At Regents Park Community College, the Religious Studies Department’s base for learning is that all people deserve respect and that respect begins with understanding. Rooted in Article 18 of the UDHR, freedom of religion is a right. This right is best protected by knowledge rather than ignorance. As such we aim to ensure that all students leave our school with a good understanding of other people’s beliefs and how those beliefs affect the lifestyle and choices of believers.
Students arrive at Regents Park with very different experiences of Religious Studies, from those who are barely aware that they have done any to those who have experienced it as a core part of their schooling experience. One of our aims is to encourage all students to be aware of the diversity around them, in our school, our city and our country. Our curriculum approaches the varied experiences of Religious Studies at Key Stage 2 by finding common experiences and drawing links to different religious views and experiences.
As we build towards the GCSE, we focus on two main religions – Christianity and Hinduism. One of these is Abrahamic and monotheistic, the other is dharma (duty) based. This exposes students to two main streams in religion and works as a good foundation to understanding all religions. This prepares students for life and for A level Religious Studies. If prejudice is another word for ignorance, religious education is a route to empathy, respect and understanding.
The academic study of religion aims to prepare students for life and helps prepare students for a wide range of academic skills. We focus on the literacy skills of analysis, explanation and the use of high level speciality language. We try to introduce our students to the basic beliefs and practises of religious believers, and also we consider a range of ethical and life issues – it is better to consider issues like death and loss in a classroom rather than waiting until we lose someone close to us.
At Regents Park, in Religious Studies we operate a spiral curriculum, consisting of three circuits each going deeper. Our Curriculum map shows that we begin with asking what religion is, introduce Christianity and Hinduism and then aspects or themes of religion. This leads to an investigation into ancient religion and the future of religion in the 21st Century. As students begin Year 9 we start the second level of the spiral. Here we begin with ethical theory, introducing the different ways people justify their ethical choices (religious and humanist). We then revisit Christianity and Hinduism at a deeper level than in Key Stage 3 and move on to examine 4 Themes (Life, Crime, Social Justice and Conflict). The final circuit begins towards the end of Year 10 where we have an in depth investigation into Christian and Hindu beliefs and practices, followed by applying these beliefs to the ethical questions in preparation for the GCSE exam.
The AQA Religious Studies (Spec A) GCSE was chosen because it offers a balance of religious knowledge and ethical issues and has a style of questions that is accessible for most students. However, like most new GCSEs, it is very knowledge heavy. There is a lot of specialised vocabulary within the subject – over 200 words or phrases and around 40 key quotes that students need to understand. Many of these are linked to Hindu words and concepts, which are unfamiliar to students. We address this by having a strong focus on vocabulary both in lessons and through homework. We use Google Classroom quizzes to regularly test students on key words and quotes.
The quizzes mix familiar and new information at a ratio of around 80% familiar and 20% new. We also have a core of lessons and resources which individual teachers adapt to their classes and a clear ‘Big Question’ for every lesson.
We also support our students’ literacy with a department literacy strategy. There are scaffolds for all students to use for the different types writing (evaluative and explanatory). Students are supported with key words and a range of useful adjectives and adverbs as part of their preparation and revision for assessment style questions. We also use Walking Talking Mocks to teach and support these strategies. There are also literacy displays and guide sheets for use during assessments to ensure all students are able to access and use our literacy strategy.
All of this is supported with extra-curricular provision. Homework is set regularly on Google Classroom and incorporates a range of activities like key word and teachings quizzes, research tasks and exam style questions. The department runs a lunchtime Philosophy Club to allow students to develop their discussion and philosophical enquiry skills. We also collaborate with other Southampton schools to run an Art in Heaven competition for Year 7 and the One City; No Barriers in Year 8 (a conference to promote respect and celebrate diversity by breaking down barriers). This is all underpinned by regular SMSC presentations provided to form tutors called “Religious Misunderstandings” to promote cultural awareness of festivals, events and beliefs.
Students’ progress is monitored regularly and tracked through a two book system. Lessons are completed in a work book and assessed work is done in a separate book. Class teachers are expected to mark the assessment tasks in depth ensuring that there is formative feedback and tasks so students know how to improve their work.
The Subject Leader has produced expectations for low, mid and high level prior attaining students for all year groups. These build towards and expectation of grade 5 for mid level and grades 3 and 7 for low and high attaining students. In Key Stage 3 all students take a baseline assessment at the start of Year 7 and then have regular assessments at the end of each units. A similar process is used in Key Stage 4, with regular formative assessments used throughout each unit and a final summative, exam style assessment at the end of each unit. Teachers record where each student is in relation to the expected skills for their year group on a central record. This, along with grades from homework, is then tracked and monitored by the Subject Leader who then reports to the SLT link for the area.
The Subject Leader undertakes regular book looks initially using a random sampling process. This provides an overall picture of curriculum provision, standardisation of assessments and progress to ensure consistency throughout the department. Regular meetings with class teachers are also used to provide feedback, highlight underperformance and plan interventions. Regular meetings with the Senior Leadership Team and monitoring presentations ensure that the Department is moving forward in line with Regents Park policy and any issues are tackled promptly and effectively.