Stories as a springboard for inspiration and connection – Kate Hill
19 July, 2019
As the alarm sounds at 4am, through the fog, my mind clocks that today’s the day for the AREIAC conference. It was hard to get away from class even for one day – which was all I was going to manage – not because of SLT but because of my class. Year 6 can be a volatile place at this time of year, which has meant I haven’t had chance to think about leading and supporting RE teaching for some time. I was excited, curious and hopeful.
The conference was entitled Agents of Change. As I sat on the train, I wondered how it was going to change me.
The first keynote speaker was Mary Myatt. Her focus on the use of stories hit a nerve. Two years ago, I re-evaluated and redesigned our school’s English planning. I was worried that children had lost their love of English (or perhaps they’d never found one). I wanted to inspire children (well I’m a teacher, it’s what we do) so I started with stories. I know that seems an obvious thing for English but I mean really good, vocabulary rich stories. Stories that took a term to read and became the springboard for their creativity. Since then, our reading and writing scores have rocketed. Children have a love of reading.
Mary talked about starting with stories, really rich, meaningful engaging stories in RE. Of course! Why would it only be English? I have been striving for a way of raising children’s religious literacy – particularly in community Primaries where children have barely any. They have no way of connecting RE to their lives, no foundation of religious vocabulary to build upon and deepen. We needed a way in and there is nothing more profound in teaching than a story. It is in our human nature. Beyond culture and throughout time, stories have been used to connect, inform, engage, and inspire! So, my first change? Every piece of planning to include a story. And right there – English and RE making a genuine connection where both subjects can be taught simultaneously without compromising the key skills of either.
After lunch, Luke Donnellan spoke about Humanism and World Views. He began with the stats. A strong case in themselves to teach non-religious world views, but along with others I was worried about just ticking the ‘no religion’ box as evidence for those who have ‘non-religious world views’. As though reading our minds, he went on to clarify what exactly was meant by ‘non-religious world views’: that this did not, in itself, mean atheism, nihilism or ‘no religion’. For the Primary curriculum, ‘non-religious world views’ is new to many teachers. Indeed it’s only really touched upon in Year 6 if at all. I have often seen humanism mixed with atheism and a lack of understanding of the ‘world view’ part of this. So my next change? Clarifying what is meant by ‘non-religious world views’ to my primary colleagues and removing the misunderstanding.
My time at the conference was brief, but it only took a whistle-stop tour for me to be inspired by the vision, commitment and drive to see the changes I need to make to ensure that the teaching and learning in Religious Education and World Views is accessible, rigorous and of course inspirational for all children!
Year 6 Class Teacher and Professional Lead for RE in Scarborough.