Our vision is ‘Growing Happy, Caring Hearts and Minds’.
The foundation of this can be found in the Bible, John 15 v 12;
‘My command is this: love each other as I have loved you’.
Our vision has been developed from the central belief of the Church of England, that education should develop a fullness of life. This is alongside the Exeter Diocese vision to pray, grow and serve with joy.
The school community were consulted and given the opportunity to identify key strengths and attributes of the school. During the Summer Term questionnaires were sent out to all parents, staff, governors and pupils. There was a positive response to this and overwhelmingly everyone prioritised the children’s happiness and wellbeing, alongside and integrated into learning and meeting full potential. This goes back to the central belief that the role of the school should be to educate the whole person, encompassing ‘physical and intellectual development, united with spiritual, moral, social and cultural’. We believe that RE has a key role to play.
The Christian faith is centred around the love of God and at this school we have also developed new values that are based on the GRACE of God. The values are Generosity, Respect, Agape, Courage and Empathy.
Principle Aim – We think the principal aim of religious education is to explore what people believe and what difference this makes to how they live, so that pupils can gain the knowledge, understanding and skills needed to handle questions raised by religion and belief, reflecting on their own ideas and ways of living. We hope RE at Withycombe will inspire children to think about others in their class, the local and global community and be a catalyst for both courageous advocacy and spirituality, complementing each other whilst being woven into the very fabric of our school.
The Statement of entitlement document requires our school to teach at least 50% of Christianity in the curriculum. However, we currently give 66% of the curriculum to Understanding Christianity so that we can teach Incarnation and Salvation each year. We ensure progression in this strand is maintained by using the Digging Deeper aspects of the Understanding Christianity Scheme of work. This will contain some recap and review, based upon the research by Rosenshine (2010), before it moves on. This is monitored and reviewed periodically.
In our school we want to see RE producing art, poetry, writing, discussions and debates. This might be evident in photographs of children’s work, in books and on display. We aim to have some pupil voice comments about RE curriculum and learning. We also aim to have enrichment events, such as Kindness Week, Trinity Day and visitors and visits.
We use the statement of entitlement from the Church of England guidance:
‘Pupils are entitled to expect that in Church schools Christianity should be the majority religion studied in each year group and should be at least 50% of curriculum time. Sufficient dedicated curriculum time, meeting explicitly RE objectives, however organised, should be committed to the delivery of RE. This should aim to be close to 10% but must be no less than 5% in key stages 1-4.’
(Religious Education in Church of England Schools - A Statement of Entitlement from the Church of England Feb 2019)
What do we teach in RE?
In RE we aim to give children a grounded understanding of Christianity and religious and non-religious world views through encounters with living world views.
As the children progress through the school they will encounter different religious and non-religious world views. In KS1 children will encounter Christians, Jews and Muslims, as well as non-religious world views in some comparative studies.
An important aim of RE is that children are encouraged to reflect on their learning and make their own decisions about what they believe. The aim of RE is not to make children into religious believers, but to understand that religion and world views still influence and sustain many people in the world today. Also, to consider the wisdom of traditions within religious and non-religious world views, and reflect on what they might take from these.
We provide a space for all children to express their home faith or worldview (however, in Church schools, teaching is rooted in the Church of England). We follow the Devon Agreed Syllabus and use Understanding Christianity to complement this.
Effective RE needs a well considered curriculum structure:
Our RE curriculum is structured so that it:
Make sense to pupils
Focuses on core concepts and big questions
Allows pupils to encounter diverse examples of religion and worldviews
Enables pupils to embed learning into their long-term memory
Makes space for pupils’ own religious or non-religious worldviews
Encourages pupils’ personal development, applying their learning to living
Gives opportunities for spiritual development
This is what a typical unit looks like:
Children’s knowledge will be benchmarked
Planning will include different learning style opportunities
RE will be text rich even in EYFS
Children will be encouraged to use key vocabulary
Planning will form part of a spiral curriculum. The themes are revisited and progressed upon. For example, The 6 themes of understanding Christianity build, as do lessons about Islam, Judaism, and comparative studies.
Assessment opportunities to display subject knowledge and to explore themes in relation to others and themselves.
The RE teaching at Withycombe utilises Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction (2010). The four strands (Reviewing Material, Questioning, Explaining and Modelling and Practising) suggested by Rosenshine are embedded throughout the RE curriculum, helping children to avoid overload of their short-term memories and to make connections to prior learning. This allows children to develop their own schema, committing learning to their deep processing and semantic memory. Our RE lessons usually begin with a ‘review’ activity (often a re-cap quiz) which encourages children to retrieve and recall their prior learning, vocabulary, skills and/or knowledge. This is carefully designed by teachers, allowing them to draw upon previous content (whether in the previous lesson, the previous term or the previous year), and also serves to prepare children for what they are about to learn in the current teaching session.
Examples of how pupils can learn and remember more (metacognition):
The 5-finger mnemonic, key story, key artefacts, use of trips and visitors, use of artwork, small quizzes at the start of each lesson. Over the longer term, we have also developed letters for our future self. This involves children writing a letter in the main strands of Salvation and Incarnation about their current learning based on the building blocks and assessment criteria. They then revisit this learning in the next year as a refresher from which they can build their new knowledge upon. All of this is important so that children can retain knowledge and enhance and maximise the efficiency of our spiral curriculum as the children make progress through the school.
We want RE to look very different as it moves up through the school with children leaving Year 6 with a sound knowledge of Christianity and some other world faiths. We want children to have successfully explored what people believe and what difference this makes to how they live, so that pupils can gain the knowledge, understanding and skills needed to handle questions raised by religion and belief, reflecting on their own ideas and ways of living. We hope RE at Withycombe has inspired children to think about others in their class, the local and global community and be a catalyst for both courageous advocacy and spirituality, complementing each other whilst being woven into the very fabric of our school.
Assessment in RE:
We assess children in each unit in RE to see if we think they are either working towards, are working at or exceeding the expected level of attainment. This should be done at the end of each unit, but assessment also takes place throughout, drawing on discussions and outcomes. Assessments should give children an opportunity to show they have retained knowledge but also to ‘connect the dots’ and think about what this might mean at a deeper level.
What does greater depth in RE look like?
Secure knowledge and understanding of key unit themes but also:
Vocabulary is key – do children use it in their responses with precision?
Questioning – do children ask appropriate questions?
Links – are children making links with the Big Story in Christianity Units and able to compare and contrast different religions?
Application – can children relate ideas to their own situations and context?
Also to recognise mystery, faith and challenge for people with faith. Do children have some awareness that some concepts are challenging and there is a continual journey of understanding and spiritual growth for people with faith and non-faith.
It can be seen in written answers and through discussion.
Have they insightfully responded to stretch questioning in discussion and marking?
Assessment descriptors have been added to all the understanding Christianity units in each year group. These have all been put in a folder on the Google Drive for teachers to access. The aim of this is to aid teachers in making their judgements. An online portfolio of assessment outcomes has been started, which is ongoing and will be reviewed periodically for usefulness and accuracy.