Religious education (R.E.)
What is religious education (RE)?
Religious Education (RE) is a compulsory school subject outlined by the 1988 Education Act. It aims to help children learn about and learn from religious and spiritual insights, beliefs and practises. It promotes interfaith understanding by giving children an awareness that they live in a diverse and varied society encompassing many different cultures, faiths and worldviews. It also strives to promote pupil’s spiritual, moral, cultural and mental development.
Who writes our RE curriculum?
Barnes Primary School follows the Richmond-Upon-Thames SACRE syllabus, which is updated every 5 years. The reason this is significant is that this syllabus – last reviewed in March 2020 – is drawn up by a range of local religious leaders and community representatives with a view to it being inclusive and representative of the beliefs and religions within the borough. These include: Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism and non-religious beliefs such as Humanism. At Barnes, we follow the guidance that more weight is given to Christianity to reflect the fact that this belief system is the most dominant in the UK and local area and has historical and national significance.
Barnes RE Curriculum Map
Barnes RE teaching
Our teaching encompasses RE knowledge, skills and personal development:
- By knowledge we mean facts, understanding and awareness of the major religions and beliefs for individuals, families, communities and cultures. This includes places of worship, religious books and family customs for religious and non-religious people.
- There are no specific skills peculiar to Religious Education, however there are a list of skills and processes often developed in RE to include: being reflective and thinking about the significance of religious acts, beginning to recognise common aspects between religions and non-religious beliefs. We will often start with a question, for example, why is light important to humans? How is light important in religion eg Judaism or Hinduism? What celebrations do different religions have or share?
- Our RE teaching offers opportunities for personal reflection and spiritual development and we encourage children to foster respect for and sensitivity to individuals and communities of different faiths and beliefs to their own.
RE in Early Years (Nursery and Reception)
In Nursery and Reception, we create an environment in which children can appreciate that everyone is equal, where diversity is celebrated and that they can understand that everyone’s needs should be treated fairly and equally. The children explore and experience various religious and non-religious beliefs through themes delivered through whole class teaching and ‘freeflow’ learning. There is a big emphasis on responding to the children’s growing sense of personal identity and their own beliefs through expressive arts eg song, music, dance and art.
The themes explored in Nursery and Reception are:
- self and others – the similarities and differences between different children and their beliefs
- celebrations and commemorations – what celebrations and commemorations do we have in our own families?
- symbols and rituals – washing rituals, prayer rituals, fables and places of worship
- living things – care for the natural world and religious and non-religious attitudes to living things
- right and wrong – learning about faith cultures and their rules and also about morals within non-religious stories
RE in Key Stage 1
In Key Stage One (years 1 and 2) children continue to build their religious knowledge and vocabulary by learning about and from religion by:
- looking at key religions, their customs, religious people and key beliefs
- talking about people and things that are special to them personally
- hearing religious and non-religious stories
- learning about religious buildings, religious and non-religious objects and artefacts, symbols, texts, places and important times, days and festivals.
Where possible, teaching at Barnes offers trips and access to visitors, artefacts and other first-hand experience. Again, there are opportunities for children to experience what it means to be religious and non-religious through art, drama, music, dance and play. The syllabus emphasises the need for pupils to develop an appreciation of the significance of religious practise and beliefs in some people’s lives, whilst allowing them a different personal view.
RE in Key Stage 2
In Key Stage Two (years 3-6) the children’s growing maturity is reflected by the fact that Religious Education begins to place more emphasis on more detailed factual knowledge and specialist vocabulary about:
- Significant people, organisations, times for prayer or meditation, religious dress and dietary laws
- buildings of worship (with visits when possible) and the architecture of religious buildings
- sacred texts – including the fact that these books give codes and rules for faiths.
- important dates and festivals
Children are encouraged to begin to make connections between different aspects of religion and belief and consider the different ways in which these are expressed. They are encouraged to look at a range of sources and to use different technologies to explore religion and to communicate their own beliefs and values in appropriate ways.
Part of the RE curriculum is for schools to offer a daily act of ‘collective worship’. At Barnes, we usually reflect this as a daily opportunity to reflect on something special or separate from ordinary school activities in order to promote the moral and spiritual welfare of the children. Collective worship is not religious in its nature but instead calls upon pupils to take a moment to reflect on shared moments of collective interest eg the wonder of nature, the important moral messages within a story or the unique specialness of each and every pupil. Ordinarily ‘collective worship’, takes place within a whole school assembly, a key stage assembly or a class or ‘tutor group’ gathering. Throughout the year, some key stage assemblies will have a religious focus in which a story from different world religions will be read and reflected upon.
In addition, Key Stage 1 and 2 are involved in the Harvest Festival and the Christmas performance in St Michael’s Church in the Autumn term. In addition, each term, Father Steven (the vicar from St Michael’s Church) leads two assemblies to Key Stage 1 and 2, which have a Christian focus and we might have other visitors from other key organisations or faiths to come and talk about an aspect of their belief.
We hope this article clarifies some of our RE teaching by explaining its origins, scope and aims as well as giving examples of what is covered within the key stages. We hope you agree that celebrating the differences in belief systems within our community, encouraging pupils to embrace diversity and encouraging pupils to express their views sensitively and respectfully makes for strong RE teaching.
Please click here for a detailed overview of the agreed syllabus for The London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. (link to SACRE syllabus)