News from the World of RE
From RE Today (www.retoday.org.uk)
Latest conversation on #REchatUK
‘Teaching difficult and sensitive issues in RE’
#REchatUK took place on Monday 3 March 2014 8 - 9pm. If you missed it and want to catch up on the discussion on ‘Teaching difficult and sensitive issues in RE’ you can see it here
Thanks to those who contributed. Do take a look and please consider taking part next month: Monday 7th April 8 - 9pm.
If you have any suggestions as to what next month's topic should be please send a tweet to @NATREupdate
What Theology and Religious Studies graduates do after they graduate
Those of you promoting the study of Religious Studies at A level or at degree level, may find this document useful. It demonstrates that almost 30% of Theology/Religious Studies Graduates last year found employment in the legal, social and welfare professions whereas only 6.7% were either unemployed or about to start work when the data was collected.
The breadth of subjects is also fascinating and shows how the field has diversified since it began life as the original university degree in the UK.
View document What_TRS_graduates_do.pdf
Charities react to funding gap for trainee RE teachers
Tales of hardship prompt trusts to respond to 'rank discrimination' A new fund to support trainee Religious Education teachers wanting to work in secondary schools is being set up by a group of four independent charitable trusts. The fund has been established to dampen the impact of a Government decision to cut training bursaries for RE PGCE students. Bursaries had been worth up to £9,000 a year yet dropped to zero for the academic year 2013/14.
An initial £220,000 is being provided by the trusts for non-salaried secondary RE trainees starting their studies in September 2014. This Common Fund will help bridge the gap for students for one year after the Government's decision to extend the bursary freeze into 2014-15.
The National Association of Teachers of RE (NATRE), the Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC), and the Bishop of Oxford have all presented evidence to support the case for reinstating the bursaries to Education and Childcare Minister, Elizabeth Truss MP. However, in a letter on February 7th, the Minister confirmed to Chair of the REC John Keast that no funding would be available for the coming academic year.
Dr Mark Chater, Director of Culham St Gabriel's Trust, one of the four charitable trusts behind the Common Fund, said, "We remain unconvinced by the Government's arguments for withholding RE bursaries and we interpret the Department for Education's refusal to provide them as rank discrimination against RE."
He added, "We are offering help because the Government refuses to do so. But we cannot help all the students affected. Ultimately responsibility for ensuring the supply of trained specialist teachers rests with the DfE, not the charitable sector."
The cut in bursaries for trainee RE teachers comes despite a 20 per cent shortfall in the target number of RE recruits in 2013/14.* At 46.3 per cent, RE also has the lowest number of teachers with a relevant post A-Level qualification compared with any other subject.**
John Keast, Chair of the REC, added, “It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the refusal to give bursaries to RE trainees whilst providing them for nearly every other subject is pure discrimination by this Government against RE. "Recruitment of RE trainees did not meet targets last year, and the number of non-specialists teaching RE is already higher than other subjects. It is the Government’s role to ensure a sufficient supply of trained and qualified teachers, but it is clear that it is failing to do so in RE. There is no rationale for this refusal."
Ed Pawson, Chair of NATRE, says, "Michael Gove’s admission that RE has ‘suffered’ as a result of Government policy rings hollow given ministerial refusal to grant bursaries for trainee RE teachers. There is a long-standing shortage of qualified RE teachers in our schools. We must reintroduce bursaries for trainee RE teachers and bring more talented graduates into our classrooms."
Since the cut in bursaries, evidence of hardship among RE PGCE students has been emerging through grant applications to the trusts.
Barbara Lane, Trustee of Culham St Gabriel's, said, "This should not be about charity. This should be about justice. We are hearing of trainee RE teachers who cannot afford to travel to their placement, and cannot afford to eat properly."
Stephanie Rothwell, 21, is doing a PGCE in RE at Liverpool Hope University. She said: "With money worries, studying becomes a practical juggling act, rather than an academic one. I can't afford to buy any books on teaching practice or child development."
25 year-old Carl Fisher is studying at St Mary's University. He said: "If it wasn't for very supportive friends and family, it would be impossible. I have to lean on their hospitality. I am very dependent on them."
RE trainees' experience also suggests that they are at a disadvantage compared to other PGCE students:
Gayle Impey from Liverpool Hope University says: "Turning down an invitation to an evening out with other staff or a special extra-curricular trip because you can't afford it is risky when there are so many other teacher trainees out there with bursaries who can."
Carl Fisher adds: "You don't feel equal, you feel let down by the system."
Christian Today: Read article
The Economist: Read article
SecEd: Read article
Education Division and National Society News: Read article
The Tablet: Read article
Forbes: Read article
Education: How to rescue RE
The teaching of RE in schools is being undermined. Ordinary teachers can help change that, argues Lat Blaylock, RE Adviser for RE Today.
After the earthquake, wind, and fire came a still, small voice.
RELIGIOUS education has suffered under Michael Gove: the earthquake was the (now downgraded) English Baccalaureate, which undermined RE for 16-year-olds; the hurricane was being left out of the DfE’s review of the curriculum; and dangerous fire has burned RE in new types of schools, such as academies and free schools, many of which have been unclear about their continuing responsibility to deliver RE for every child.
So, what is the whisper? Ultimately, RE teachers are still the key to providing pupils with great experiences of spiritual exploration. Governors and senior staff have a part to play, as well. As the chair of the RE Council, John Keast, rightly says: “The two most important things that school leaders and governors can do to strengthen RE is, first, to ensure they are familiar with RE as a subject in the curriculum today - and not rely on their own memories of it; and, second, to apply the same professionalism to the management of RE as they do to other subjects, in terms of expectations, curriculum, teaching and learning, staffing, resourcing, and support.”
But what can the ordinary teacher do, in addition, to help rescue the experience of RE in schools?
Inject spiritual activities into the curriculum At Hazlemere C of E Combined School, in Buckinghamshire, the RE co-ordinator, Susan Brice, has been getting pupils aged eight to 11 to plan reflective RE experiences for the younger pupils - such as working in pairs on blind-faith walking, life-journey planning, making a cross of lights (in this, the children heard the story of Jesus’s forgiveness of even the people who killed him, and thought about how forgiveness is like a light, and how hard we sometimes find it to forgive), and inviting parents and other adults to share in the experience. When the children design an activity, it is received with respect by their peers, and the spiritual life of the school is being enhanced.
Plan more “find out” RE One school in Warwickshire has been using its “Forest School” outdoor learning programme to investigate questions such as: “What was the first Diwali like?” “Can we tell the story in the forest?” “What was it like for Moses to stand in front of a burning bush?” “Can we create a Succoth shelter, similar to the ones Jewish people use as reminders of living in the wilderness; and why do Jewish people do this?” RE can become a lead subject for investigative and enquiry work. Many teachers, using methods from “Philosophy4Children” (www.philosophy4children.co.uk), are developing the RE curriculum as a thinking centre for the whole curriculum.
Grab time from any subject by making cross-curricular RE work well A teacher from Walsall reports that linking RE to drama, dance, and art has had good effects in her urban primary school. Many previously unenthusiastic staff became more committed to RE because they saw the creative side of the subject in action. And many creative pupils did their best work exploring sacred stories in Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism, through the arts.
Use pupil enthusiasm, and special events, to make a case for the subject In Wolverhampton, a secondary department decided to run a whole day of RE, on the topic of evil, for pupils close to choosing their GCSE options. Pupils responded enthusiastically, with 85 per cent evaluating the day as “good” or “excellent”. One pupil wrote: “I expected today to be boring, but it wasn’t. It really made me think about how you can combat evil peacefully.”
Another, after a first encounter with Friedrich Nietzsche, wrote: “I was shocked by his views: everyone is entitled to an opinion, but his was horrible. It was really fascinating.”
Encourage debate and expect arguments to be interesting An RE teacher from Haslingden High School, in Rossendale, Ben Wood, tackled the topic of prayer with his pupils by getting them to dramatise arguments between atheists and believers about whether prayer is a waste of breath, or a force to change the world.
The students have found that, because RE has often focused on their debating skills, they have become better at expressing their own beliefs. A motto for RE that may appeal to some pupils could be “The arguer’s subject”.
Get the roots down, and get the walls down In many primary and secondary schools, pupils have identified the fact that the study of RE has encouraged their tolerance, and built their respect. Good teachers know that identity needs to be deep-rooted, if pupils are to be confident enough not to build walls against those who may seem to threaten them. RE can be rescued by being assertive - to heads, governors, and parents - about the value of teaching both tolerance and respect in RE.
Enquiry into independent religious education
Read the article on page 30.
A quiet revolution in religious education
By Deborah Weston, Director of Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development Mulberry School for Girls, NATRE Executive Officer and the REC Company Secretary.
‘There has been a quiet revolution brewing in the world of religious education. In the face of major changes to the educational systems in England, structures and systems that have supported the subject for more than half a century are becoming weakened, in some cases fatally. In some schools, this apparently 'compulsory' subject is disappearing off the timetable and teachers, especially those in the primary phase report feeling ill-equipped to deliver RE and ill-informed about where to find any source of support.
Read this article Leading_Change_Issue_8_pg20_21.pdf
Article published in Leading Edge Journal, for more information please visit website
Study reveals teens' views on faith and RE
‘The wide-ranging Youth on Religion project has given us a number of insights into teenagers' views on faith, including their concerns about the content and delivery of religious education.’ explains Professor Nicola Madge, professor of child psychology in the Centre for Child and Youth Research at Brunel University and led the Youth On Religion study.
See more on the SecEd website
Latest conversations from #REchatUK
#REchatUK took place on Monday 3 February 2014 8 - 9pm. If you missed it and want to catch up on the discussion on ‘Visits and visitors to the RE classroom’ you can see it here
Thanks to those who contributed and to NATRE member Jonny Lawson for hosting. Do take a look and please consider taking part next month: Monday 3rd March 8 - 9pm.
If you have any suggestions as to what next month's topic should be please send a tweet to @NATREupdate
Like beekeeping, religious education is best when it's controversial
Guardian Education has recently been writing about inspiring teachers in it's 'How I became a teacher series'
Another one of our inspiring RE Teachers has made it into the series: ‘Beekeeper Daniel Hugill teaches religious education (RE) at Coopers’ Company and Coborn School in Havering. He set up a honeybee hive in school to inject a practical element into teaching the curriculum across all subjects’.
NATRE's Response to: 'Subject Associations should approach government about EBacc inclusion'
NATRE’s response to Laura McInerney ‘Subject Associations should approach government about EBacc inclusion’
NATRE - the National Association of Teachers of RE and the RE Council of England and Wales have campaign tirelessly to have Religious Studies GCSE included in its rightful place alongside History and Geography in the English Baccalaureate.
The campaign has been featured prominently in the national media on several occasions with much support from the public. A petition campaign was led by a radio station and an Early Day Motion proposed by Stephen Lloyd was signed by 116 MPs. There cannot be many MPs in the country who have not received letters from concerned teachers and other constituents on the matter. The campaign has even been described as well fought in the parliament.
NATRE has conducted annual surveys of its members on the impact of the EBacc and proved unequivocally that this completely unjustified decision is causing enormous damage to the level of provision of the subject, even to the point that a significant number of schools are now flouting the law to provide RE for all especially now that the short course will not count in the performance tables.
RE specialists are being made redundant and those with other specialisms with space on their timetables being required to teach RE with the inevitable consequences on standards of learning and teaching. The deteriorating state of RE is well documented in OFSTED reports most recently at the end of 2013. The government has shamefully made no response to this report and seems content to do nothing even when the report concluded, ‘Weaknesses in provision for RE meant that too many pupils were leaving school with low levels of subject knowledge and understanding.’
So in answer to the question, how did the Computer Science subject community persuade the Secretary of State to include computing in the EBacc when he rejected Religious Studies, it is not because we did not try. I can only conclude that, contrary to his fine words in support of RE, it is because he believes it is more important for our children to have the knowledge, understanding and skills to be called computer literate than it is to be called religiously literate.
As for the issue of rigour, there are some substantial academic studies of the relative difficulty of GCSE and A level subjects. A summary can be found here (see page 6 figure 2). RS full course GCSE sits within the same range as English Literature and Mathematics and the short course significantly higher.
From REOnline (news.reonline.org.uk)
(20th Feb 2013: The newsfeed from REOnline is currently unavailable.)