A new textbook – Who is Jesus? – explores and exemplifies what the RE-searchers approach might look like when applied in the upper secondary school context

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A team from Exeter University and the Learning Institute has developed a new approach to Religious Education in Primary Schools. It is called ‘the RE-searchers approach’. It encourages pupils to think about the significance and effectiveness of different methodologies and methods of enquiry in Religious Education. To make these accessible to young children, we have personified some of them as cartoon characters. Individually these characters are called Debate-it-all Derek, Ask-it-all Ava, Have-a-go Hugo, and See-the-story Suzie, but collectively they’re known as the ‘RE-searchers’. Each character holds different assumptions about religion(s) and advocates different research methods (e.g. questioning and arguing, interviewing and empathizing, participating and experiencing, and narrating and exploring interpretations). Once acquainted with our characters and their respective characteristics as researchers, pupils can undertake learning activities associated with each of them in pursuit of different understandings of religion(s).


These webpages include resources that:
– explain who the RE-searcher characters are
– explain how the RE-searchers approach can be used
– provide examples of exemplar planning and activity ideas
– explore the theoretical underpinnings of the approach




This online space will be used to provide a repository for such materials as we continue to develop the approach and accompanying resources. Materials have been written primarily for teachers, teacher educators and teacher trainees, but will be of interest to all those concerned with Religious Education in schools. We are keen to find more collaborators who wish to trial the approach and contribute to our understanding of how it can be used to support learning and learners in a range of contexts, thereby contributing to its future development. To receive more information on how to do so, please contact


The RE-searchers approach has been developed through ‘close-to-practice’ theorisation and conceptualisation within the parameters of the policy and legal frameworks defining Religious Education in maintained schools without a religious affiliation in England. This work has been led by Rob Freathy at the University of Exeter and Giles Freathy, a Specialist Leader in Education in a primary school in South West England. The approach aims to initiate pupils into the communities of academic enquiry concerned with theological and religious studies. It takes as its starting point the following key assumptions: (i) religions are complex, diverse, multi-faceted, evolving and multi-dimensional phenomena; (ii) there are multiple methodologies and methods for generating knowledge about religion(s); and (iii) a multi-methodological pedagogy is necessary to avoid favouring one particular approach over others. Using the RE-searchers approach can help with learning about religion(s) and learning how to learn about religion(s) by creating a balance between: (i) subject content and issues of representation; (ii) learning processes and research methods; and (iii) personal evaluation and self-reflection.


The development of project materials has been generously funded by Culham St. Gabriel’s Trust and the Hockerill Foundation, and to whom we are very thankful for their faith, support and generosity. In addition to these two bodies we would also like to express our thanks to the following for supporting our work: The Learn Teach Lead RE Project, Sir Robert Geffery’s Primary School, The Learning Institute, Leigham Primary School, The University of Exeter Design Studio, Karen Walshe, Geoff Teece, Jonathan Doney, Lorraine Abbott, Emma Butler, Izzy Williams, Katie Freeman, Tatiana Wilson, Linda Rudge, Julie Curtis, Dave Francis, James Robson, Mark Chater, Nick Appleby and Danielle Golding.



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