My journey on the AREIAC REvitalise programme – Saima Saleh

REvitalise was a one-year project funded by AREIAC and CStG, it supported 20 teachers already starting to lead RE training for others outside of their school.

Having had the privilege to be part of the REvitalise project has enabled me to have a far better understanding of how to improve RE provision within my own school, as well as for others, allowing me to grow as well as help develop the leadership qualities in others.

Every minute of my involvement with this project has been extremely useful, as I have been immersed in high quality CPD with the best people and have been given amazing opportunities to meet other organisations such the 3 Faith Forum and The Ismaili Centre in London. It was useful to find out more about these organisations so that I could impart my new-found knowledge with my RE leaders’ group. I found out about the Faith and Belief Forum’s diversity workshops and their school linking programme: I have since shared this information with other RE leaders in Frimley. The visit to the Ismaili Centre was a fantastic opportunity to find out more first-hand about a branch of Islam that I didn’t previously know much about. This subject knowledge has since been used to inform my own planning and that of other leaders’. Being part of this program has allowed me to have a year’s membership to AREIAC- a fantastic opportunity to meet and work with advisers and consultants- learning from highly experienced people in the field of RE!

One of the best things I have learnt, which has had a huge impact on my training of other teachers, was learning about andragogy. It answers the ‘So what?’ and ‘Why should I be interested?’ questions that many teachers ask when involved with CPD at the end of a day’s teaching. The power of effective andragogy is vital in order to give teachers worthwhile ideas for the classroom and a wealth of resources to take away. I now use a variety of practical and engaging ‘starters’ at the beginning of my training sessions which make teachers think deeply about the content of the training- compared to ‘jumping into’ the training content that I used to do. I feel that I now conduct useful, interesting and highly relevant CPD for all- I now look at what I do with ‘a fresh pair of eyes’!

Attending the AREIAC conference in Manchester this July seemed like a natural progression as I come to the end of my year on the REvitalise project. It was evident that within the RE community, it is vital to make connections between organisations, supporting each other and helping to grow new leaders for the future- in essence just what the REvitalise project has aimed to achieve.

It was an honour to hear the wise words of the high calibre of speakers at the AREIAC conference. Mary Myatt’s words about ‘High Challenge, Low Threat’ made me think about offering a training session for the RE planners in my school and within my trust, based on examining closely, the quality of lessons being offered to pupils. During Mary’s speech, I found myself questioning myself about the quality of texts and images being used in my own classroom. Ed Pawson gave a brilliant speech which made me think about how the CORE report translates into what we do next as an RE community. Ed’s speech also highlighted the need for preparing training for teachers of RE to prepare for ‘deep dive’ inspections. This is something I hope to do in the next academic year. It was a fantastic experience to hear about Dr Richard Kueh’s multi-disciplinary approach to stressing the importance for subjects to be more linked. I now understand more about finding a strategic way to improve the standards in my trust and to influence change with respect to RE planning and ultimately, the quality and content of what pupils are learning. Dr Kevin O’Grady made me think about research opportunities: consequently, I would like to ask my local group members if they would like to research any area of our subject, with a view to sending a research proposal to Kevin in the future. To summarise, all speakers made me think clearly about curriculum design and how my leadership can be used to help develop the quality of the subject for others. I am particularly interested in looking at previous research with a view to how it can inform my planning and teaching of RE, which in turn, will be of benefit to the teachers I train.

REvitalise has also given me the opportunity to network with others in similar roles.  I now feel empowered to ’push further’ and work with other advisers to coordinate a pupil conference for higher prior attainers in RE, with a view to providing a conference for RE teachers in Surrey. Without this incredible project, I would never have broken out of my ‘comfort zone’.  Now I have the courage to keep striving for excellence in RE on a much larger scale and taking others with me on this journey. I am so grateful for being part of the REvitalise project- I will never look back!

For more about research in RE visit:

Saima Saleh
Primary Teacher and member of NATRE executive

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