What is a curriculum symposium and why hold one?

The aim of the NATRE Curriculum Symposium was to raise the level of conversation about curriculum in RE. By providing an environment that encouraged collaboration and in-depth discussion, we wanted to give teachers the chance to engage in robust, critical, and concrete conversations about their school’s RE curriculum.

As the subject association for teachers of RE, NATRE is uniquely well placed to bring together a diverse group of teachers to engage in such conversations. The first symposium ran in November 2021, and we hope that this event can be replicated in a variety of formats by teachers in NATRE-affiliated local groups, MATs, SACREs, diocesan networks or any other place where teachers can collaborate as part of a professional learning community.

The NATRE Curriculum Symposium was held over 24 hours, allowing for expert input from speakers such as Christine Counsell, Richard Kueh, Matthew Lane, Stephen Pett and Kathryn Wright. However, the bulk of the time was given over to teachers discussing with other teachers.

Before the symposium, each teacher wrote a paper about their school’s RE curriculum, and these were read by the other participating teachers ahead of the conference. This meant that teachers could then engage in concrete discussions about these curricula. This was mainly in small ‘home’ groups with teachers from the same phase, although we also gave time for cross-phase groups and ‘interest’ groups, which allowed for groups to focus on emerging issues of curriculum design.

Feedback from the symposium was overwhelmingly positive, particularly in respect of the opportunity it gave teachers to be involved with in-depth conversations about curriculum in RE. Teachers left the conference with questions to think over and ideas to implement, having been challenged to think again about aspects of their school’s RE curriculum. A number of attending teachers also commented on how they valued the professional conversations, how they appreciated the challenging but collaborative nature of the discussions and how the conference had a positive impact on their professional confidence.

NATRE encourages all teachers of RE to engage in these kinds of conversations, perhaps by being part of a curriculum symposium. Elsewhere on this website you will find details and suggestions on how such an event could be run, resources to use at your own version of the symposium, along with reflections from those teachers involved.

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