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 Overview
We currently follow AQA Religious Studies at GCSE and the Eduqas Religious Studies at at A-Level.
Students in Year 7 and 8 have two one-hour lessons per fortnight and in Years 9, 10 and 11 GCSE students have six lessons per fortnight.
We are strong advocates of the benefits of learning beyond the classroom and have invested significantly in developing our extra-curricular offer in recent years. For example, the RS department has recently held interactive events to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day, hosted the Great Get Together to celebrate diversity across the region and worked closely with the Institute for Global Change as part of the Generation Global initiative.