Friday, 7 November 2014

Welcome: #REconsult #BlogSync

Image courtesy of Amazed and Confused

Friday 7th November saw the launch of the new GCSE and A-Level criteria for Religious Studies. The consultation documents are found here:

Given the number of RE teachers and other interested parties now using blogs, Twitter (#REconsult) and Facebook ("Save RE" group), it is entirely possible this will be the most debated, and hopefully responded to, consultation in the history of RE.

This BlogSync has been set up to create a  public forum for responses. It will enable people to read a variety of different responses, and comment appropriately (any disrespectful or personal comments will be removed). It will be shared with the DfE and Ofqual.

I urge every single teacher to read the documents carefully and respond. Highlight what you like about it, point out what is good,  suggest improvements and detail things you don't agree with. This is your chance!

Please consider blogging your response so it can be shared here. 

If you already have a blog, please email the URL of your post(s) to:

If you don't have a blog, simply write your response and when emailing to copy in - if you would like to be identified, please include relevant info.

Thank you for considering getting involved,


  1. I am still trying to visualise what the changes yesterday to GCSE and A level might mean for my students from 2016 and note this will be from September 2015 if you do GCSE over 3 years!

    There is evidence that the current GCSE isn't working and I put my hands up here that we are teaching to the test. The positives from the new criteria is it broader with more emphasis on 'traditional' aspects of Theology and Religious Studies. I love the fact there is more depth, diversity, rigour, synoptic links and contextualisation of religion. Tim Oates says “students study fewer things in greater depth so they really master fundamental concepts in a subject.” I agree, this has to be a positive step forward, you certainly cannot 'cherry pick' your religion or course anymore! It also goes without saying that two or more religions have to be included to reflect our diverse and multicultural society in the UK. Further, the progression and relationship between GCSE and A level will enable students to be stretched and challenged and I believe prepare students with a broader education for University courses in both TRS and P&E. Ultimately, it will enable better RE teachers, isn't this what we all want?

    However, the questions and challenges for us are a school are: What will some of my weak GCSE students study now? Having 320 students who take RE through a Philosophy and Ethics course in Year 9 and finish the course in Year 10 in one hour a week, can we realistically teach this course? What will happen to our good results? Will we have to be more selective about who we enter? Will this mean an increase in the students who do Entry Level for our bottom sets? Will I need to approach my Head teacher about getting more time for GCSE RS? Is the only way we can teach this new criteria effectively through an option subject in 2 hours plus a week? Is this a good move for core RE in the UK? Where is the inclusion of animal rights/planet earth/medical ethics in this criteria?

    I am still taking in and processing all the change and whilst I don’t have the answers yet, I know what we all need to do to have our voices heard whilst this is a consultation document. #savere, please!
    Chris Giles (Head of RE - South Bromsgrove High School) @sbhsrs

  2. I like the new spec from what I can see, I've recently become a little frustrated with how RE is taught in GCSE.
    Quite often it seems religious believers are portrayed as these strange units that hold lots of eclectic beliefs that seem to have not impact on one another. Instead of passionate, intelligent people trying to commune with God.

    And sadly the major cause, in my mind, for this has been due to the large number of non-specialist teachers who find themselves teaching RE - often because they have a lesson free on their time-table. By adapting the course material to suit the knowledge base of the teachers teaching it, which does make sense don't get me wrong, we have unintentionally diluted religious beliefs to - a quote here and there.

    I am a specialist RE teacher and my degree in is Christian Applied Theology and so I am very well versed in using the Bible as a tool for teaching, I can cite Bible passages and cross reference them. But even I know I would struggle having to do the same for a different religion other than Christianity and I already have existing subject knowledge. This is why I do really sympathise with non-specialist - as I read the requirements for the new spec to be more focused on textual knowledge and theology - both of which are not something one can just 'pick up'.

    My suggestion, which I know wouldn't be a normal response for any other subject, is for the government or another group to produce a subject knowledge booklet based on the new scheme - aimed at non-specialist teachers and other groups need to provide subject knowledge teaching for teachers too. As long as we have teachers whose subject knowledge is only slightly more than the students they are teaching then we're never going to move RE to the 'rigourous' and academic position it actually deserves.

    Presently, I am happy with the suggested changes and believe they will positive for RE and they students.

    Jason Wood (RE Teacher - Abbot Beyne High School).

  3. As a student who studied GCSE RE as well as currently doing my A2 Religious Studies I find the new spec slightly daunting as the 50% split between the Philosophy and Ethics and the Textual studies. The idea of having 50% of the course now being dominated by Textual studies is one which I feel would deter students away from the course because it is a difficult concept to understand especially for GCSE students. The current A-Level and GCSE specs, I believe encourage students to engage their minds in the issues we face in society as well as having the right balance of religious education being taught in lesson. However, in the new specification I feel that such emphasis on Textual studies is effectively making students undertake a very hard-line and traditional take on RE lessons, which for some would make them disengage with the subject as the contemporary nature the current specification offers is almost being lost to the typical, old-fashioned textual studies. The disengagement of pupils is a worry as this subject deserves a lot more credit than it currently gets so the new specification should be increasing engagement and popularity of the subject rather than acting against what attracts the students to Religious Studies.
    We need to find a way to have a mix of the current specification as well as the old. Having a larger emphasis on the religious texts is vital to adding more depth to the subject but doing it in a way which will not deter students from taking the subject further. For example, in GCSE in the exam there could more emphasis on religious texts and quotes to reach the top of the mark schemes and at A-Level progressing this further to have a specific percentage of the marks coming from textual knowledge e.g. 20% of the marks coming from the analysis of religious texts and relating it to the question. There would need to be more teaching time dedicated to textual studies during the course to allow students to get to grips with a text and then being able to apply it in exams. Doing this, will still allow students to broaden their minds in philosophy and Ethics, however, it will also allow students to show off their abilities to argue using contemporary examples and knowledge as well as recalling and applying textual and historical studies to their work. Measures such as these would result in a more religious specification which encourages religious knowledge which allows students to analyse religious works and scholars more effectively. Although less time is spent on text (compared to the proposal), the quality of the analysis is of a higher level as teachers can really hone in on specific areas of the syllabus and bring in religious text to a high degree where possible making the course have a larger focus on text compared to the current syllabus but the spec still contains the key elements that draw students in to learning and enjoying RE.

    Emily Walker (A2 Student of Philosophy and Ethics, Finham Park School)

  4. It is tragic to see Governmental reforms determine the fate of such an interesting and useful subject; if these changes are implemented, Philosophy and Ethics will become, without a doubt, a "studentless" subject! After having studied the Philosophy and Ethics courses, both at GCSE level and currently at A-level standard, I can definitely say that the 50% balance between the two disciplines has allowed me to understand their significance and relevance as individual subjects.
    Equally, although we must learn certain parts of different religious scripture in order to attain the top bands, we need to continue the deeper study of the aforementioned subjects so that we may fully understand the meaning of religious quotations.
    Additionally, if these new reforms are introduced, the rates of employability for students who study this subject will dramatically decrease; employers will prefer candidates who have more knowledge in Philosophy and Ethics, rather than mainly Scripture, as the former equips candidates with transferable skills that last a lifetime.
    If anyone of importance or in an influential position is reading this, we implore you – stop these new reforms from destroying a fantastic subject!

    Laura Connelly (A2 Student of Philosophy and Ethics, Finham Park School)