Thursday, 15 March 2018

A to Z of RE

A brief introduction to the world of RE.

A is for Associations and Professional Bodies
There are quite a lot... here are some: NATRE (National Association of Teachers of RE), TRS-UK (Theology and RS UK, formerly “The Association of University Departments of Theology and Religious Studies” or AUDTR), AREIAC (Association of RE Inspectors, Advisers and Consultants), NASACRE (National Association of Standing Advisory Councils of Religious Education), AUL:RE (The Association of University Lecturers in Religion and Education), Shap Working Party [Amazingly, not an acronym!] - there are LOTS of members of the REC (Religious Education Council), find there <here>. Which ones to join?

B is for British Values
These are things the government believe we should be teaching. Many RE teachers felt they wanted to be the ones taking the lead; RE Today even published a book about RE and BV. Some RE teachers feel it should be a whole school priority and not left to RE.

C is for Collective Worship
The RE department might get asked to take charge of this… but it is a whole school responsibility. Collective Worship and RE often get muddled together. Many schools disregard the law on Collective Worship, they just have assemblies that cover PHSE, Citizenship, the news, or they just give notices. Many people feel Collective Worship has no place in schools.

D is for department
For some, you could be a department of one. This is great as you are your own boss, but you are likely to have a number of non-specialists who teach RE. Some will be great, others less so… the internet is a great way to form a virtual department - ask for advice and share resources, plus argue.

E is for EBacc
RE is not part of this. It probably never will be. The official reason is that RE is still compulsory anyway. Unofficial reasons may or may not include faith schools entering their whole cohort, the DfE wanting students to do History or Geography as a priority over RE, or the old GCSE being far easier than any other GCSE course.

F is for faith school
Or schools with a religious character. Most are Catholic or Church of England, there are also other Christian schools, Islamic, Hindu, Jewish and Sikh schools. They can determine their own RE curriculum. Some feel this divide makes RE irreconcilable, others feel lots can be learnt from one another.

G is for guided hours
For GCSE this is 120 hours. Make sure your school know this if they are trying to get you to teach the new GCSE in an hour a week. This is NOT the old GCSE.

H is for Humanism
This is just one type of non religious worldview (NRWV), but Humanists UK manage to dominate much discussion in this area. They do provide resources and speakers to schools, which can be helpful.

I is for the Internet
This is where you can join Facebook groups such as Save RE and take part in #REChatUK on Twitter. Some of it is brilliant. But there are arguments, and rows. Social media doesn't always have tone, or a sense of humour.

J is for Jehovah Witnesses
Like Mormons and other minority groups that may or may not be considered Christian. Navigating away from mainstream religion is exciting and but sometimes problematic.

K is for kirpan
And other religious artefacts. These are great in the classroom and cheap from eBay, or free from local places of worship. Bargain hunt.

L is for Locally Agreed Syllabus
RE subject content is determined locally. This means in London, each borough teaches something different. Be careful when you cross that border from Suffolk into Norfolk, RE isn't the same. Some people feel it is hard to justify 140+ LASs being rewritten every 5 years. Other people think it's important that RE reflects the local area, even though students may move away for university or employment.

M is for moral
Part of SMSC (Social, Moral, Spiritual and Cultural development). Another thing RE naturally does well, but may be lumbered upon the Head of RE - it's a whole school responsibility. 

N is for Networking
This is great for RE teachers. Culham St Gabriel's help RE out in lots of ways, one such is providing grants to arrange networking hubs. There are also NATRE Local Groups, and some SACRE's run network meetings.

O is for Ofsted
The last major report into the subject was written by Alan Brine in 2013 “Realising the Potential”. More recently some school reports have flagged up where the law is not being followed - see here.

P is for Prevent
This is recent extension of safeguarding. However some initially believed the RE department would need to become ‘terrorist spotters’ in a RE-themed CTU in the new season of 24.

Q is for Quran
Or Qur’an or Koran. Some words in RE are spelt in different ways. Check out key words in the fantastic app, RE Definitions.

R is for Religion
Some people think we need less of this in RE, which seems odd.

S is for SACRE
This stands for the Standing Advisory Council for RE. These exist in each Local Area Authority (LEA) and form a committee to write the Locally Agreed Syllabus as well as advise and support schools in the area. Some are really good and effective, some others apparently less so.

T is for Target
As in Attainment Target, AT1 (Learning About) and AT2 (Learning From). AT2 has resulted in some interesting RE tasks at times.

U is for (mis)understanding
Parents often don’t have a clue what modern RE is like. If they don’t, it is unlikely the media, politicians, “Dave down the pub”, your hairdresser have a clue either.

V is for visibility
This is the best way to improve subject perception - lead on T&L, run great trips, get students interested with challenging and interesting lessons. Forget making a department name change - teach well and students will do your PR.

W is for withdrawal
Some parents will try to withdraw their son/daughter from all or part of the RE curriculum. Often this will be Islam. This may be a reason we need to change the law on RE.

X is for a lack of agreement about our name
Lots of RE teachers will try to change the name of their subject. The best ones are Citizenship, Religion and Philosophy (or CRaP) or Religion, Values and Ethics (RAVE - "let's have a..."). It's a bit of a red herring debate.

Y is for the ‘why’?
Some people would like to see RE off the school timetables as they see it as irrelevant. Richard Dawkins lists 129 biblical phrases in the God Delusion that form part of wider literacy or culture. Even if people in the UK in 2018 are less likely to subscribe to organised religion, good RE has value. Don't exclude students from appreciating Victorian literature or Renaissance art.

Z is for zombies
Due to the confusion, deliberate or accidental misunderstanding of curriculum content, some RE teachers teach what they personally think is interesting or that students should learn. This may include the Illuminati, Ouija boards or Scientology - or probably zombies. This may mean they miss out on "the best that has been thought and said" about religion and belief. Our time with our students is precious, don't waste it.

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