Why Religion & Worldviews won’t dilute my passion for rigorous Religious Studies

We are delighted to be launching a new summer blog series called ‘Opening up conversations about religion and worldviews’. This blog series is being run in collaboration with the RE Policy Unit, a partnership between NATRE, the RE Council and RE Today. It will include contributions from a wide range of teachers, those working in initial teacher education and researchers in this field.

As I enter my fourth year of teaching, Religious Education continues to be at the forefront of curriculum debates and media coverage, which arguably, more than ever, demonstrates the need for our subject to be rigorous and detailed in its delivery to young people across the UK.

During the last three years after graduating from Edge Hill University in Secondary Religious Education with QTS, I have had the privilege to teach within a rural independent school setting and now a Church of England Academy, with the continued benefit of ‘Religious Studies’ being highly regarded as an academic subject. With this, Religious Studies has also had a pastoral element to nurture young people and their values, which I view as crucial. When reading through the Final Report of the Commission on RE for the first time, the push for entitlement and quality in the teaching of religion and worldviews is what resonated with me the most. I viewed this commission as not concerned with changing RE from the core basis of ‘learning about and learning from religion’[1], but instead as highlighting the need for the statutory entitlement of RE to be enforced in all schools regardless of status, excellent practice through specialist teaching and clarification on the purposes of RE as an academic subject.

As a teacher I have been fortunate enough to train and work in schools where ‘good RE’ was and is being purposed and taught, which was neither over-complicated or ‘diluted’ in the curriculum through the incorporation of other subjects or irregular timetabling. Personally, this has shaped my view on RE to rely heavily on three things to succeed; specialist teaching, reasonable/regular curriculum time and senior leadership support. Through these simple structures, I have seen first-hand how RE can enrich young people to learn not only about the ‘big six’, but also other religious and non-religious worldviews that have and continue to shape the UK and beyond. I think ‘worldviews’ can often be mistaken as ‘more content’, although I believe that it is having the time to first acknowledge (which through no fault of the teacher is often forgotten through curriculum time pressures) and then teach about the varying religious and worldviews in their own right and in application to the ethical/moral issues that feature heavily in various RE curriculums from Key Stages 3-5. In consequence, I believe this can create well-rounded young people who are able to understand each other and the world around them. As an educator, I believe ‘good RE’ not only educates young people on religion, belief and worldviews, but also shapes their outlook to flourish in the diversity we are so fortunate to have. Regardless of the name it is assigned, RE is learning about what people believe and do, which is what makes our subject so unique and diverse. The task we have as RE educators is therefore of paramount importance, as we are the ones teaching young people about their fellow members of society, which in turn will shape views towards one another. This is why a clarified vision, and supporting colleagues across the nation in pushing for the statutory requirement to be enforced without ‘diluting’ RE, for me, is indeed welcomed. I certainly am no expert, I am just passionate about RE being taught and viewed as an academic and rigorous subject, which can offer opportunities for conversations about beliefs and the world, whilst also nurturing young people to be happy and understand each other with a value for Religious Education (directly and/or indirectly!).

Dominic Kidney, Teacher of Religious Studies at a Church of England Academy in Liverpool.

 

[1]Geoff Teece (2010) Is it learning about and from religions, religion or religious education? And is it any wonder some teachers don’t get it?, British Journal of Religious Education, 32:2, 93-103, DOI: 10.1080/01416200903537399