It’s the start of a new term and that usually means new topics. I love new topics, it makes me feel like there is lots of time stretched out in front of me for me to get my little kiddiewinks to understand some deep theological concepts.
I always get that ‘fresh’ feeling with a new topic like this is the one we will do justice to.
However, what also comes with a new term is an analysis of last half term’s assessment results. I didn’t conduct an assessment in RE last half term as it was the Christmas term and when it came to assessment week I realised the majority of my classes had only had 3-4 RE lessons. That’s correct, 3-4!!! This was due to various things such as trips and christmas activities, christmas lunch and so on. I am not a Grinch and didn’t stop any of these things from happening, but in hindsight I probably should have. So, what did they learn in that half term? How much could they possibly have progressed in 3 lessons? Not very far is the answer and suddenly that dream of covering deep theological topics has disappeared, gaps have been left open and I have to move on in the new term or we won’t have covered anything by the end of the year!
After chatting to Johnny Porter from Michaela quite a bit last year, I decided my curriculum would go for depth rather than breadth. This was a wise decision with the number of lessons I get weekly as it meant I could allow students to really develop religious literacy rather than moving them onto a new religion to develop the same skills (which was not many) as before. So I chose to study just 3 topics a year (1 per term rather than half term) and I chose to include the topics that often get left out. I felt this was the best decision for creating a strong foundational knowledge of at least 2 religions before the students reach GCSE.
So I am now in January and looking back on my 1st half term of study, I can honestly say that they did learn a great deal. I have pupils who are lower ability on entry than most other schools and yet they could explain to me why the Synoptic Problem is a problem. I was over the moon; but, they barely progressed in the 2nd half term and all of that was out of my control.
I feel sad. I know some would argue that I should have scrapped moving on and stuck with it, but due to school plans and assessments and exams and a child’s attention span, I just didn’t have that luxury.
I also teach History and Geography this year and they have two lessons a week. What a difference it makes! The students are more engaged, yet they have the same teacher (me) for these subjects as RE and they retain information better.
I feel like I am fighting a losing battle in RE. I really believe in the importance of our subject. I have put my heart and soul into developing a deep curriculum which allowed them to explore more within a religion rather than doing whimsical studies that are too quick for anyone to learn anything. But the time issue comes up again – how much can one really do with one 50 minute lesson a week? How much can I really do if I have seen my pupils 3 times in a half term?
It’s put me off putting in all this effort if I’m honest. I could roll out three rubbish lessons and it wouldn’t make a difference to the epic ones I planned originally.
I am not saying I will stop creating decent lessons and a healthy curriculum, but it does make me wonder about whether or not anyone really takes our subject seriously except for us teachers.