PUPILS at a south Essex school will no longer be able to gain a GCSE in Religious Education - after it decided to ditch the qualification.

Religious Education, known as R.E. must be taught in schools to all pupils excluding those aged over 19 or those in nursery schools or classes, as part of the national curriculum.

At GCSE level, pupils complete a statutory short R.E. course and have the option of taking a full course to get a GCSE.

But the Billericay School has decided to end the full course across Years 9, 10 and 11.

A letter has been sent home to parents to inform them of the school’s controversial decision.

Headteacher Ahson Mohammed was unavailable for comment, while other staff members declined to comment.

The letter read: “The school’s intention was, you may recall, to enable students to access their statutory entitlement to R.E. as well as gain an additional GCSE without impacting on either their core subject curriculum time or their range of option choices.

"Unfortunately for a variety of logistical and operational reasons it has not proved possible to deliver this course in such a way as to ensure successful outcomes for all students.

“In the circumstances, we have taken the difficult, but we believe correct, decision to discontinue this course with immediate effect.”

Students will now use this additional timetabled hour per week on a range of targeted interventions which will be personalised for each student.

This could entail additional support in maths and/or English on specific topics, as well as study skills, controlled assessment or portfolio tuition and improvement, the ‘European Computer Driving Licence’ qualification, careers advice and guidance amongst others.

One parent, who didn’t want to be named, said: “I thought this was a joke.

"How can children not have the option to learn about something as significant as religion?

"It’s simply wrong.”

The letter says pupils can now use the additional time each week for “study and support”, which could include extra maths or English.

The letter was unclear as to what year groups would be affected, if there were pupils who had already completed a significant part of the course who would be affected or what the reasons were behind the decision.