Religious Education at The Grange covers Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism. Christianity is taught in every year group, with Christmas and Easter given fresh treatment each year, developing children’s learning in a progressive way.
Through each religion, our children experience and learn about spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, British values, anti-radicalisation, critical thinking and growth mindset and personal development.
We use Discovery RE and the Oxfordshire Locally Agreed Syllabus to support our enquiry approach to learning, covering the 6 principal world faiths in a progressive way from Foundation Stage 2 to Year 6. In the early years, the learning is closely matched to The Early Years Framework to contribute meaningfully to our children’s holistic development. Throughout all the enquiries, the children’s spiritual, moral, social and cultural education is carefully considered.
Each enquiry lasts for half a term and begins with a “big” question such as “What is the best way for a Christian/Jew/Muslim etc. to show commitment to God?” The children then start discussing the theme of the enquiry (in this case, commitment) from their own experience. What have they shown commitment to? Brownies? Cubs? The Grange? Their sporting team? Playing an instrument?
Only when the children fully understand the concept they are considering, do they then move on to investigating what the people following the studied religion believe about it. They will spend approximately 3 lessons on this, learning in a variety of ways, so they can adapt their responses and come to a measured conclusion. In week 5 they will complete an activity which can assess their learning, by answering their “big” question. The assessment activities are child friendly and can be answered in a variety of ways, as long as the child can justify their view with the knowledge they have gained throughout the enquiry. This demonstrates the level of critical thinking that the children can apply – a valuable skill for them throughout the school curriculum.
The final week in every enquiry gives the children time to reflect on what they have learnt about the concept and apply to it their own lives, thus allowing them to form their own beliefs and identity. For example, ‘Learning that Sikhs share their food with all who attend has taught me ……… about sharing that I would like to take forward with me.
These lessons are often very creative, and children have opportunities to make items to express themselves in ways other than just writing.
Discovery RE has given us the choice of which religions to teach in different year groups. At The Grange, we have chosen the following options as we feel these best suit the needs of our children and creates a cohesive approach to our whole school project long term plan.
The human experience underpinning the key question is explored here within the children’s own experience, whether that includes religion or not e.g. a human experience underpinning the question, ‘What is the best way for a Sikh to show commitment to God?’ is ‘commitment’, so lesson 1 aims to help all children resonate with the experience of ‘commitment’ in their own lives. If they can relate to this human experience they will be better able to understand the world of religion into which the enquiry takes them. Their personal resonance with this underpinning human experience acts as the BRIDGE into the world of religion (which may be very much outside of their experience).
The BRIDGE concept/experience is shown clearly under the Step 1 box on the planning. This guides the teacher as to the focus of Lesson 1, which does not have to include anything explicitly ‘religious’.
The teacher guides the children through the enquiry, children gaining subject knowledge carefully selected to assist their thinking about the key question.
Some of the enquiries have a lot of relevant content so teachers do need to be selective and not try to cover too much. Depth is more important.
The acquisition of the factual information about the religion /belief system being studied is important, but not as an end in itself.
This lesson draws together the children’s learning and their conclusions about the key question of that enquiry. This is an assessment task (the activity sheet and resources are included) which the teacher can assess by using the age-related expectation descriptors at the end of each enquiry. These are exemplified, and tracking and record sheets are included, as are pupil self-assessment sheets.
The expectations may well lend themselves to meaningful and less onerous report writing, the activity sheets providing evidence in children’s books for their learning in each enquiry.
We are not suggesting that paper-based evidence is the sole form of assessment in RE. The expectation is that the assessment activity sheets provided will be seen in conjunction with teacher observations of the children’s work and responses throughout the enquiry.
The strands of learning are colour-coded in the planning, the assessment activity, attainment descriptors and exemplification to make this process easier for busy teachers.
We believe that RE insights are not bound by literacy skills.
Children are taken back to Step 1, their own experience, to reflect on how this enquiry might have influenced their own starting points and beliefs. There is often further evidence for their books produced in this lesson.