How I… am making key stage 4 core RE more rigorous – Dawn Cox

We are lucky to have good provision at key stage 4 for those students that don’t opt for GCSE. We see them once a fortnight for 1 hour and we mainly have RE specialists teaching it. It’s called REality.

Up until recently our course has been mainly moral and ethical issues per half term, some which link to the GCSE and some don’t. To avoid repetition of work of the GCSE students we have tried to take slightly different angles on the topics in our core RE. For example, when looking at abortion we look at many more ‘real life’ case studies and look at examples of ‘forced abortion’ and the issue of who should decide about if a woman should be allowed to either have or not have a baby.

However, in the past year we have been reviewing our provision to try and plan for more challenge, progression and balance across the disciplines. Our key stage 3 (year 7&8) is purely theology and religious studies so we wanted to balance out the disciplines at key stage 4. So, we completed the Church of England audit resource ( and saw that we were doing less philosophy with students as we could be.  The moral and ethical issues were using a lot of social science and some of the philosophical ‘big questions’ in life but not much from the influential philosophers and their arguments. So, we now have a ‘Philosophy 1’ & ‘Philosophy 2’ unit in year 9 & 10 that build on each other, which is helping us to develop our subject knowledge as we’re teaching things we’ve not taught before.

We also looked up to the A level specifications to look for content that could be included in our topics to challenge students. We found that theories such as Utilitarianism could be taught simply and importantly repeated across topics, so students have the repetition of content to help them remember and understand it across topics.

Finally, to give each unit a clear focus, we are developing a clear, curricular enquiry question for students to answer at the end of the topic. Whilst these won’t be ‘in-depth’ due to the time restraints, they will allow students to pull together the beliefs and theories to answer them. For example, “Is it our right to decide what happens to our body?” for our medical ethics topic. We don’t have to complete formal assessments for REality but this does give students a sense of purpose over the topic as we can reference back to it over the 2-4 lessons and they can see how each lesson contributes to their response to the enquiry question. To keep things focussed for students we don’t use books, but we use A3, double sided sheets which have a pre-designed framework for their keywords, notes, questions and finally the enquiry question. This means that we spend less time on presentation and copying key information and more on discussion, case studies and application of the beliefs, teachings and theories. This also significantly reduces our mark load as we mainly are checking they’ve completed the correct boxes for the lesson.

Overall, we feel that these developments are encouraging the students to continue to take REality seriously as we are challenging their thinking and giving it a clear structure and focus.


Dawn Cox

HoD of RE

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