In good faith

9th January 2004 at 00:00
Terence Copley writes that new resources promote better lessons

Thirty years ago, the standard staffroom joke was that newly qualified RE teachers had only one set book to worry about - the Bible. It was a stale joke even then... But on the other hand, a copy of the New Revised Standard Version Bible, including Apocrypha and commentary - the latter occupies between a quarter and a third of the total text - can be a goldmine for subject knowledge for both the Hebrew and Christian bibles.

But today's RE teacher needs much more. For instance, a copy of the Qur'an and of the Hadith (from agencies such as the Muslim Education Trust, access via the RE website below) can be an invaluable aid in preparation and delivery. Although it's customary to surf the web for information, immediate access to hard copy of a sacred text with a good index can save a lot of time. In the cases of Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism, agreed syllabuses place less emphasis on material from their scriptures.

Start building a collection of the stories from these religions by scrapbooking or, more likely, disk filing, a resource that will move with you from job to job and grow over the years.

Becoming out of date is a real fear, so a subscription to the Professional Council for RE (http:www.pcfre.org.uk) with its regular mailings is essential. RE Today reviews all the latest materials for classroom RE and carries tips from serving teachers, conference notices and so on. RE Today Services (http:www.retoday.org.ukabout.htm) is worth surfing. Match this against the regular reviews in the TES RE special focus issues and you're well covered for spotting the resources you need, for personal or class use. RE Today has companion journals Resource and the British Journal of RE, leaning towards the research end of the spectrum.

If the teacher is settling into a new area for their NQT year, local guidebooks and histories can be invaluable on religion in the local area, something children are often motivated to study. This can range from the meaning of place names, pre-Christian history and legend to present places of worship. or sites converted to other usage. A weekend spent mugging this up and acquiring photographs can enhance RE lessons, especially in key stage 3.

So can appearances at local faith community events, which not only extend the teacher's knowledge of the faith but can also lead to contacts for visiting speakers and subsequent pupil visits to the site.

As for the web, those who didn't explore these sites in their PGCE year could find them useful: http:www.theresite.org.uk (general issues about RE); http:www.bbc.co.ukworldservicepeoplefeaturesworld_religions (world religions subject knowledge, although web searches under each religion also yield masses of evidence); http:www.re-xs.ucsm.ac.uk (this includes message boards for pupils and teachers which make amusing and sometimes depressing reading); http:www.ofsted.gov.uk (includes Ofsted's regulations and procedures for inspecting RE 11 to 16).

As the NQT walks into the classroom carrying the Bible, the Qur'an, the Vedas, Tripitaki and Guru Grath Sahib, along with videos, extensive PC cabling, CD-Roms on world religions, posters and laminated photographs of local religious sites, GCSE revision crammers and Skills Challenge game-based activities, he or she can truly feel on the verge of the trip of a lifetime.

Terence Copley is professor of RE at Exeter university

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