Wednesday, 10 December 2014

*NEW* Alternative A Level Proposal - posted by Charlotte Vardy

Charlotte has posted this update via the Candle Conference blog:

Following on from discussions with colleagues up and down the country, particularly with the many who gave up their Christmas shopping time to come to Croydon on Saturday, we have produced this alternative proposal for AS and A Level Religious Studies.

The alternative proposal addresses many of the concerns which have been voiced about the existing proposals...

To be clear, maintaining the status quo is simply not an option going forward; we have to make some tough choices or they will be made for us in a way which does not consider the unique character of our subject, the practicalities we face or the needs of the full range of students. Surely it is better to focus on what is popular and marketable, what students really value, what is academically rigorous and packed with HOT skills, rather than leading on what only a few are going to want to study or be equipped to teach, imparting an arbitrary body of knowledge according to a largely discredited ideological approach when doing so will not even fulfill the stated aims of doing so? Surely it is better to build on areas in which most teachers have solid expertise, real enthusiasm and tried-and-tested resources than to push the vast majority into open water and watch students’ learning outcomes suffer for years as we play catch up?

Read it all in full <here>


  1. Initial questions, and I admit, I have only read brief overview with my sandwich!

    1) Why is non Biblical text too problematic?
    2) What if two religions studied at GCSE were Islam and Hinduism?
    3) Why could textual study not be of philosophical or ethical nature?
    4) Are there no options here apart from having to study P&E? (Okay for schools currently doing this, but how about those who are doing Gospel papers?)


  2. 1) Colleagues very concerned that even if it were possible to get students exploring Vedic criticism, different theories of the authorship and development of the Qur'an or applying Form Criticism to the Guru Granth Sahib, a tiny minority would be qualified to teach this and the demand would be insufficient to warrant exam boards offering the option. No resources really available either, even at undergraduate level.
    2) Fine! No problem. As worded perfectly possible to study Islam as main religious perspective in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics elements - ditto Hinduism. Would take teacher expertise, but more training and resurces available to explore Kalam arguments, Islamic responses to Evil & Science etc - or even the Vedic arguments for God's existence and Hindu approaches to the relationship between Faith and Reason than there are to support teaching of applying textual, historical criticism to the Qur'an...
    3) This is to address the concerns of TRS departments at universities, whose primary concern is to ensure students have some experience and skills in New Testament or Old Testament study - which is still compulsory on most Theology and Religious Studies courses. There is ample opportunity to engage with Philosophical or Ethical texts in their primary form in the Investigation.
    4) The schools doing Gospel papers would just carry on... we would ALL have to do texts AS WELL AS the Philosophy of Religion and Ethics we mostly already do. I hope you will see that the topics chosen in the Philosophy of Religion and Ethics elements make this far from "more of the same" though - this will be a genuine Religious Studies course and very different from Philosophy, though without losing the conceptual challenge and HOT skills that students really value - as might be suggested by existing DfE proposals.

  3. Re 4)

    Are you suggesting that your model replace all 3 strands of the existing proposal? Or it is Textual study plus your proposal - so this replaces systematic study and P&E modules? I don't get how schools doing Gospel papers would "just carry on".

    Thanks for clarifying.

  4. This is a complete new proposal, but it makes Philosophy of Religion, Ethics, Textual Study and an independent investigation related to one of the areas or Religion in the Modern world compulsory for all.

    Colleagues suggested that by DfE proposals even schools currently doing texts will be discouraged from doing so, firstly because the content of the entire AS in the systematic study of religion is duplicated from GCSE - schools which already do 50% GCSE Christianity would be mad not to do Christianity for A Level - and secondly because the superficial mismatch of topics on Philosophy/Ethics/Social Science would probably be a lot easier to get good grades in. In addition, the content of the DfE proposed text option is not the same as existing NT papers - it is much more "applied texts" than pure biblical criticism and so may fail in its central aim of providing a rigorous foundation for Biblical Studies as it is approached at university.

    The text element of the alternative proposal covers Origins, Developments, Theology and different religious applications as the DfE proposal textual option does, but tries to put these in conceptual context; relating textual study to questions about religous language and meaning, revelation and the nature of faith, different concepts of God and the use and abuse of texts for guiding ethical decision making. It is also more focused in its requirement to study the origins, development and interpretation of text, including insights from historical and different forms of textual criticism and responses to these, so hopefully giving an accurate if brief insight into Biblical Studies at university which is a helluva lot more than students get at the moment - or would be DfE proposals!

  5. Is it just me or is this more of a exam spec rather than what the DfE consultation supposed to be about? Is it possible that AOs will actually produce something that could look quite different to the current documents?