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.

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