However, we understand the workload implications of including NEA within the majority of design proposals, including Religious Studies, particularly when GCSE Religious Studies is currently assessed entirely by external exam. The manageability and workload issues were key considerations during the co-construction process.

Teachers who were part of co-construction felt that the enquiry project could be organised flexibly and help alleviate current concerns about workload, given that the design proposal has also taken steps to address concerns about the heavy content of the current GCSE.

The design proposal indicates that the enquiry project would be set by the awarding body, marked by the school, and moderated by the awarding body. The awarding body will determine the specific focus and design of the assessment task and the conditions under which it will be completed.

When will the GCSE RS exams take place?

Learners will sit their exams at the end of the course, this is on the basis that learners will have more time to build their knowledge and conceptual understanding. Learners will be assessed on work that fully reflects the learning and maturity gained throughout the course. This approach should result in learners having the best opportunity to demonstrate what they know, understand, and can do.

When will the specification be available?

The specification will be developed by the awarding body and made available a year before the qualification is first taught in September 2024.

Will the inclusion of NEA help reverse declining entry levels for GCSE Religious Studies?

Declining entry levels may be caused by a variety of reasons. The co-construction process has tried to alleviate in the GCSE RS design proposal concerns about heavy content. The evidence from co-construction was that including an element of NEA would help make the subject more accessible and engaging for learners. We have responded to this finding from learners in our design proposal for the subject.