RE at KNGS – inspiring you to openly explore, enquire and express ideas about beliefs, truth and meaning, with appreciation and respect.
Religious Education at Kings Norton Girls’ School has as its primary purpose the aim of developing students’ ability to reflect in a critical way on what it means to be a human being in the world, in the context of the study of different faiths and worldviews. The Birmingham Agreed Syllabus states ‘In Religious Education, the deepest values of human existence are explored’ and we try to reflect this in all we do.
Students learn to approach views other than their own through critical thinking and dialogue. They engage with and are enthused by the exploration of values and attitudes and the search for answers to ultimate questions. They reflect on religious responses and the philosophical and ethical issues to which such reflection gives rise.
Religious Education and SMSC, including the promotion of British Values
Pupils’ Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural development is a whole school responsibility, but one to which RE can make unique contributions. At Kings Norton Girls’ we are committed to developing not just academic and practical skills but also self-knowledge, moral courage and a capacity for imaginative sympathy for others. Our long term planning explicitly references opportunities to develop pupils’ understanding of models of spirituality, diverse moral perspectives and the impact of society and culture upon these. We aim to contribute to SMSC development not just through our content, but also our approach; modelling respectful dialogue and critical, yet charitable, exploration of ideas.
Mutual respect: this occurs often across the phases in RE lessons through case studies, religious teachings and ethical debates. Pupils hear stories of people who have taken particular actions because of their beliefs, actions that have been about equal treatment and respect for those who are, for example, black, female, or have a different religious belief from the majority, such as Martin Luther King or Malala Yousafzai. Students may question why some groups and individuals do not seem to be treated respectfully in the UK when studying units on prejudice and discrimination.
Tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs: this is clearly a key driver in RE lessons across the age range. To learn about different ways of life and beliefs requires openness to difference. We hope that students will increasingly query whether tolerance as an ethic is powerful enough, and suggest warm acceptance, celebration or love is a better ideal to work towards.
Democracy: At KS3, a democratic country may be contrasted to a theocratic country or a monarchy if the class is exploring rules, free-will and determinism. KS4 students may debate the value of majority rule when studying the death penalty, and weigh up secular and religious viewpoints on the role of the state in justice.
Rule of law: In KS3 and 4 the rule of law may be contrasted with religious rules or moral precepts. For example, in an exploration of the idea of rules generally, children may consider why we all have to follow civic law and the impact this has on our lives. This may then be contrasted with rules, precepts and guidance given by different religious communities. In addition, pupils may explore how democracy and legislation in the UK, in contrast to some other jurisdictions, support and protect people’s religious beliefs and freedoms. At KS3, students may encounter religious customs, such as polygamy which are not allowed under civic law. At KS4, students may contrast the rule of law to ethical and religious norms.
Individual liberty: in studying non-Christian faiths in the UK the idea of freedom of religion may arise as part of the rights of the individual. We explicitly explore human rights, including the right to expression of belief in KS3. Students will also explore examples of where, while we have individual liberty with some rights, religions may explain that there are certain responsibilities. As students move into KS4 they will explore in more detail the history of human rights, and responses to them within the Church of England and other religious traditions within the UK.
In Year 7, Religious Studies is taught for 2 hours a week. Students develop their understanding and skills through a study of the key beliefs of major world religions, key figures and festivals. They will also enjoy the opportunity to explore initial philosophy of religion questions, including whether we can know that God exists. Students also learn about the importance of sacred buildings which involves a visit to a synagogue, mandir, mosque and gurdwara. This year allows students to develop mutual tolerance and respectful attitudes towards the different religious traditions of the UK including a study of how the UK became a diverse multifaith society.
In Year 8, students continue to develop their understanding and skills through a study of human nature and human rights, commitment and an extended study of the life and nature of Jesus, including a philosophical investigation into miracles. This year allows students to develop further their knowledge of diverse attitudes within Christianity and also consider questions of democracy, the rule of law and individual liberty.
In Year 9, pupils begin with a detailed unit on ethics in different religions, and will explore the concepts of the golden rule and the sanctity of life. They go on to a ‘taster’ of GCSE topics, looking at human relationships and the existence of God. They finish the year with a personal investigation into a topic of their choice, and taking part in the national ‘Spirited Arts’ competition. This year allows students to consider the rule of law in relation to ethical issues such as abortion, capital punishment and same-sex relationships.
Students can choose whether to opt for GCSE Religious Studies or to study Core RE, which is not examined.
In Core RE students will explore questions of life and death, the meaning of life, community cohesion and human relationships. There will also be the opportunity to take part in our annual Interfaith Week activities, and we hope to also run at least one trip to local places of worship.
Students who opt for the GCSE will study AQA Religious Studies (Christianity and Islam) course which involves an in-depth exploration of Christian and Muslim beliefs and practices. They will then consider the themes of relationships and families, matters of life and death, crime and punishment, and peace and conflict.
Homework is set in line with the school’s policy. Students are encouraged to use a range of resources including StudentShare which is populated with relevant reading material, worksheets and website links. For GCSE and A Level students, there are sample assessment materials that can be accessed too.
The RE department also arranges extra-curricular activities that can deepen students’ understanding and interest in the subject. For instance, the department marks National Interfaith Week with a dedicated ‘reflections room’ and a forum with a panel of faith leaders in the city in which pupils have an opportunity to ask questions on a wide range of subjects. These opportunities are designed to enable students to come face to face with the wide range of perspectives and cultures represented in the UK today.