The Religious Education Curriculum at The Redway School
Early Years Foundation Stage
Our very youngest children follow the EYFS curriculum and there are aspects of Religious Education running through all key areas. It is not taught as a separate subject but is nevertheless an important consideration throughout the curriculum and most specifically in the areas for learning PSED (personal, social and emotional development) and Understanding the Wider World (People and Communities). In line with the ethos of the EYFS guidelines we start where each individual child is with a focus on nurturing a sense of self, belonging and relationships. Through every activity children are encouraged to share, tolerate others and take turns. All major world faiths encourage such positive attributes and we seek to reflect this in the nursery.
Differences and similarities in religious beliefs and culture are reflected in the range of multi-cultural toys, resources and activities on offer in the department. Festivals and celebrations are acknowledged as being significant and simple sensory activities and stories are included in the activities on offer. At Chinese New Year artefacts and clothes are available to play with as are materials for each major festival. We explore the familiar and the unfamiliar with care and respect, with the knowledge that things and occasions are important to individuals and families.
Key Stage 1 and 2 (Primary)
Religious Education in the primary department has a number of areas of focus, including the study of religion, special times, belonging, sharing, developing friendships and the natural world. Some areas of RE are taught in focussed lessons whereas other areas are taught through topics and the time spent at school with friends.
Children in Key stages one and two explore world faiths through activities that are exciting and relevant. Sometimes we use sensory stories and at other times we dress up, make and taste foods, listen to music and take part in craft activities. We use sensory boxes that are related to particular religions or festivals. These are filled with artefacts and items that we only use on special occasions. At Diwali, for example we explore a basket filled with tinsel, decorations, fragrant oil, fairy lights and statues. Sensory stories are a particular favourite and we use these to explore all major faiths and festivals, such as the Buddhist festival of Wesak and the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. Festivals form a central part of the RE curriculum and children can get a real sense of the meaning behind Faith celebrations through the way they are presented and explored. We take great care to handle artefacts and materials with respect and try hard to create an atmosphere that reflects the nature of the occasion, be it lively or quiet. At Holi we make brightly coloured pictures and play lively catch games, whereas at Wesak we will have a time of silence and stillness.
As each new season approaches, we share in sensory sessions reflecting the time of year by exploring aspects of the natural world. A favourite journey for pupils is the trip to the local orchard in spring, where they get the opportunity to lie on the grass, looking up at the blossom laden branches of the apple trees. In the autumn we again walk through the orchard to our Harvest festival and experience a very different time of year. These are always special times.
Promoting a sense of belonging and developing relationships is central to RE and is supported through the whole school ethos. This sense of belonging is nurtured in the classroom, where we play games involving sharing, turn taking and working in groups. At the end of the summer term activities take place that help children prepare for the move to a new class and this is especially important in the last year of primary when pupils are about to progress to the secondary department.
Key Stage 3 (Secondary)
As students move into the secondary department they start a new curriculum and for RE this includes new and exciting opportunities to find out about what is special to people and what is important to individuals. The festivals that have become a firm favourite in primary continue to be celebrated but are now studied in greater depth and in a wider context. This may be through visiting places of worship, creating music or through multi-sensory exploration. We look at the rituals associated with festivals, clothes and music and also make items that can be part of the study or celebration. By helping to create special things, students are helped to understand how significant and precious items can become when they are made with care. At the Hindu festival of Diwali students explore clay and paint and make their own brightly decorated Diwa lamps. At Christmas we make individual Christingles, using fruit, sweets and a candle to tell the story of Jesus. At festivals such as Sukkoth, Eid, Easter and Christmas students are introduced to the stories behind the festival and begin to understand elements that are at the core of faith, such as respect, sharing and celebration.
We also start to look at the role of important people in faith and religious tradition, such as the Vicar in a Church and the Imam at the Mosque. Signs and symbolism within religion are also looked at through visits, photographs, stories and through students sharing personal experiences. Visits are made to a synagogue, churches and the local Buddhist temple and these have always proved to be memorable and worthwhile experiences. In line with the rest of the curriculum, there is a focus on moving out into and discovering the local community.
The RE curriculum includes learning about religion but is also about learning from religion. Applying what is learned to our daily lives and within our relationships; through attitudes such as listening and taking turns, caring and sharing is key to the RE curriculum and also supports the whole school ethos of tolerance, friendship and respect.
Children and Young People with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (taught within PMLD classes)
We have introduced a new curriculum outline for children with PMLD. RE is delivered as part of cross curricular themes. We continue to explore world faith through sensory stories, music and festivals. Our new curriculum initiative is the introduction of the Routes for Learning Assessment. This well respected assessment is especially designed for learners with Complex, Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties. The assessment focuses on the key areas of communication and cognitive development. Routes for Learning focuses on how children develop their understanding of key concepts. It addresses the individual needs of learners where sensory impairments, motor disabilities and medical problems complicate the learning process. It takes account of individual preferences for:
- Learning channels and ways of processing information (e.g. visual, auditory, tactile)
- Ways of communicating
- Ways of integrating new experiences with prior learning
- Ability to remember and anticipate routines
- Approaches to problem-solving situations
- Ability to form attachments and interact socially.
Each child follows their own route towards 7 key developmental steps. These include noticing and responding to stimuli, an understanding of cause and effect, object permanence, making choices and taking action to make things happen. The assessment gives the class teachers the information they need to create “Individual Learning Plans” for communication and cognitive development. Then they can plan activities at the right level to engage and challenge each child. The individual Cognitive and Communication Learning Plans inform planning in every subject for children who benefit from this form of assessment.
Children on the Autistic Spectrum (taught within ASC classes)
ASC classes follow a curriculum designed with the children’s specific needs in mind. It is delivered using strategies and approaches designed to match individual learning styles. Key aspects as outlined in the SLD curriculum are covered, however, including festivals, world faith and the natural world. During the Autumn term there is a focus on ‘belonging’, aiming to support children in settling back in to school routines with familiar and new friends and staff.
Students in the Transitions department follow an individualised curriculum and continue their journey looking at faith in the wider community, celebrations and visits. Students are encouraged to express more personal, independent responses to situations and activities. Specific faiths are studied in greater depth than previously and there is a focus on meeting people from faith groups to hear their story. Visits are planned to the local churches, the synagogue and temples and an important part of these visits is the expectation to behave appropriately. This is especially important on visits to places of worship where students can witness acts of worship and handle special artefacts. Behaviour is also key when welcoming visitors into school and developing respect and tolerance. It is important to emphasise that visits only ever involve observation rather than engaging in acts of worship. This is especially important in supporting individual pupils’ beliefs and traditions within their own families and homes. We aim to nurture a safe atmosphere of listening and tolerance providing a friendly place for students to express their feelings and to share celebrations with each other.
In addition to visiting places of worship and inviting people into school we engage in activities that help us understand world faith and the stories, beliefs and core values. This can be through festivals, worship rituals, special books and also through looking at specific aspects of religion such as clothing, music or prayer. Winter is an ideal time to look at aspects of light and dark in religion, especially through celebrations such as Hanukkah, Diwali and Christmas, where candles, fireworks and fairy lights are so frequently used and enjoyed. Festivals continue to be a good opportunity to share in celebrations with the rest of the school and the fact that certain festivals happen every year helps students grasp the cyclical nature of festivals and how they can trigger memories when we sing familiar songs or eat traditional foods.
Students are encouraged to give a personal response and are given opportunities to develop spiritually, at whatever level is appropriate for them. Meditation, relaxation, yoga, prayer, times of quiet and still and time to enjoy the natural world could all form part of a student’s development. There is a specific focus on exploring what makes us feel peaceful and this can help promote a sense of self worth and calm; an important and valuable attitude in our busy world.