Humanities - A question of faith

Be selective when teaching RE to pupils with SEN

Anne Krisman

RE has two attainment targets: learning about religion and learning from religion.

There is plenty of the latter within special schools, which, with their strong emphasis on values, are full of opportunities to link pupils' experiences with religious beliefs. The Sikh teaching of Guru Nanak's message "love all, help all" can be explored by celebrating children who have helped others in the classroom, while delivering an unexpected message to another class can lead to an understanding of Mary's reaction to the angel Gabriel's Annunciation.

However, learning about religion offers more of a challenge. Too much information can confuse; too little can lead pupils away from understanding the distinctiveness of religions, their symbols and beliefs. With pupils who have special educational needs (SEN), it is helpful to ask what they really need to know. What knowledge will help to develop them as human beings?

One way to develop their knowledge of faiths is to use a speed-dating technique. Year 11 pupils studying the Koran as part of a scheme of work on holy books each chose one fact to share with others. The list included: the Koran is the most important book for Muslims; Muslims believe that the Koran is the words of Allah, told to the prophet Muhammad; and a rihal (Koran stand) is used to keep the Koran off the floor. Pictures were used to help the pupils remember the facts.

After staff checked pupils' understanding, chairs in the classroom were set out with an inner and outer circle, with children sitting facing each other. When a bell was rung, the pupils had to introduce themselves and explain their idea. Another ring of the bell and the outside circle of children moved around, communicating their piece of information to another pupil.

Staff found that pupils' confidence and understanding grew as they explained their idea several times. Monitoring was necessary, however, as one child developed her own theory of reading the Koran, based on not rubbing away words from the Torah. She said that if a mistake was made reading it, that section could not be used again.

Anne Krisman leads RE at Little Heath special school in the London Borough of Redbridge


BBC Class Clips - RE amp; Citizenship offers resources that are short and accessible for pupils with special educational needs.

Panoramic 360-degree photographs of places of worship can be an exciting introduction to different religions.


RE teachers are worried that the subject is under threat. Join the conversation and share your experience.

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Anne Krisman

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