Learning About Religion through Dialogue (LAR-D) final update report November 2021
Schools were linked to a selected and trained faith practitioner for an extended period of time, enabling an ongoing relationship to develop. The extended connection allowed for greater depth of dialogue, and thus, improved learning about the religion and culture of the faith in question. Schools reported that the project had reinvigorated their Religious Education and provided valuable professional development for staff.
Funding by All Saints Educational Foundation
Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln
What is this about?
Usually when schools have faith visitors (or make visits to places of worship) this is for a one-off, brief experience, and does not provide time for pupils and faith practitioners to get to know each other and to feel fully relaxed in discussing the complexity of issues that might be explored. Creating opportunity for longer term connections, it was hoped that genuine friendships might develop, enabling a much deeper level of connection and understanding.
What was done?
Funding was obtained to support six schools in a pilot programme, providing funds to release classroom practitioners for training events, and other project expenses. Faith practitioners from the selected religions were then identified, police checked, and trained by the Leicester based St Philip’s interfaith centre before being introduced to the relevant schools. Schools were then free to develop activities with their selected faith practitioner as appropriate to their needs.
Main findings and outputs
Two participating schools were unable to proceed with the programme for various reasons, but all of the others benefitted enormously from the programme, claiming that it had, strengthened teacher confidence in teaching about that religion, broken down stereotypes and assumptions, and given RE teaching an increased profile in the school.
Ongoing reports were provided on progress at three points during the programme, and a final report summarises the main outputs and overall impact.
Relevance to RE
First hand experience of dialogue with people from faith traditions is vital in order to make RE come alive and feel relevant and meaningful. However, there are benefits in developing long term dialogue relationships with a person of faith, rather than in brief encounters such as are usually organised (one-off speakers, or short visits to places of worship), helpful though these are.
Generalisability and potential limitations
This was a small-scale pilot study, and hoped-for further funding to expand the project is still being sought. Also, the project was interrupted by Covid and lockdowns, and some schools giving greater emphasis to Core subjects during the time that the study was in flow.
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