Through the eyes of children
The Warwick RE Project is refreshing in its approach. First, it deals with religious education and not personal and social education masquerading as RE via the eternal People Who Help Us or The Velveteen Rabbit with its acquired status as near-sacred text. It's also a change from golden oldies such as Joseph, often presented because the history topic happens to be Ancient Egypt rather than because it is considered good RE.
Another strength of the Warwick material is that it doesn't get trapped in the "Who can say authoritatively what Hinduism is?" sort of question. By studying the lives of children of roughly the age of the pupils we are teaching, we get a bridge into their religious experience and hence appreciate an unfamiliar way of life which may lead pupils to reflect on their own experiences.
The Christian children in this pack are drawn from Baptist, First United Church of Jesus Christ Apostolic, Roman Catholic, Salvation Army and United Reformed traditions. The pupil books are attractively presented. The teachers' books are accessible to the non-specialist, providing an introduction to the project and its aims, background on the different Christian traditions, focus charts including key ideas, feelings and attitudes, areas for bridging discussion and further class activities with photocopiable worksheets.
Pressured key stage 2 teachers may feel that RE is being squeezed out of their preparation time and that their children are receiving neither their legal nor their more important moral entitlement to learn about religion. This material still needs preparation, but it is self-contained and can form a substantial course that would fit the Christian studies requirements of many agreed syllabuses for key stage 2.
The Warwick RE Project Key Stage 1 materials were reviewed in The TES on April 7, 1995. The project has recently received the Templeton Award (see story below)