The following questions are taken from the Cracking RE Teachers' Supplement. If you have any questions about the the teaching of RE, Personal Search, PSHE or citizenship that you would like answering, click here to send an email to the editor.

 

Question: Which syllabus should I be using?

Answer: The possibility of a National Framework for RE for England is currently being considered. However, at present, teachers in England and Wales should use the syllabus agreed for use in their own LEA, or their Diocese, for church aided schools. Teachers in Northern Ireland and Scotland should use the national document. Each syllabus sets out guidance for statutory RE lessons. The QCA Programme of Study (2000), and teaching material, such as that in Cracking RE can be used to complement this.

Top

 

Question: Do I still have to teach RE now that we are doing citizenship?

Answer: Yes. RE and citizenship cover different syllabuses and pupils should have the opportunity to learn about both subject areas. RE is a compulsory subject in the primary curriculum whereas citizenship is not compulsory.

Top

 

Question: Do I have to teach about all the religions present in the community around my school?

Answer: The short answer to this is no. However, check your own diocesan or agreed syllabus for the range of faiths to be taught in your local area at each Key Stage. It is also important to consider what pupils will be studying when they reach their next school. Despite designing our RE Scheme of Work very thoroughly, it took me two years to discover that pupils' in-depth study of Islam in their final year with us would be followed by an introduction to Islam in the first year of their next school!

Top

 

Question: As an RE teacher, do I have to keep quiet about my own faith?

Answer: No. Do English teachers keep quiet about their favourite books? It's only wrong if you use your position to demand that pupils agree with you. Use phrases such as, "Christians/Jews/Muslims/Sikhs believe this . . . ". Say, "I believe . . . " if directly asked and stress that it is your own opinion. (It is often possible to turn the question around, asking pupils, "What do you believe about . . . ?")

Top

 

Question: How can I teach something that I don't believe?

Answer: Many teachers struggle with this. It is worth remembering that RE teaches about different religions, and looks at what pupils can learn from them; it does not persuade children to believe in them. One way to approach the different religions is to introduce them with phrases such as, "Christians believe . . .", "Muslims believe . . .", etc.

Top

 

Question: I find it difficult to teach about faiths other than my own. How do I overcome this?

Answer: It is important to remember that it is not the teachers' job to 'convert' children or nurture faith in any particular religion. The objective is to help children understand the facets of different religions in order to enable them to be understanding, thoughtful members of our complex society. Non-inclusive language is therefore very important. Phrases such as, "Most Christians believe that . . ." or "This is an important story for Jewish people . . ." can be helpful here.

Top

 

Question: I understand that I don't have to teach about a religion other than my own. Is that right?

Answer: It is the teacher's right not to teach about another faith; however it is the pupils' right or entitlement to know about Christianity and the other main faiths as practised in Britain. Any teacher feeling unable to teach another faith must tell the headteacher, who will have to make alternative arrangements for the delivery of the rest of the RE curriculum. This can cause many practical difficulties in the day-to-day running of a school. Giving support through providing good background information and clear planning may help the teacher to approach the subject more confidently. Emphasise that RE is educating pupils about a religion, looking to see what can be learnt from it, but is not about teaching pupils to become adherents of that religion, nor is it about promoting one religion over another. It is important that all members of staff model respect for the faiths they are teaching about, particularly when handling resources or telling stories.

Top

 

Question: What happens if a child asks a direct question about a controversial subject?

Answer: The response would depend on the context, the tone of the question and the classroom situation. It may be more appropriate to answer on a one-to-one basis rather than in a class setting. However, as a whole class issue, try distancing the child from the question by saying something like, "This is a question many people ask". Discuss a variety of answers and opinions within the group. You may wish to add, "A Christian/Muslim/Sikh person may take the view that . . ." if appropriate. The QCA Non-statutory guidance on RE also contains information about how to handle pupils' questions and disclosures.

Top

 

Question: Are there any laws about teaching controversial issues in RE?

Answer: It is in the nature of good RE teaching that controversial issues arise in lessons. A QCA document sent to all schools in September 2000, Religious Education: Non-Statutory Guidance on Teaching RE (http://www.qca.org.uk/ca/subjects/re/re_complete.pdf) provides very practical tips on how to deal with pupils' questions and disclosures in RE (p19 onwards). The 1996 Education Act aims to protect pupils from being presented with only one side of political or controversial issues. Sections 406 and 407 require the governors, head teacher and local authority to ensure that where controversial views are brought to pupils' attention, they are offered a balanced perspective.

Top

 

Question: What should we do about prayer in the school?

Answer: This largely depends on what type of school you are in, and what is therefore appropriate for your particular school. A church (or denominational) school is going to resolve this in a different way from a multi-cultural community school. Pupils should be given an opportunity to reflect upon what has been said in an assembly or act of Collective Worship. You could do this by offering a 'Thought for the day' and giving them time to think about it, or by introducing a prayer with words such as, "Listen quietly to this prayer. Those who wish to can join in with 'Amen' at the end, which means they agree with what has been said."

Top

 

Question: Which organisations are there that support RE teachers?

Answer: Good news! There is lots of help and advice available! The Stapleford Centre (publisher of Cracking RE) provides a large number of services for teachers in terms of publications, courses, support networks and resources.

However, they are by no means alone in this. If you have access to the internet, the best place to survey the range of agencies supporting RE is 'The RE Site' (http://www.theresite.org.uk). This site provides an exhaustive (and exhausting) list of RE organisations, all of which are directly web-linked. Some useful contacts mentioned on this site are RE Today Services and PCfRE (the Professional Council for Religious Education). Other contacts are your local LEA Advisory service, your Diocesan Education Office and any teacher-training centres in your area. Many charities have education departments keen to support RE teachers.

Top

 

Question: Please can you give me some suggestions for contacting a local church.

Answer: Enquire whether a member of staff, parent or governor attends a local church, and whether they can give you a contact. Alternatively, try and get hold of a local church magazine; they are often produced monthly. Contact names and telephone numbers can often be found on notice-boards outside churches. (Church leaders sometimes have a day off mid-week and they may not always be available.) Be clear about what you are asking for: a visit to the church; an RE lesson; or someone to take assemblies. If you are asking for help with assemblies, take time to explain your normal format for assembly, and what you see as the pitfalls to be avoided. If you are asking for help with RE lessons, explain the exact RE requirements of your local syllabus.

Top

 

Question: How do I find out about the sensitivities of different religious groups?

Answer: Try a combination of the following:

  • Contact local faith groups and/or visit their places of worship
  • Talk with families of different religious groups within school
  • Refer to reference books - often KS2 school library RE books contain sufficient detail for KS1
  • Explore websites for schools, such as RE-XS http://re-xs.ucsm.ac.uk and http://www.theresite.org.uk.
  • You might like to refer to the CEM publication, Religious Believers Visiting Schools.

Top

 

Question: How does RE tie in with multicultural approaches?

Answer: These areas have a significant overlap and many faiths have a large impact on the culture of a community. However, teachers need to recognise that the two are separate and be clear in their objectives, making distinctions between teaching about faith and culture.

Any faith can be multicultural. For example, Christianity is a global religion and, therefore, multicultural. Using pictures of or stories about Christians from different cultures around the world reflects this and can enrich RE.

When learning about different faiths it may benefit pupils to consider that the people being studied are part of a local community; try to avoid using stereotypes.

Top

 

Question: How can I use artefacts in the classroom to help children explore their own beliefs?
(How do I turn learning about religion into learning from religion?)

Answer: One approach would be to start by examining the artefact, generalise out to other related artefacts or information from books, then teach about the festival or story and finally ask the pupils whether they have any personal experiences that are similar to what they have been learning about.

Alternatively, the model could be turned on its head by asking the pupils to, for example, tell you about a special event or experience, narrow this down to the festival or story you are teaching about, then focus on the artefact you want to share with them.

When introducing an artefact, use strategies such as:

  • Observation (e.g., hide the object in a feely bag and ask pupils to describe what they feel)
  • Questioning (e.g., what would you ask the maker/owner of this object about its function)
  • Reflection (e.g., what are your thoughts about it)

Top

 

Question: How can I ensure that my pupils 'learn from' as well as 'learn about' the religions I am teaching about?

Answer: The 1994 Model syllabuses were designed around two attainment targets: AT1 to learn about religions; and AT2 to learn from religions. Pupils were to be encouraged to raise questions and to consider these in relation to their own experience. Rather than simply presenting facts about a religion, teachers can use questions such as:

  • What might this mean to a Muslim/Christian/Jew?
  • Have you ever experienced something similar?
  • Are these beliefs/values/practices/attitudes attractive to you? Why/why not?
  • What beliefs do you hold that are similar or different to these?
  • Is there anything here that teaches you about what is important to you?

Top

 

Question: Should RE be taught in blocked units or weekly?

Answer: This will depend on the practice of the school and the unit of work planned. Some topics lend themselves to being serialised each week over a longer time (e.g., stories Jesus told). However, time to explore and respond to the concepts more fully is then limited.

Other topics are more appropriately taught in a blocked unit with plenty of time and energy focused on visits, displays, art, drama, and so on, providing an impact on pupilsí learning. This is particularly useful when resources are limited or if it ties in with a festival (e.g., harvest).

When planning topics it will be important to consider and specify the best use of time to make pupilsí learning most effective.

Top

 

Question: I only have 40 minutes in a week! How can I deliver RE in that time?

Answer: If it is school policy, then creatively make the best of it. Capitalise on your RE time through general curriculum planning, because many RE topics lend themselves to cross-curricular work. You could actually run the introduction or follow-up to a set of RE lessons in other lessons (Literacy? History?) and then make sure that the RE lesson is full of genuine RE content. When teaching a topic such as the Victorians, an example like The Salvation Army will give lots of opportunities for this sort of crosscurricular work. Useful resources include Faith in History, Jesus through Art, Assemblies that Count and the Toolkit series (all published by The Stapleford Centre).

Top

 

Question: How much time should we spend on RE each week?

Answer: This will depend on your local authority or diocesan recommendation. The recommendation in DfES Circular 1/94 is:

  • 36 hours of RE in KS1 a year (about 1 hour a week)
  • 45 hours of RE in KS2 a year (1 hour 10 minutes a week)

It is important for schools to remember that time set aside for Collective Worship is not considered part of the 'taught day' and cannot legally be counted as RE time. Of course there are many cross curricular links, but it is important that sufficient time is given to the teaching of RE.

Top

 

Question: My RE budget is ridiculously underfunded. What can I do?

Answer: Decide how you want to develop RE in the school, then create your shopping list. (Be selective. Sets of textbooks aren't as useful as materials that provide teaching ideas.) Then make the case to school management for increasing your budget, supporting your argument with your development plan. Explain that RE is historically under-funded in the school, and that it needs higher priority in the School Improvement Plan. It is also possible to approach local church congregations for help - they may be able to help you buy your Christian resources. Sometimes, an approach to a charity can result in some funding. It's amazing how much people will be willing to help - so ask!

Top

 

Question: What about Assessment?

Answer: Look at your RE planning over the year. Make sure that each topic has at least one particular lesson (which could be summative) that lends itself to assessment, according to the guidelines in the syllabus that you are using. Ensure that those lessons are taught, and that pupils have a good opportunity to show their ability or attainment in them. Just a few well-planned lessons will inform your end-of-term report. Remember that assessment should be planned as an integral part of the learning process - it is not an 'add-on extra'. A good learning task should therefore easily turn into a good assessment task.

Top