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How superheroes battle bad practice to achieve RE success

In our third and final blog profiling the winners of the 2014 TES Schools Awards, we’re focusing on Sir Robert Geffery’s School, a primary in Cornwall, where the introduction of superheroes to RE lessons caught the eye of the judges of the Humanities Award. To enter this year, visit the 2015 website

The innovative approach of Sir Robert Geffery’s School to religious education develops sophisticated learning skills in pupils – and uses superheroes to do it.

Giles Freathy, specialist leader of education at the school, worked with the University of Exeter and the Farmington Institute to develop a method whereby children not only learn about religion but also learn how to study the subject.

The initiative fosters thinking and analytical skills by encouraging pupils to evaluate the effectiveness of methods of enquiry, through superhero characters known as the "RE-searchers". 

The characters – Know-it-all Nicky, Debate-it-all Derek, Ask-it-all Ava and Have-a-go Hugo – embody different research methods: observing and recording; questioning and arguing; interviewing and empathising; and participating and experiencing. Like the methodologies they represent, each superhero has strengths and weaknesses.

Pupils become acquainted with the characters and research methods through role play, comic strips and puppets, and their learning is supported with reminder prompts such as badges, table mats and key rings. The children are continually presented with the various methods of enquiry, which encourages them to question the facts and begin to form well-reasoned conclusions of their own.

Mr Freathy regularly welcomes visiting teachers and runs training sessions organised by the local authority and nearby teacher-training providers. 

Reflecting on the school’s success last year, he says: "It was a great honour and privilege both to be nominated and the recipient of the TES Humanities Award. The event itself was very exciting – it was like the Oscars for teachers! I was thrilled to be mingling with such dedicated professionals."

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