What might a well-designed curriculum for RE look like?

In this section, three principles of design are offered, relating to:


  • Clarity of purpose
  • Balanced areas of enquiry
  • Progression in pupils’ learning


Design Principle 1: Being clear about the purpose of RE


An effective RE curriculum is designed around a set of aims and purposes shared by the teaching team and the school’s leadership, and broadly acceptable to, and supported by, parents and students. Taking time to ensure that the rationale for the subject is clearly understood can underpin effective planning. In the NCFRE, the purpose of RE is expressed in the purpose statement (p11) and the three aims, namely that in order to be religiously literate, all pupils:


  • know about and understand a range of religions and worldviews[1];
  • express ideas and insights about the nature, significance and impact of religions and worldviews;
  • gain and deploy the skills needed to engage seriously with religions and worldviews.


Design Principle 2: Balancing areas of enquiry/content


An effective RE curriculum will incorporate a balanced and coherent suite of enquiries/content, built around the key areas of knowledge and understanding that lie at the heart of the subject. As pupils move through the RE curriculum they should gain greater understanding and command of this core subject matter of religious education.


In these guidelines three different areas of enquiry/content are proposed as a basis for a well-designed curriculum:


  • Investigating the nature of religion and belief g.
    • What is religion? What is a worldview?
    • How do beliefs inform moral choices?
    • What do we know about religion and worldviews in our local community?
    • How can people find happiness in life?
    • Is there life after death?
    • What is the relationship between religion and spirituality?


  • Investigating Christianity g.
    • What do Christians believe?
    • Why do Christians call Jesus ‘Saviour’?
    • What can we find out about Christianity by visiting our local church?
    • How important are the differences between Christians?


  • Investigating other religions and worldviews g.


Similar types of question to those about Christianity but related to the other religions and worldviews specified for the key stage, including their diversity.


These different areas can be studied separately or combined into units of work which integrate the different enquiry areas/content. For example:


  • Material on key teachings from the religions and worldviews chosen in areas 2 and 3 could be combined in a unit on ‘How do (choose 2 examples) work against injustice and inequality?’
  • A unit on ‘What can we find out about religion and belief in our local community?’ could include the religions and worldviews selected for study in that key stage but also introduce pupils to a wider diversity of other religions and worldviews
  • A unit from area 1 on ‘Is there life after death?’ would draw ideas from the main religions and worldviews selected for study at the key stage as well as other religions and worldviews.


Design Principle 3: Incorporating a model of progression


An effective RE curriculum builds in clear and visible progression, showing pupils, teachers and parents how to make progress in RE. In the NCFRE, the key drivers of progression are all related to the three aims, and they are spelt out in the statements at the start of each key stage. They involve: extending and deepening knowledge (eg through increasing use of subject-specific vocabulary); asking questions and expressing views (eg with reasoning, examples and relevant material). This means that generally through the key stages:


  • The study of specific religions and worldviews should become deeper and more comprehensive
  • Vocabulary should become wider, more abstract and used more competently
  • Enquiries, concepts, content and source materials should become more challenging and complex, and concepts integrated into a coherent narrative in relation to the matters studied.
  • Pupils should become more challenging and perceptive in the questions they ask.
  • Pupils’ responses should become more complex and more closely identified with the material and sources they are studying.


Whatever units are chosen, the sequence of units should give a clear sense of a ‘learning journey’ within a year, within a key stage and across phases.



[1] The phrase ‘religions and worldviews’ is used in this document to refer to Christianity, other principal religions represented in Britain, smaller religious communities and non-religious worldviews such as Humanism. The phrase is meant to be inclusive, and its precise meaning depends on the context in which it occurs e.g. in terms of belief, practice or identity.