This section is all about the management of teaching and learning, improvement, pupil progress and the resources that exist to support you. The ‘Links to national guidance’ on the left, for example, will provide you with good background to current requirements for RE and to what inspectors may look for when they visit!
In all likelihood, you will already have a policy statement for RE in your institution – somewhere! But does it date from the days when Ofsted used to check up on that sort of thing? Or, you may have an up-to-date policy for RE and know exactly where the documentation is, but either way, please take a quick tour of our links below – there may be ideas shared here that will enhance the effectiveness of your RE policy in the service of pupils’ learning.
The process of developing policy is a valuable one for those involved, but it is in the implementation of policy that real impact on pupils’ learning is made.
You educational establishment will probably have some kind of policy proforma in place for leaders of subjects, schools or themes of the curriculum. This will provide a structure for you as you seek to link with your institution’s broad aims and values. Here we start with developing a vision for RE. ‘Where there is no vision’, as the Proverb says, ‘the people perish’.
Visions for RE
As a leader of RE, it is worth spending time developing your vision for how the subject can contribute to a young person’s education. You may wish to develop this with colleagues so the vision is shared from the start.
Here are some starting points to consider. Do any of the following statements match your own ideas of with RE is about? How might you adapt them to suit the pupils in your institution?
Religious education [in our school] asks about meaning and purpose in life from beginning to end. It gives space for individual reflection and wondering who and why; it explores Christianity, other principal religions and world views, and how they affect the fabric of personal and social life; it identifies the reality of evil, injustice and suffering and it opens up visions of how life for all the world’s citizens may be transformed by truth, beauty and goodness.
Religious Education Council of England and Wales, 2004
Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups.
UN Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26
Pupils who follow the RE programme in our school gain a deep awareness of their own and others’ identities; they wrestle with the mysteries of life and the answers given by a wide variety of religions and beliefs; they develop a clear sense of what is of real value in world today.
Pupils who follow the RE programme in our school gain a deep knowledge and understanding of the teachings, practices and life stories expressed in a variety of ways within Christianity and other principal religions and world views. Through reflection on their own beliefs and values in the light of their learning, they grow in respect for themselves and others.
Pupils who follow the RE programme in our school encounter the transformative power of religions and beliefs in people’s lives – in the Bristol and Somerset area, in the UK and in the wider world. They demonstrate curiosity about men and women of faith and commitment who have changed individual lives, society and culture. Through RE, they feel compelled to imagine and contribute to the creation of a better world for all.
Awareness, Mystery and Value (AMV), the Agreed Syllabus for Religious Education in Bath & NE Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset and Somerset, 2011
It is important for young people to acquire a better understanding of the role that religions play in today’s pluralistic world. The need for such education will continue to grow as different cultures and identities interact with each other through travel, commerce, media or migration. Although a deeper understanding of religions will not automatically lead to greater tolerance and respect, ignorance increases the likelihood of misunderstanding, stereotyping, and conflict.
Toledo Guiding Principles for Teaching about Religions and Beliefs, 2007, p.9 [See http://www.osce.org/odihr/27217 for the key Guiding Principles of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) or download the full publication from http://www.osce.org/odihr/49220]
Rationale, aims and definitions
Once you have established a working vision for RE it will be easier to connect the broad aims and rationale for the subject to your ultimate goals.
This will be important. There are still people out there who do not appreciate the value of good RE! In order to refresh yourself on the reasons why RE is a vital part of any young person’s education, see our section ‘Why RE’.
You will also get help for this part of your policy from your locally agreed (or equivalent) RE syllabus. The Links to National Guidance may also be helpful here.
Objectives in RE
As well as statements about what RE is, and how it can contribute to the lives of children and young people in broad terms, it is helpful to indicate in your policy statement some of the specific aspects of the subject that pupils will address as part of the RE programme.
For example, what opportunities do pupils have for meeting members of religious and belief communities? The school should have procedures in place for receiving visitors and keeping children safe, but you may also want to provide visitors with a guide to how they may best support the RE programme. Your locally agreed (or equivalent) RE syllabus may have advice here. See, e.g., http://amv.somerset.gov.uk/resources/code-of-conduct-for-faith-representatives-visits-visitors/
What places of significance in RE do pupils visit as part of their programme of study? See, e.g., http://lotc.recouncil.org.uk/re-trails for ideas on learning outside the classroom experiences in RE.
The programmes of study in your RE syllabus should help here and it will be useful to indicate any development that is expected across the year groups or main stages. For example, you could mention the specific religions and beliefs to be studied by different age groups, the attitudes and skills to be developed and the experiences and opportunities to be undertaken.
Reference could be made here to the assessment / evaluation of pupils’ work, e.g., in terms of ‘Can-do- statements’ that can be made available on request, but see also the ‘Assessment, recording and reporting’ section below.
Principles of teaching and learning
This is a vital part of your policy development and practice. Here you will need to consider your approach to equal opportunities and provision of differentiated activities to suit the range of ability, background and learning need in your institution. Here are some key questions that should prompt brief statements for your policy:
How will RE be planned to engage different pupils appropriately? For example, will a variety of approaches be used, such as discussions, debates, music, writing, drama, visual arts, and ICT? Are there opportunities for pupils to reflect, to explore beliefs and values, to ask their own questions, to investigate, research and respond personally? Are there activities designed to support learning for boys AND girls, or to support particular minority groups?
How does the practice in RE put school policies on provision for gifted and talented pupils and those with special educational needs into practice?
How do your schemes of learning balance the different attainments targets (usually ‘learning about religion and belief’ and ‘learning from religion and belief)?
How is content selected and planned to ensure coverage of aspects of Christianity and other major religions represented in Britain? How is attention paid to expressions of religion and belief within the school community and local area?
How is RE made relevant to pupils in your institution, e.g., by making connections with their own experience. Are there planned visits and visitors in the programme that enable pupils to come into first hand contact with adherents form a variety of traditions?
What part does RE play in promoting the spiritual, moral, cultural and social development of pupils and preparing them for the opportunities, responsibilities, and experiences of life?
What cross-curricular links does RE make within the school curriculum? For example, how do the programmes of study link with Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education? Are there specific places where RE addresses issues of Equal Opportunities, Multicultural Education, Environmental Education and Citizenship?
How are continuity and progression maintained across the programme of study? For example, is there a focus on the ‘six areas of enquiry’ in RE where learning in each area is revisited, using different content and activities so that pupils’ learning is (a) reinforced and (b) built upon?
Assessment, recording and reporting
The school will have its own policies and approaches in these areas, but it is vital that teachers know how to evaluate how well pupils are doing in RE and to feed back guidance on what they must do next to make progress.
For example, are opportunities for assessment identified in the schemes of learning? Are such opportunities a continuing, integral part of learning?
What criteria for assessment are being used, and what do they address? Do you look at pupils’ knowledge, understanding, skills and attitudes?
How is the information about pupils’ achievement recorded and how is it reported to them and their parents / carers?
For more ideas on assessment, recording and reporting, see our Assessing sections.
Resources and Planning
It is most important that Religious Education is adequately funded within the school budget plan. How about £150 plus £1 per registered pupil in the institution? Funding should include provision for purchasing resources (artefacts, books, music, subscriptions, etc). Provision should also be made for visits, visitor expenses and for staff INSET / CPD.
Where are the Religious Education books, artefacts, DVDs, posters, music CDs held? Is there a library area? Do these resources cover Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism and other worldviews?
Does the institution make use of resources borrowed from a local RE Resource Centre / Museum / Diocesan Resource Centre?
Does the RE leader seek additional funding for specific projects and purposes from, e.g., the school governors, local religious communities, regional and national charities? Have any previous bids been successful? If so, how was the funding used?
Is there an annual key stage / whole school meeting held to review the needs of Religious Education?
For an examination of ‘Materials used to teach about world religions in England’ see the 2010 report produced for the DCSF by Warwick University: https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/standard/publicationdetail/page1/DCSF-RR197
Transition across phases
Projects that enable pupils to take their learning across into another school, or just from one year to the next can have a big impact on their progress in RE. It is worth mentioning any strategies you have developed to meet this need, such as starting a unit of work that is completed in the next phase.
Action Plan, Self-evaluation and Review
Once you have got your policy under way you will naturally think of things that might be improved. These can form the basis of your improvement plan. Resources, teaching methods, schemes of learning and INSET needs will be identified and priorities for action established and linked with the school development plan.
One way of drawing up an improvement plan is to work through an RE self-evaluation exercise. This will usually cover aspects of the provision and quality of RE in the school that might, for example be looked at in an Ofsted subject inspection. Self-evaluation will typically focus on such questions as how well pupils are doing in RE, taking account of different groups of pupils; how effective the provision of RE is in the school: meeting pupils’ needs, inspiring pupils through excellent teaching, encouraging pupils’ progress through clear feedback; and how effective the leadership and management are, especially in terms of how your vision is impacting on teaching and learning, and how spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is promoted.
Questions raised through self-evaluation and the evidence (or lack of evidence!) collected will help to form the improvement plan. Here is a typical improvement plan proforma that you might use: RE Improvement Plan
In order to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the religious education curriculum, it’s a good idea to review it annually. This might be best done with members of senior management as well as teaching colleagues, including teaching assistants and those with special responsibility for particular aspects of schools life, such as supporting pupils with special educational needs or traveller children.
Withdrawal from all or part of RE
The headteacher and the school governors have a responsibility to ensure that religious education (and collective worship) is provided in the school and that parents / carers have information about the right to withdraw their child from all or part of RE – usually in the school prospectus.
As far as the RE leader goes it will important that any statement about withdrawal from the subject is accompanied by an offer to meet or communicate with any parents / carers who may want to take up this right. Although they do not have to give a reasons for withdrawing their child from RE, the intention of the law was so that parents could arrange for their child to have their own RE rather than that offered by the school – not so that they could have free study time or take up some alternative educational or other programme! So, an offer to clarify what happens in RE should be made so that parents are clear about the educational objectives and content of the RE syllabus. In this way, parents can make an informed decision.
See the links on the left for the legal requirements regarding the right to withdraw plus a checklist of questions for the RE leader, headteacher and governors.
The RE Quality Mark
Once you have got your policy and practice for RE sorted, you might consider entering your institution for the RE Quality Mark.
This is an accreditation system that recognises good practice in RE, but is designed to be a mechanism for whole school improvement too. The REQM is supported by the Culham St Gabriel’s Trust and works at the three levels of Bronze, Silver and Gold awards. You can apply through the REQM website and arrange for the trained assessors to visit your school and to validate your work!