Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Martin Thompson writes...

My reflections are based on my experience as a teacher of RE in a ‘secular’ non-selective academy where we are given the luxury of two hours a week to teach full course GCSE to the whole cohort. Our results last year were 85% A*-C (of which 53% were A*-A) – one of the best set of results across the whole school. We have highly motivated and positive pupil population, and the subject highly regarded by SLT, colleagues, pupils and parents/carers alike.

The revised content provides opportunities for pupils to study religion, contemporary philosophical and ethical issues in much greater depth than under the current specifications. I am encouraged to see that pupils will be taught much more about why people believe what they believe, and how that impacts their daily lives. I am also thoroughly encouraged to see that pupils will have to study two religions. Our pupils already do this, but I believe this should be the standard for every school (and academy). We are based in a part of the UK which has little ethnic/cultural/religious diversity, so we should take seriously our role in broadening horizons wherever and whenever possible.

I welcome the focus on religious and philosophical texts, and hope that this means the end to passing exams with only 3 or 4 teachings learnt per religion. There are some concerns about the depth and rigour of the proposals, and perhaps indeed the necessity of studying material that should be covered by existing models of curriculum at KS3 - the basics of belief. I feel that exam specifications must go far beyond the description of these practices, and instead look at the theology and values embedded within them, and how they provide a lens for a believer to interpret the world.

It is a shame that Humanism isn't offered as a 'worldview' that can be studied as if a second religion, but at the same time understand the argument that there isn't a clear set of beliefs and values as expressed by the religions that are offered for study. It should, however, be explicitly mentioned within some element of the specifications, so that pupils are encouraged to explore it as a wider view of how people seek to make sense of their world.

Religious Education needs to contain rigorous and demanding content. It should challenge pupils in the same way as any other subject. It is our duty as teachers to make this relevant and to help pupils make sense of complex and diverse religious beliefs. I disagree that pupils will see this as irrelevant, and see a decline in the number of schools willing to offer the subject. I do believe, however, that we should seriously consider whether RE is a compulsory subject or not.

It is, of course, vital that religious beliefs are grounded in ethical issues. I would welcome specific content mentioning medical issues (such as IVF/Genetic Engineering) as pupils often find this the most interesting and stimulating/relevant subject to explore.

I am new to the teaching of the RS A-Level (offered as an option group at yr10/11). I would want to highlight the importance of maintaining the current link with ethical issues as pupils often find this the most stimulating part of their studies. Aside from this, religious and philosphical worldviews are only ever useful if they help people make sense of the world (issues and situations) in which they find themselves. Academic theological and philosophical studies must never lose sight of this purpose, simply pursuing knowledge for the sake of it. Application of belief or value system is vital, and the AS/A Level must reflect this and provide pupils with rich and meaningful opportunities to explore this.

No comments:

Post a comment