The curriculum intent for Religious Education at Upper Wharfedale School, is to give our students the opportunity to explore a range of religious and worldwide views; as well as the tools to be able to identify and express their own beliefs and ideas in a safe environment. This intent is underpinned by the key objectives of Religious Education as outlined in the North Yorkshire agreed syllabus, which are to ‘learn about and from religions and worldwide views in local, national and global contexts’. Our intent allows students to foster and enhance the skills and knowledge needed to develop their cultural capital by giving them access to historical religious scriptures, the opportunities for healthy debate and discussion in class, as well as a cultural experience (at a Gurdwara, a department store and a restaurant) during their year 7 trip to Bradford. Student feedback on the trip to Bradford is always strong, and not only allows students to see the religion of Sikhism in action (through viewing the langar and the worship hall including the respect shown to the Guru Granth Sahib), but is remembered throughout their 5 years at Upper Wharefedale School. Students often draw on this experience when thinking about their own beliefs about the place and purpose of religions in the UK today.
Student voice as part of the SEF is a way of highlighting topics that students have enjoyed, which can help influence the way the content is taught. Additionally a student voice activity involving a range of year 9 students at Upper Wharfedale took place in December 2018 with the North Yorkshire Equalities Provider which further highlighted that students enjoy looking at a diverse range of beliefs (eg the Mexican Day of the Dead).
The department is led by the Subject Leader for RE who teaches all classes with timetabled RE. To ensure curriculum quality, the department has forged links with the RE departments at King James School in Knareseborough, Dixons McMillan in Bradford and St Christophers school in Bahrain; in addition to attendance of Subject Network meetings in North Yorkshire and the NATRE Annual conference.
The impact of RE at Upper Wharefedale School can be seen through the comments from present and past students. There have been a number of our students who have gone on to careers such as medicine, the police service, and nursing and have found RE important in engaging them with thinking about ultimate questions that have steered their post 16 subject and career choices. A student who has gone on to become a midwife recently got in touch to say that questions such as, ‘When does life begin?’, and ‘Is all life sacred? helped her to decide that she wanted to train as a midwife. Additionally students from our farming community have commented that they particularly enjoy learning about stewardship and tackling questions linked to animal rights.
Following the trip to the Gurdwara in 2018, the percentage of students who stated that they understand and appreciate the valuable work done by religious communities increased to 95%. Pupil voice highlighted the importance of the learning with comments such as “I found out many different things that I didn’t know before about the Sikh religion and Indian culture. It also showed me the way equality is put into practice with the principle of the langar”. And “When we entered the Gurdwara we had to take off our shoes, and this felt different because on school trips we rarely take our shoes off”. “I personally enjoyed the trip a lot – I learnt lots about Sikhism and it felt like a priviledge being guided by a Sikh in the Gurdwara.”
The RE department remains committed to allowing students the opportunities to learn about and from religion in a safe and respectful environment.
With the majority of our students coming from a largely secular background, the study of RE plays a vital role in preparing them for social life in the wider word, where there is an increasing range of religious and non-religious beliefs. The impact of a lack of tolerance goes against the values that we hold at Upper Wharfedale School and against the values we hold in Britain, therefore the core values of tolerance and respect for other beliefs are a strong theme in RE lessons. The subject is invested in provoking challenging questions about meaning and purpose in life, beliefs about God (through the NATRE Spirited Arts competition), ultimate reality, issues of right and wrong and what it means to be human. The units explored at Key Stage 3 build on the RE work done at KS2 and KS1, as informed by the locally agreed syllabus. The curriculum is currently in a transition period as a result of the updated 2019 North Yorkshire agreed syllabus, which will mean that all units of study fall into the strands of Believing, Expressing or Living, further encouraging the cohesiveness of the RE curriculum between KS2 and KS3. The topics chosen as part of the Key Stage 3 curriculum are based on discussions with subject leaders at local RE network meetings, and based on an understanding of our students, and the topics that they will find engaging or relevant in their own lives. The beliefs covered at KS3 over the last few years have included Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus. However from 2020, students will look at Buddhist rather than Hindu beliefs to reflect the change in the North Yorkshire syllabus, and Buddhism’s atheist focus – which are more closely aligned to the views of the majority of our students.
Diversity of thoughts and beliefs are encouraged in the classroom, so that students can understand that not everyone will share their viewpoints (including diversity within and between people of the same and different religions). A key element of the study of RE at Key Stage 3 incorporates encounters with living faiths rather than solely the history and belief structures of traditions, which allows students the opportunity to understand the impact of religion in the lives of people today. The opportunity for dialogue through discussions and debates is embedded within lessons, so that students can develop an aptitude for effective communication – thus giving them the skills necessary to participate positively in our society with its diverse religions and worldwide views.
What do Christians believe?
This unit topic focusses on charitable giving in Christianity, including the Beatitudes and Christian inspirations. The end of unit assessment involves groups working to create their own charity, incorporating Christian teachings learnt throughout the unit.
Why are the 5 pillars of Islam important to Muslims?
This unit looks at the core foundations of belief within Islam, and their importance to Muslims today. Students are given the opportunity to develop their understanding of the religion, with plenty of opportunities for discussion and asking questions.
What do Sikhs believe?
This unit looks at the history of Sikhism, and how it is followed by Sikhs today (including the importance of the 5K’s, the Langar and the Guru Granth Sahib). The learning is further enhanced with the opportunity to visit a Gurdwara at the end of year 7.
Does it make sense to believe in God?
The unit starts with analysing art work from the NATRE competition, showing how others have creatively expressed their beliefs about God. Atheist, Theist and Agnostic views are explored; before students are given the opportunity to create their own art work from the yearly themes provided by the National NATRE competition.
Ways of Living:
How much do beliefs make a difference?
This unit examines the life of St Francis, and how his beliefs impacted his life. Students are given the opportunity to examine how their own beliefs and values impact their lives, and to compare these with the beliefs of others (including religious and non-religious beliefs).
Is the Bible relevant today?
Students are given the opportunity to critically analyse whether the Bible is relevant today, with a focus on The 10 Commandments, The Parable of the Good Samaritan and The Parable of the Rich Farmer.
Is death the end?
We look at a wide variety of beliefs about life after death, and students are given the opportunity to explore what they believe. From the Mexican Day of the Dead, The Hindu Caste system (and how that impacts beliefs about the afterlife), to Christian, Muslim and non-religious beliefs.
Marriage and the Family
This unit covers a wide variety of topics, from the importance of marriage in Christianity to family life, contraception, homosexuality and divorce. Muslim beliefs are explored as well as Christian, with a view to prepare students for the GCSE.
These skills are further honed at Key Stage 4, where there is a clear emphasis on evaluating ethical questions from a Christian, Muslim and non-religious perspective. These questions include issues around abortion, euthanasia, animal rights as well as the importance of justice, the just war theory and pacifism. Using the skills and knowledge acquired at Key Stage 3, students tackle these meaningful questions and build on their evaluation skills by listening, debating and understanding a range of perspectives on these issues. As part of the unit on Death and Afterlife in the Key Stage 3 curriculum, students look at how death is viewed in other cultures (including the Mexican day of the Dead), explore their own views about death, and question the possibility of an afterlife, which is then built upon at key stage 4, when students tackle this deeper with topics such as abortion and euthanasia and the value of human life. The religion of Islam in addition to Christianity is looked at during key stage 4 for a number of reasons. This is partly due to the makeup of the school (the number of students from a Muslim background compared to other religions), but also due to Islam being a religion which often receives a lot of negative media attention and is usually misrepresented and therefore misunderstood. The peace and conflict theme is an ideal way to explore this religion, as it helps students explore misconceptions from within and outside the classroom.
GCSE Religious Studies
The course (Edexcel specification B) is run over two years and is broken down into 2 exams which are taken at the end of the course.
Religion and Ethics through Christianity
1 hour 45 minute exam
Religion, Peace and Conflict through Islam
1 hour 45 minute exam
KS3: Work is assessed in a variety of ways. Presentations (in groups or individually), written assessments or creative pieces of work are used to get an accurate assessment of whether students are on target.
KS4: Internally marked exam questions (under assessment conditions) are undertaken at the end of every unit, and at midway points within the unit. Additionally there will be a written mock exam at the end of year 10, and additionally midway through year 11.
KS3: Termly homework – as a themed project homework (e.g create a prayer mat in year 7) or a weekly set piece to be completed for the following lesson.
KS4: Exam questions or research homework is set regularly.
Students have the opportunity to enter the Spirited Arts competition run by NATRE in Year 8.