Intent - What do we want our children to learn?
Quite simply, it is our intention that every pupil, irrelevant of needs, develops such a passion for Religious Education that they learn to respect themselves and understand their own identity, to respect others, and to understand their own and others' rights and responsibilities.
At a time when communities are becoming more diverse, there is an even greater need for a more religiously literate and tolerant society. Religious Education plays a key role in creating social cohesion and generating genuine understanding between communities reducing friction, intolerance and social unrest. Through RE, pupils are given opportunities to reflect and analyse, to discuss and debate, to explore and discover, and to learn more about the world in which they live. What could be more exciting than being part of this?
Through RE we aim to support this philosophy by:
- provoking challenging questions about the ultimate meaning and purpose of life, beliefs about God, the self and the nature of reality, issues of right and wrong, and what it means to be human
- developing pupils’ knowledge and understanding of Christianity, other principal religions and world-views, which offer answers to such questions
- developing pupils’ awareness and understanding of religious beliefs, teachings, practices, forms of expression and the influence of religion on individuals, families, communities and cultures
- encouraging pupils to learn from the diversity of different religions, beliefs, values and traditions whilst affirming their own faith or search for meaning
- challenging pupils to reflect on, consider, analyse, interpret and evaluate issues of truth, belief, faith and ethics and to communicate their responses
- encouraging pupils to develop their sense of identity and belonging and enable them to flourish individually within their communities, as citizens in a pluralistic society and global community
- playing an important role in preparing pupils for adult life and employment, enabling them to develop respect and sensitivity to others, in particular, those with different faiths and beliefs, and to combat prejudice and negative discrimination.
At Birchwood, we know that children learn best when the curriculum is well sequenced to enable revisiting of core knowledge, skills and understanding to deepen conceptual awareness before demanding application across the whole curriculum. Please see the RE Progression of Skills documents (held in school), which outline how the key skills are developed, revisited, assessed and built upon during Year 1 to Year 6.
Birchwood’s Bespoke Curriculum
Wherever possible, we contextualise the learning experiences that we plan for our pupils in order to allow children to apply the skills taught to a real-life situation. Across the school, pupils have the opportunity to visit places of worship as well as inviting faith visitors into the classrooms. This is invaluable for the pupils to experience first-hand the traditions and customs of different faiths. They ask questions to deepen their knowledge and understanding about aspects of religion they study within the school. At Birchwood, the religions we teach are planned to reflect the pupils in our school who come from varying religious backgrounds. For example, we have an emphasis on teaching about the faith of Islam both in key stage 1 and key stage 2 as a direct reflection of our growing number of Muslim families within our school.
Implementation - How are we going to achieve our intent?
Pupils in Key Stage One receive up to an hour of RE per week, delivered by class teachers. Pupils in Key Stage Two receive an hour of RE per week, taught by a subject specialist as part of the ‘Specialist Teaching’ sessions.
The scheme of work for Religious Education covers all the requirements of the Suffolk Agreed Syllabus.
Breadth of study
In accordance with national legislation and to provide a broad and balanced curriculum, the Suffolk Agreed Syllabus requires that 'Christianity should be studied in depth at each key stage to ‘reflect the fact that the religious traditions in Great Britain are in the main Christian’ (Education Act 1988)
In Key Stage One pupils investigate Christianity and are introduced to Judaism, encounter examples from other religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam or Sikhism) possibly with a local presence and a secular world view as appropriate, and touching on any relevant area of study. More time is spent on Christianity than on any other individual religion with a minimum equivalent of no fewer than three terms on Christianity and one on Judaism. Secular philosophies such as Humanism should be studied.
In Key Stage Two pupils explore Christianity in more detail and investigate two principal religions (Hinduism and Islam), revisit or encounter the other principal religious communities (Buddhism, Judaism, Sikhism) and encounter a secular world view. A minimum equivalent of four terms is spent on Christianity, two terms each on Hinduism and Islam and one term on each of the other religions. Christianity is included in each year and more time spent on it than on any other individual religion.
Birchwood’s RE curriculum is structured to provide knowledge and skills development, with the application of these to the children’s lives within and beyond school. Our RE curriculum sets out a progressive and sequenced programme evidenced by the learning intentions written into our planning materials. Work is carefully planned and sequenced by the class teacher to match the differing needs of the pupils in each cohort. Careful organisation of learning ensures that pupils have a common reference point to RE teaching through pre-teaching of required knowledge and skills, before demanding pupil application.
The curriculum planning in RE is carried out in three phases (long-term, medium-term and short-term). The long-term plan maps out the RE breadth of study covered in each term during the key stage. The RE subject leader devises this plan following analysis of the breadth of coverage from the previous year and is linked to the requirements of the locally agreed syllabus. These plans define what we teach and ensure an appropriate balance and distribution of religions studied across each term. Class teachers complete a short-term plan for each RE unit of work. This lists the specific curriculum intentions and expected outcomes (guided by our progression of skills grids) and gives details of how the lesson is to be taught.
We plan the RE activities so that they build upon the prior learning of the children. While there are opportunities for children of all abilities to develop their skills, knowledge and understanding in each activity area, there is pre-teaching and progression planned into the scheme of work, so that the children are increasingly challenged as they move up through the school.
Planning for Religious Education is based on the two Attainment Targets in the Agreed Syllabus:
- Learning about Religions
- Learning from Religions
Learning about religion includes enquiry into and investigation of the nature of religion, its key beliefs and teachings, practices, their impacts on the lives of believers and communities, and the varying ways in which these are expressed. It also includes the skills of interpretation, analysis and explanation. Pupils learn to communicate their knowledge and understanding using specialist vocabulary. It also includes identifying and developing an understanding of ultimate questions and ethical issues.
Learning from religion is concerned with developing pupils’ reflection on and response to their own experiences and their learning about religion. It develops pupils’ skills of application, interpretation and evaluation of what they learn about religion, particularly to questions of identity and belonging, meaning, purpose and truth and values and commitments, and communicating their responses.
Impact - What will it look like when we achieve our intent?
There are literally hundreds of ways we can demonstrate the excellent impact our curriculum design has on our pupils. In a nutshell, here are some examples:
- For the school year 2018/19 Birchwood received the ‘Widening Inclusivity in Religious Education (WIRE) Award’. This award demonstrates that RE provision at Birchwood School is broad and inclusive and that we are proactive with our teaching of RE through seeking opportunities for our pupils to speak with members of a wide selection of religious groups and see religion in action through visiting, for example, the local Sikh Gurdwara.
- As a school, we have close links with our local church. Here pupils have celebrated Harvest, Christmas and Easter. The stories and symbolism of these festivals are shared with the pupils in an interactive way; enabling them to develop their knowledge and understanding of Christianity and the influence of religion on individuals, families, communities and cultures.