The Religious Education Curriculum
‘When we see others as the enemy, we risk becoming what we hate. When we oppress others, we end up oppressing ourselves. All of our humanity is dependent upon recognising the humanity in others.’
- Archbishop Desmond Tutu
At Spinney Hill Primary School, our Religious Education curriculum is designed to enable children to become inquisitive, accepting, mindful individuals who can express an understanding of, and insight into, both the rich, diverse, multi-cultural city in which they live and the wider world. Central to this is teaching children to articulate clearly and coherently their personal beliefs, ideas, values and experiences while respecting the right of others to differ.
We know that RE contributes dynamically to the education of our children by provoking challenging questions about meaning and purpose in life, beliefs about God, ultimate reality, issues of right and wrong and what it means to be human. As such, it is one of the key building blocks to developing understanding and acceptance between children and, through doing so, contributing to the cohesion and harmony of both our school and wider society. We recognise the importance of supporting children in developing a secure understanding of the beliefs and practices of different religions, their teachings, and the similarities between them and those of more secular beliefs. The teachers at Spinney Hill do this by engaging pupils in enquiry-led lessons. Children are challenged by the questions raised by religion and worldviews and develop the understanding, skills and knowledge they need through dialogue, discussion and debate. Children investigate, appreciate and appraise the varied responses to questions raised and are constantly encouraged to think critically about what they have heard, evaluating and challenging where necessary in a safe and secure environment in which they are able develop well-structured responses of their own. Above all, we want our children to develop a respect for other beliefs and religions and appreciate and celebrate the diverse world in which they live and to be able to participate actively within it. We know RE plays an important role, along with all other curriculum areas, particularly PSHE, in both promoting social awareness and understanding in our children and preparing them for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of the next stage of their education. We encourage our pupils to ask questions about the world and to reflect on their own beliefs, values and experiences. We include and promote British values, ensuring that children are aware of their rights and responsibilities as UK citizens.
At Spinney Hill we have used the Leicestershire Agreed syllabus as the basis for our RE curriculum in order to achieve this. Our curriculum ensures that there is progressive coverage of the four key faiths in our community - Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism – whilst allowing opportunities for the study of other religions and worldwide views. Learning is sequenced to ensure that children not only develop a robust understanding and knowledge of the core tenets and beliefs of faiths but do so through both constant reference and comparison to other faiths and in the context of pertinent and meaningful questions which relate to both their lives and the city in which they live. This is to key to our school curriculum as we aim to ensure ‘children develop a positive identity, high self-esteem and a secure sense of place, belonging and history which enables them to understand both their rights, roles and responsibilities, and those of others, and to work alongside and empathise with people from all backgrounds’ (Spinney Hill Primary School Curriculum Drivers, Identity).
From our EYFS to Year 6, all faiths are recognised, studied and celebrated. In the nursery and EYFS, religious studies is taught as part of the EYFS framework (Understanding of the World) and children are supported in exploring religion, customs, practices and beliefs through role-play, songs, cooking, stories and creative play. These learning opportunities are embed through themed days which focus on the major festivals celebrated within the community.
Across Key Stage 1 and 2, all pupils have a dedicated RE lesson every week which is planned to progressively deepen understanding of religious beliefs and to draw similarities and discuss differences. Over the course of each year, children in every year group focus on the study of particular religions. This is done alongside units which explore social themes and issues in the context of both faith and worldwide views and ensures progression in children’s knowledge and understanding of particular religions, allowing them to make connections between these in contexts with which they are familiar. A 'golden thread' running through the curriculum is a focus on the Golden Rule central to all religions of treating others as you would wish to be treated. Each unit of work is led by an overall ‘big question’ which is broken down into focused enquiry questions to guide learning. For example, children in year 1 enquire into ‘Where do I belong?’ and ‘What do religions teacher about caring?’ in the context of all religions before embarking on in-depth studies of Hinduism and Christianity. The curriculum had been organised so children revisit different religions in order that they progressively build their understanding of different faiths as they move through the school whilst applying and extending their knowledge within units led by relevant and challenging enquiry questions. For example, by the time children reach year 6 they are considering ‘Can religion help to build a fair world and make poverty history?’ and ‘What can we learn from religions about temptation and finding the way through the moral maze?’ The study and understanding of religion also features across the broader curriculum where tangible links are made. Children in year 3 focus on history, geography and religion as they explore the question ‘How has faith shaped our city?’, whilst year 6 explore religion within their study of civilisations and as they tackle the question ‘Why settle for less?’ and investigate the push and pull factors that cause people to migrate.
Learning is supported across all year groups by visits to places of worship. This begins in the EYFS where children visit a mandir, gurdwara, mosque and church as part of their themed days and workshops, and visits are their repeated in subsequent years. All year groups also take responsibility for a whole school celebration assembly which focus on each of the key festivals, including Christmas, Easter, Eid-al-Fitr, Diwali, Vaisakhi and Holi. On these occasions, all children participate irrespective of religion as are all parents encouraged to attend.
The teaching within lessons is supported a wide range of high-quality images and artefacts which allows a respectful but hands-on approach to learning. All lessons are led by an enquiry question alongside the key vocabulary and concepts which children will need to engage in dialogue, discussion and debate, and to formulate the questions which they undoubtedly want to ask. As in all lessons, scaffolds and sentence stems are used to support talk and oracy. The talk strategies we have developed and which underpin our teaching and learning strategy are of particular importance within RE lessons as children develop and apply their understanding and learn to question, enquire and respond in a respectful manner as they share their own beliefs and question those of others.
As in all subjects, the impact of our RE curriculum is carefully measured in a variety of different ways. Learning walks, work sampling and monitoring of learning environments are carried out by the RE subject lead to identify how ready children are for the next stage in their learning and areas in need of development. This monitoring and evaluation takes place alongside pupil interviews and discussion that are key to assessing how well pupils are retaining prior-learning and making connections with new learning. However, the impact of the RE curriculum is also assessed through children’s interactions with both each other and adults, as well as their participation in everyday school life and the manner in which they do or do not demonstrate the principles of acceptance, respect and understanding which lie at the heart of our curriculum intent. Both formal and informal discussions with pupils offer a quick way of assessing how accepting children are of each other’s differences, whilst wellbeing surveys and monitoring of behavior records offer a means of identifying particular issues which can be addressed through the RE curriculum.