Tackling the changes to RE and citizenship

22nd August 2014 at 01:00
In September, England is getting a new curriculum for key stages 1, 2 and 3. Here, teachers reveal their plans for RE and citizenship

Primary RE

We have decided to work with another London borough to produce a joint agreed syllabus. We began this process by asking teachers in local schools for their views on the syllabuses they were currently using.

The consultation helped us to understand which features were working well. At our school, for example, Years 3 to 6 each focus on one particular faith. This way of working has been helpful for teachers, so the new programme will retain it to some extent.

We were also keen for pupils to have opportunities to gain a deeper understanding of the topics covered than at present. We have dealt with this in a number of ways. For example, teachers will deliver fewer units of work within a year so that each can be studied in detail, allowing for greater development of knowledge, understanding and skills.

Local authorities, too, have areas of good practice that are not currently integrated into our syllabuses. The "ambassadors of faith and belief" scheme, for example, runs in our borough and trains sixth-form students to give presentations on their faiths and beliefs to primary pupils.

The removal of level descriptors from the national curriculum allows us to consider doing the same in our agreed syllabus. To help with assessment, we are identifying the specific knowledge, understanding and skills to be gained at the end of each key stage.

We hope that by meshing the best that each authority has to offer, while also taking national developments into account, we will provide a programme that will challenge and inspire our pupils. I, for one, cannot wait to teach it.

Julia Diamond-Conway is a primary school teacher at Newbury Park Primary School in Redbridge, Greater London

Secondary RE

RE should be an education in human thought, its past, present and future. It should be as rich and intriguing as its subject matter. But if the agreed syllabus is just a list of content, as it often is, the RE curriculum can become anodyne and superficial. This is why I jumped at the chance to be part of the Religious Education Council's review.

At the heart of the curriculum review team's work was an examination of what RE is and what it should be in the 21st century.

We removed the dual attainment targets of the former framework (learning about and learning from religion), which we felt were unwieldy and limited to the depth and scope of the subject. We discussed what knowledge, understanding and aptitudes would be required to initiate pupils into an RE that was rigorous and meaningful.

In order to increase the depth of study and analysis, it is clear that some content will have to be lost. This is a decision that RE departments will have to make for themselves in relation to their syllabuses, but it is one that should improve their capacity for rigour.

Some teachers might not welcome the accusation that much of RE is fatuous and flabby, and some teachers may feel exhausted at the prospect of turning a new curriculum into lesson plans. Some may even prefer their existing syllabuses. However, I am sure that many will welcome a curriculum that demands more from their students, allows a deeper analysis and understanding and better reflects all that the study of religion and belief can be.

Kate Christopher is a head of RE and national adviser for RE Today


The new curriculum gives schools a chance to revisit what they currently offer in citizenship. Although this initially seemed to be a daunting task, it has actually been a welcome opportunity to enhance what we are doing well and develop what we are not so happy with.

This is not the time to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The new programmes of study are a great deal shorter than the 2007 versions, but the core aspects can still be understood as knowledge and concepts, skills and experiences.

The vast majority of staff delivering citizenship in my school are non-specialists; it is therefore an essential part of my job to make sense of the changes and present an exciting, engaging range of resources for them.

We already have a variety of excellent lesson resources in place for a number of topics. Some of these require little, if any, modification. However, there is some new content, most notably the inclusion of finance education, which was previously the domain of the non-statutory PSHE curriculum.

This presents a variety of challenges for citizenship: the development of new resources ready for teaching in September, CPD for those delivering the lessons and the consideration of how to ensure a wider economic and citizenship focus.

There seems to be a lack of progression in some areas of the new programme of study. For example, teaching about diversity and identity appears explicitly only at key stage 4, so I am looking at how to weave this into key stage 3, too, to ensure a clear sequence of learning.

Helen Blachford is the curriculum leader for citizenship and PSHE at the Priory School in Portsmouth

A look inside the new RE and citizenship curricula

Religious education

With RE left out of the Department for Education's curriculum review, the Religious Education Council of England and Wales conducted its own examination of the framework. The council published a new national curriculum for RE in October 2013. Download it at bit.lyREReviewSummary

The framework expresses the aim of RE in three elements: to enable pupils to know about and understand a range of religions and world views; to express ideas and insights about the nature, significance and impact of them; and to gain and deploy the skills needed to engage seriously with them.

The new statement of purpose asserts that RE can contribute dynamically to education by posing challenging questions about meaning and purpose in life, beliefs about God, ultimate reality, issues of right and wrong and what it means to be human. The religions and world views studied are a resource for addressing these questions.



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