Why do we teach Religious Studies?
Our aim is to equip students with the necessary tools to hold informed and balanced conversations about Religion and worldviews and to challenge misconceptions. It gives students the space to explore controversial issues about contemporary society, and enable students to think about deep issues that will affect them as the next generation.
So what does that look like in reality?
Like any other study, Religious Studies is multidisciplinary: Theology, Philosophy and Human Social Sciences. By engaging with these disciplines, we want young people to have meaningful conversations about religions and worldviews.
Think of it like sitting on a three legged stool. We can talk, teach and learn from each other as the stools give us a secure place to sit. If one of the legs is shorter than the other we would fall off. So we have to make sure we get the balance right.
Theology is about foundational beliefs and ideas. We hope students are given the opportunity to examine where ideas come from; the key sources of authority, alongside tradition, reason and experience, as well as their reliability and authority. Theology means looking at how these ideas have developed over time, how they shape the way believers see the world and how people interpret them differently.
A key feature of conversations about religion and belief throughout history, is the human drive to ask questions about reality, about good and evil, about how we engage with the world around us. This is what we understand as philosophy. It is about thinking, its being aware about how we make judgements. Philosophy deals with questions of morality, you can't have a conversation about religion and worldviews without it.
RS is not just about foundational ideas or philosophical questioning. It is also vital for young people to understand the lived and diverse reality of religions and worldviews. The human social sciences seriously engage with the impact of beliefs on individuals, communities and societies.
So it is about believing, thinking and living. And making sure those three elements are constantly interacting with each other. Ultimately we want to empower young people to have conversations that are well informed, because they have a real breadth of knowledge and understanding. And balanced, because examined religions and worldviews through a variety of disciplines. Ultimately, it is about giving young people the academic opportunities to grow into free thinking, critically aware and compassionate adults, who have the skills of dialogue so they are able to connect with others who may be similar or different to themselves.
Religious Studies and Philosophy at Heles is designed to challenge every student. The curriculum focuses on issues that are directly relevant to everyday life and are the subject of much debate in the news. This is a very contemporary and vibrant subject which gives students the platform to ask challenging questions about the wider world in which they live.
The courses at all levels consider philosophical and ethical questions and the way that different people from different cultures have tried to answer them. Students are encouraged to think for themselves, grapple with the most controversial issues and debate, deliberate and challenge the thinking of others. It strives to enable students the opportunity to be thoughtful, informed human beings who have the skills that enable them to cope with the many and varied challenges of life.
Alongside the subject’s contribution to pupils’ mental, cognitive and linguistic development, RS offers distinctive opportunities to promote pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. RS lessons should offer a structured and safe space during curriculum time for reflection, discussion, dialogue and debate. Lessons also allow for timely and sensitive responses to be made to unforeseen events of a religious, moral or philosophical nature. Students learn to weigh up the value of wisdom from different sources, to develop and express their insights in response, and to agree or disagree respectfully.
Students are encouraged to take ownership of their learning above and beyond the RS classrooms. Students could participate in other opportunities the RS department have to offer including Generation Global Video-conferencing, Philosophy Club and many RS department challenges. Please follow our twitter page(@HelesRS) for more information.
The Department has recently received the RE Quality Mark (REQM) Silver Award which is national award that recognises and celebrates high quality religious education. An important part of the REQM is that an assessor visits the school and talks to the learners about their experiences in the subject. These are some of the things which pupils/students at our school had to say:
- ‘RS is interesting, and makes you think hard.’
- ‘From RS lessons I have learnt about ethics. This has taught me about my own moral code, what it means to make choices and what is morally right and wrong.’
- I have been taught about many religions which are different from my own. This has given me an understanding of others’ views and beliefs’
- ‘Every lesson is different. We talk about the news and how we can understand others, and remember everyone is human, regardless if they believe in God or not.’
The Department also engages with Generation Global, which is a programme that enables students to connect with peers across the globe through live videoconferences. The RS department connects with many schools across the globe, engaging in a variety of topics. All students can participate in these videoconferences throughout the academic year.
Key Stage 3
The Big Myth: Creation Stories Study of Major World Religions (Hinduism, Judaism, Sikhism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism)
Students will be taken on a journey to explore different Creation myths across the globe and grapple with ultimate questions. Students will explore the key beliefs, teachings and practices of the major world religions and develop core skills of knowledge, empathy and reflection.
Students will consider numerous different understandings of the term spirituality from a religious and non-religious perspective and consider what inspires different people spiritually. From the concept of awe and wonder to all the different things that inspire us, students will be taken on a creative journey surrounding spirituality and learn what inspires them to what inspires other people – religious and non-religious. Students also gain essential skills that help them to understand and respect difference. Students also develop their debating skills and learn how to strongly agree or strongly disagree with someone in a respectful way.
Within the RS department the following methods are utilised to bring the world to the students and develop debating of issues, aid understanding of and learning from religions and cultures whilst simultaneously bringing them alive: creative tasks, music, incense, drama/role play, practical tasks, stilling, international videoconferences, reflection on current or past media stories, guest speakers, treasure hunts, reflective tasks,
Ethic: Prejudice and Discrimination
- Is the standard of morality that we have in a 21st century western world the best standard of morality we could hope for?
- Where does our sense of morality come from? Should we move away from an ethical framework that has its roots in religion, especially the 10 commandments?
This scheme of work deeply considers the nature of right and wrong from a global and personal perspective. Students reflect upon right and wrong within different cultures and religions and learn to develop their ability to critically analyse them. Students will be studying a variety of ethical frameworks, some of which displace God as a source of morality.
Areas of study will include utilitarianism, which is essentially the greatest good for the greatest number, Situation Ethics (the application of love), Just War and whether it is ever morally permissible to kill.
Students will also be invited to apply their morality and studied ethical frameworks to themes such as capital punishment, racism, Islamophobia and homophobia.
Students will consider what human rights are, where they came from and why we have them. Students will focus on activists / inspirational people such as Mandela, Martin Luther King and Gandhi who have all strived to change human rights for the better. Students will focus on the different methodologies these people used to bring about change. Students will be encouraged to critically reflect on whether their sacrifices were ultimately worth while
The Holocaust: Students actively learn in a safe and nurtured environment about the suffering of the Religious and Non-Religious Jews during the Holocaust. Students also deeply engage with the concept of evil and reflect upon events that occurred during the Holocaust to piece together an understanding from a spiritual, emotional and physical sense.
At the end of this unit students will have highly developed their ability to empathise, to notice details, to make links, to hypothesise, to question, to collaborate, recognising relevance and learn from a period of history that is difficult to find adequate words to describe.
Key Stage 4
Year 9 – 11 GCSE Full-Course
All students who opt to take a full course GCSE Religious Studies (Eduqas) will complete the examination at the end of year 11. There are three compulsory components.
- Component 1: Religious, Philosophical and Ethical Studies in the Modern World (50% of qualification, 2 hours written examination)
- Theme 1: Issues of Relationships
- Theme 2: Issues of Life and Death
- Theme 3: Issues of Good and Evil
- Theme 4: Issues of Human Rights
- Component 2: Academic Study of Buddhism (25% of qualification, 1 hour written examination)
- Component 3: Academic study of Christianity (25% of qualification, 1 hour written examination)
The specification is designed to provide a broad structure for the study of religion and caters for candidates of any religious persuasion or none. Students are required to express an informed and justified personal viewpoint on the issues showing empathy, reflection and analyses. In all topics students are strongly encouraged to articulate their own viewpoint and to bring in wider religious knowledge.
Year 9 - 11 Non-examined
All students will examine philosophy and ethics as part of the compulsory RS lessons. The aims of these subjects are to encourage students to become critical thinkers and engage with highly contentious issues that are occurring in the wider world.
- How do we know what is true?
- Ancient Greek Philosophers’: Socrates, Plato and Aristotle
- What could it mean to have a body, mind or soul?
- Are religious experiences authentic?
- Can miracles happen?
- Do we have a life after death?
- Are the omniqualities of God logically coherent
- Ancient Greek Mythology
- Where do ethical codes come from?
- Absolute and relative morality
- Ethical theories
- Crime and Punishment (including the use of capital punishment)
- Animal rights and planet earth
- War and peace
Key Stage 5
All students take a full A Level Philosophy, Ethics and Buddhism (Eduqas) which will be examined at the end of year 13.
1: Academic Study of Buddhism (33% of qualification, 2 hours written examination)
2. Philosophy of Religion (33% of qualification, 2 hours written examination)
3. Religion and Ethics (33% of qualification, 2 hours written examination)