Assessment in RE – the battle continues

Interestingly I attended a teaching and learning conference with my school today. The aim of the day was to bring all of the schools in my academy chain together and have those much needed curriculum discussions.
I was so excited by this prospect. I love working with other passionate RE specialists and I love to see what other teachers are doing in hope that it will help me to further develop my own RE department.

Today’s sessions were focused on the RE GCSE and the changes that are heading our way and whilst these do matter, I currently only have year 7 and 8 so they are less of a stress to me at the moment. So I focused my attention on picking people’s brains about assessment rubrics and life after levels in RE.
Being a part of a federation means that we share this sort of thing but there was nothing available for the RE. A few weeks ago, in a bit of a panic, I sat with my line manager and we managed to create a structure that works for us for now. It will need a complete re-working before next half term.

We are using the new GCSE 1-9 system and what I have created is not quite levels but it is not far enough away from levels either (Niel McKain’s Elvis image springs to mind). It had to be done though as data is due in but I need the time to think on it further. (I will put the rubric I am using on here at a later date)

So today, I asked people what they have been using to mark their assessments and input their data (on which we are all judged against each other). Each person was using something different – the common problem in RE. A lack of consistency is the biggest problem and contributes to bad RE.

I raised the question to the RE leader about this issue, as we know this is a national issue for RE not just a federation one. One of the other RE teachers who has shown me what he uses (which is brilliant) heard my complaint. We are hoping to make this much tighter and more consistent but what was so inspiring today was that there are so many RE teachers there that could be collaborating on all of this as the climate in RE changes.

I feel really excited today about creating my new RE documents and trying them out in my school seeing how they work and then sharing them with others so that they can be tested in different cultural and ability contexts.

We need to take control of our subject and hold it to such a high standard. The expectations should be sky high and having this rubs off on others. I had such positive comments today about my hopes for the future of RE across all our schools and I think that we went away feeling that we should collaborate more and utilise our knowledge to make the RE academically rigorous and successfully assessed.

Energising RE – CSTG conference

It’s been a week since the Energising RE conference and I’ve been thinking a lot about the events and conversations from last weekend.

It is brilliant that Culham St Gabriel’s put this conference on as it rarely happens that so many RE teachers can come together and talk about our wonderful subject; however, there were many things that bugged me last weekend. I am going to go through the two following themes:

  1. Assessment in RE – what will it look like?
  2. To NC or not to NC?

Assessment in RE

This is a big deal at the moment. I listened to various responses over the weekend as to how we can solve the problem of life without levels. However, there were no responses which I left feeling I would certainly adopt and I am desperate for a system in my new school.

First of all I attended a session which suggested AT1 and AT2 are not sufficient anymore and then proceeded to offer what looked like AT1, AT2 and something that kind of looked like a made up AT3 which didn’t add any value whatsoever. It took me everything to keep my mouth closed in this session as the type of skills being assessed were the kind of fluffy RE that should not be included at all! There was no space for testing knowledge or academic skills and I fear this is going to lead us right back to square one. One piece of work we were offered as an example was the Nativity scene with speech bubbles asking how each character “feels” as a form of assessment. What is this? I don’t even know that there’s any academic skill required there.

The second proposed option I came across was knowledge focussed and I heard lots of whisperings amongst the crowd which made it clear that this was not a popular choice. I think it would be excellent to have set knowledge that the students must leave knowing (a minimum expectation if you like) just like the other well-respected Humanities subjects. The main opposition came from the idea that this would be set nationally and would then somewhat upset the freedom that locality brings with it. This brings me on to my second point:

To National Curriculum or not to National Curriculum? That is the question!

The fear behind the word ‘National’ is somewhat misguided. Within National Curriculum’s there are still options and choices. History teachers choose between Russian history or British history so why couldn’t we choose between Islam or Judaism? This would be a professional judgement on the part of the RE teacher as to which syllabus best suits the children in their local area. There are many positives which a NC would bring. We would be clear as a community about our aims and purposes even if we don’t all agree with it. We would have more knowledge about what is happening lower down in ks1 and ks2 which would certainly help us to develop our students more in ks3. It would also give our Primary colleagues clearer guidance about what they should be teaching and may mean that teachers feel less afraid of the subject.

Ultimately the main problem in the RE community is that there are too many opinions. Not everyone is going to get their own way but we can’t sit and talk about this forever. Something needs to change as our subject needs to move into the future. I think it’s time we welcomed the change and worked together on solutions rather than talking continually about the problems.

It is clear we are not going to get a perfect answer right now to what our ‘assessment’ will look like but we have great RE minds and we can certainly figure this out once we know which direction our subject is going in. Also, I think it’s about time that RE teachers said goodbye to the ‘nice’ feeling style RE which is lovely to teach but ultimately does nothing for our students academically.