Tuesday, 4 November 2014

GCSE RE: Two Faiths

Image courtesy of mcknowledge.info

Since the initial "two faiths" revelations from Nicky Morgan (see <here>), many RE teachers have been waiting with expectation as to what exactly the new GCSE RE structures would include. The promise of early information ready for September 2016 teaching lead to a mixture of excitement and trepidation. People hoped they would be enthused rather than face palming at this opportunity to improve the popular RE GCSE qualifications.

The alleged 'leak' of information that all schools would be required to study two religions is no surprise in light of the Trojan Horse scandal which is effecting schools in all manner of ways. It fits with the idea that "British Values" need promotion extremism needs combating and that there needs to be more careful monitoring of what happens in RE, particularly in faith schools (see previous blog <here>). 

It has been widely reported in the Jewish press (see <here>), that Rabbis are not happy with this and they will continue to fight the expected GCSE structure. Various sources confirm that the Catholic Bishops are "concerned". This is understandable in many ways, as faith communities have long had a strong hold over what is taught in their schools. This change sees a shift in their control.

Despite my firm belief in the right and the reality of Catholic Education, I am not adverse to teaching two religions at GCSE. I love the comparative study of religions (I opted to study modules in Judaism and Islam at university) and we extend this part of the syllabus at Key Stage 3 already; beyond the Curriculum Directory. This was praised in our recent Section 48 inspection by our lead inspector, a Catholic priest, who made it very clear that Catholic schools have a vital responsibility to teach other faiths in sufficient detail.

There are important considerations to be made, such as ensuring a genuine, authentic and respectful teaching of the second faith. Subject knowledge is obviously key to this, as is resource sharing. These things I also believe in passionately and have lead to my leading involvement in www.CatholicREsource.co.uk and www.TheLondonREHub.com. I hope that both these projects will be useful in light of the new GCSE requirements for two faiths to be studied.  

A variety of sources have also suggested that if this proposal goes ahead, Judaism will be the preferred option in Catholic schools, I can fully understand this given "Our Fathers in Faith" and the notion of the People of God in the Old Testament... after all Jesus was a Jew [This fact still surprises many a student]. However, it must be considered that to study Islam may be more appropriate to student intake or local demographic. I think schools may also base their decision on potential examination results.  

We await, with continued baited breath for the announcement...

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