From Foundation Stage through to Post-16, it is often a good idea to make connections between religious education and other subjects of the curriculum. Some people refer to this as ‘integrating’ the curriculum, though for others this sounds as though subjects will lose their distinctive identity and contribution to children’s knowledge and understanding. Alternative terms include: ‘cross-curricular’ or ‘inter-disciplinary’ planning. Here, we use the term ‘cross-curricular’.
Why link RE with other subjects?
RE lends itself well to cross-curricular approaches. RE is interested in practically every aspect of human learning and endeavour! The skills of the historian might be useful, for example, in providing a context for the life of an important religious person, or those of the artist in interpreting religious painting. Language skills will be useful in interpreting religious scriptures or stories and connections will be made with citizenship in examining ‘belief in action’. Can we really understand ‘human nature’ without taking modern scientific understanding into account? And how are we to understand the contribution of religion to environmental issues without the insights provided by geographers? There are connections to be made everywhere!
Most teachers are well used to breaking out of the RE ‘box’ in order to enrich children’s learning. Making connections with other subjects helps provide extra meaning, relevance and reality. RE is a special subject in its own right, but we need to be prepared to break down the subject barriers where the benefits for children are clear, especially in the broadening and/or deepening of their knowledge, understanding and skills.
Many schools are promoting a skills- or competency-based approach to planning a ‘creative curriculum’. But it is important also to maintain subject discipline in this new context. QCA says ‘skills AND content’, not one or the other. The key to ensuring that ‘good RE’ can take place in topic- or skills-based curricula is to ensure that the RE syllabus ‘learning opportunities/outcomes’ are included and identifiable.
Get involved: some planning models
RE leaders in schools need to get involved in curriculum planning, not ‘let it happen’.
Below there are three possible starting points for planning RE in relation to other subjects. In each case, care needs to be taken to be clear about the RE learning. The best way to do this is to provide focuses for learning that reach across the RE attainment targets.
It is a good idea, therefore, to focus on ONE of the following strands (or key concepts) often associated with AT1:
- beliefs, teachings and sources;
- practices and ways of life;
- expressing meaning;
alongside ONE of the following strands often associated with AT2:
- identity, diversity and belonging;
- meaning, purpose and truth;
- values and commitments.
This focus should be carried all the way through the cross-curricular work, so that assessment of pupils’ progress can be tracked.
In each case, make sure you get a good KEY QUESTION, that can apply to all the subjects involved. Relate this to the SKILLS that pupils will develop. Then work out the practical details: Who will be involved in teaching, what resources will be needed, when will the learning take place, how will we know how well children are making progress, and so on.
Starting Point 1
Cross-curricular dimension approach: this is usually better than arbitrary ‘themes’ or ‘topics’. For example, a key stage 2 or 3 focus on ‘Identity and Diversity’ rather than ‘Water’, ‘Victorians’, or ‘Spain’ is more likely to lend itself to connections across a broad range of subjects, and indeed, to any of your RE syllabus units that look at specific religions. Similarly, a key stage 1 focus on ‘creativity’ rather than ‘Toys’ or ‘Materials’, can better lend itself to connections with RE syllabus units, especially those with a focus on ‘Expressing Meaning’.
Starting Point 2
Subject-led approach: take a turn in suggesting a starting point by looking for learning opportunities in the RE syllabus that lend themselves to a cross-curricular project. This approach starts with the learning opportunities that pupils should have. These are offered to colleagues representing other curriculum subjects to see who might want to participate in the development of a cross-curricular project. Here are some examples, taken from the non-statutory national framework for RE:
- FS/KS1: Pupils should be taught to: ask and respond imaginatively to puzzling questions, communicating their ideas – this could be linked with any subjects wishing to explore and solve ‘puzzling questions’ and result in children presenting or communicating their ideas.
- KS2: Pupils should be taught to: reflect on sources of inspiration in their own and others’ lives – many subjects include the study of inspirational individuals who have pushed back the boundaries of knowledge and understanding in their field.
- KS3: Pupils should be taught to: reflect and evaluate their own and others’ beliefs about world issues such as peace and conflict, wealth and poverty and the importance of the environment, communicating their own ideas – the ‘world issues’ theme here could be turned into an engaging question for exploration in a number of curriculum areas.
Starting Point 3
Values, Aims and Purposes approach: What is it that education hopes to achieve for young people? By starting with the basic values, aims and purposes of the curriculum, teachers can work together across subjects to produce lessons that relate to pupils needs and interests. See RE:ONLINE’S rationale for RE in Why RE.
When these are unpacked, there are plenty of goals to work with. Here are some examples:
- FS/KS1: the curriculum should encourage pupils ‘to recognise the importance of pursuing a healthy lifestyle and keeping themselves and others safe.’ This aim could provide the stimulus for series of lessons that involve the Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL). Specific RE material could be drawn from religions and beliefs about spiritual health and well-being, as well as linking to stories from religious traditions about important things in life.
- KS2: the curriculum should develop pupils’ ‘awareness and understanding of, and respect for, the environments in which they live, and secure their commitment to sustainable development at a personal, local, national and global level.’ Specific RE material could be drawn from religions and beliefs about human responsibility for the environment, as well as linking to stories from religious traditions about the larger purpose(s) of life.
- KS3: Successful learners, e.g., ‘are creative, resourceful and able to identify and solve problems’. Confident individuals, e.g., ‘have secure values and beliefs, and have principles to distinguish right from wrong’. Responsible citizens, e.g., ‘challenge injustice, are committed to human rights and strive to live peaceably with others’. These aims could form the basis of a Humanities project looking at the causes and consequences of injustice in the world. A key question could be agreed that students work on in small teams, using material provided from the perspectives of Citizenship, Geography, History, PSHE and RE.
Interactive Planning Tool