Strictly RE – The Three Gems – Megan Cunnington

I am an Early Years and Key Stage 1 Phase Leader at a Primary School in Surrey. I have a real passion for RE and this year was my first experience of Strictly RE. I am currently not the RE subject leader, however things might change having had the most inspirational CPD I have had in a long time at Strictly RE.

There were so many things that I have taken away from the whole day but I especially want to share the knowledge of Katie Freeman. The title of her session was ‘Implementing effective RE for EYFS: understanding depth and creativity’. As a current Reception teacher and a part of school where we teach RE from our Nursery upwards, I felt like I needed some more ideas of how to get our youngest children having a passion for RE.

Katie spoke about how she had approached changing the teaching and learning of RE in her school and the benefits of this to create deep understanding and creativity to all her lesson. I want to share with you three gems from her approach and explain how I have used these to enhance the RE learning.

The first of these was directly linked to the curriculum Intent. What skills and knowledge do I want my children to learn? What is it, that we are expecting our children to learn and how does this differentiate from themes that are taught in later years? Katie spoke about the way in which she had set out a spiral curriculum in her school, where as a school staff they had looked at the building on the prior knowledge. Coming back to school I have revised what it is we are teaching in Nursery and Reception and now made a direct link from prior skills and knowledge to what is being taught further up the school. Making sure at all times that I wasn’t just ‘dumbing down’ the curriculum because the children are younger but actually making sure that the further up the school they are raising the expectations of skills and knowledge that is taught.

The second, was that she has implemented a benchmark assessment for the beginning of every unit taught in RE. The assessment is designed to capture what the children know already, what they want to know and what they have learnt at the end of the unit. When planning the units of RE for my phase, I have made sure that this assessment activity has been built in. It is important to show what our children have learnt not just through the content of work but also by the way in which they question and debate RE.

The third gem, was the way in which key questions were planned to ask the children during the time where children are carrying out their task. I really felt that this was something that I was missing in my RE lessons. I had always planned for key questions and used these during inputs, but why was I not thinking up key questions to ask when the children were carrying out their directed task? Part of what I am now using in my lessons is to direct key questions to the children during this time and using their responses in our class big book as evidence of the amazing responses that they have to such big questions.

I am really grateful to Strictly RE for giving me the time and space away from my busy life in school to reflect on the way in which RE is taught in my school and how I can improve it. I look forward to returning next year to meet some more inspirational people and find more creative ways to enhance to subject I love.

Megan Cunnington

St Matthew’s C of E Primary School, Redhill