Rhiannon Love tells us about her unusual journey into the professional community of religion and worldviews (RE):
My educational career has been varied to say the least! I qualified in 1994 as a secondary modern foreign languages teacher, spending the next ten years teaching German and French across the country. In 2006 I made the decision to move to the primary sector and spent 7 very happy years teaching KS2 primary. Although initially my subject responsibility was Primary Languages, in 2007 I was given the responsibility for RE – this is where it all began! I was fortunate to be able to work closely with the RE Advisory team in Hampshire, plus the Diocese of Winchester and Portsmouth Education teams to begin a rapid learning curve about what great RE looks like.
My growing passion for RE lead me to explore Philosophy for Children (P4C), and over the next few years I achieved my P4C Level 1 Teacher-Facilitator and Level 2 Teacher-Trainer awards with SAPERE (Society for the Advancement of Philosophical Enquiry and Reflection in Education). This integration of P4C into enquiry-led RE led to our school being chosen for inclusion in 2011 on the Ofsted Good Practice website. This was a pivotal moment for me. I was interviewed by Alan Brine, who was then a HMI in Ofsted and National Adviser for Religious Education. This Good Practice Case Study not only raised the profile of RE in our school and neighbouring schools, but provided the impetus for me to take my new love of RE to the next level.
In 2013 I had the opportunity to move into Initial Teacher Education and was appointed as a Senior Lecturer to lead Primary RE at the University of Winchester on their BA and PGCE programmes, before taking over the leadership of the Secondary RE PGCEs in 2016. The University of Winchester has subject specialisms on their 3-year BA programme, which has meant that every year I have a group of passionate, keen students who are looking to become the next generation of Primary RE subject leaders.
For the past few years I have worked with Culham St Gabriel’s in a number of ways – I am a primary tutor on their Teach RE programme and was involved in creating the ITE support package for Primary RE with a number of colleagues. We have also joined with their 3forRE (now the Culham St Gabriel’s Masters Scholarship) package, which supports MA students to complete incredibly subsidised Masters with a RE focus.
My RE Journey
From an unlikely start as a dedicated languages scholar, RE became my new passion. The inspiration for this paradigm shift was my first-hand experience of how engaged and excited children can be when they are exposed to creative, provocative and inspiring RE.
My vision for RE is a conceptually rich, enquiry-led curriculum that engages with the diversity of ways in which people live religious and non-religious lives. I value the opportunity for children to experience first-hand places of worship, meet members of different religious and non-religious communities and to start to investigate collectively and individually the narratives of different worldviews.
In 2014 I achieved the P4C Level 3 Advanced Trainer award, which enabled me to become a P4C SAPERE Trainer. I believe Philosophy for Children enables deep conceptual enquiry, encouraging the development of critical thinking as well as providing an opportunity for children to listen to and learn from each other, valuing the diversity of viewpoints and exploring big questions together. We have embedded P4C into our undergraduate and postgraduate ITE programmes and are a SAPERE Partner University.
There have of course been challenges along the way. The biggest of which, is how RE can sometimes be sidelined, particularly in primary schools. I share the frustration of my RE specialist students when some of them return from their teaching placements and tell me that the schools they were placed in did not teach RE that half term. Part of my role as the RE tutor is to try to share my passion and enthusiasm for RE with all of our student teachers, to hope that they will share that passion and take it into the schools where they get jobs.
The role of research to inform teaching is key for me. Research has become a key part of my RE journey for the last seven years. With my students the necessity of engaging in current literature around pedagogy and good practice is paramount. I have welcomed the opportunity to engage in further study alongside my teaching role and am currently in the final stages of writing my doctoral thesis on the topic of Student Teacher Identity, neoliberal performativity and the inspirational pedagogy of Paolo Freire.
Rhiannon is currently the Route Leader Secondary RE PGCE and Senior Lecturer for Primary RE & Philosophy for Children at the University of Winchester.