At Bookwell, our belief is that by using an enquiry-based model well, children’s critical thinking skills can be developed, their motivation to learn increased, and their knowledge and understanding of, and empathy with people and their beliefs, religious or otherwise, will be enhanced. This approach takes seriously the philosophy that children are free to make their own choices and decisions concerning religion and belief. RE does not try to persuade but rather to inform and develop the skills with which evaluation can take place.
At Bookwell, we follow a scheme called 'Discovery RE' which links to the Agreed Syllabus for Cumbria. Discovery RE advocates an enquiry model (recommended by Ofsted in “Religious education: realising the potential”, 2013) with a 4-step approach as the basis for implementation.
Every unit (enquiry) is based around a key question where children using their subject knowledge and apply it to the enquiry question, rather than this knowledge being an end in itself. Discovery RE focuses on critical thinking skills, on personal reflection into the child’s own thoughts and feelings, on growing subject knowledge and nurturing spiritual development.
The children start from their own experience to ensure understanding of the concept being studied then move into investigating that concept in depth from the point of view of the chosen religion. This continues over three lessons of investigation and discussion throughout Step 2, which embeds subject knowledge. These lessons not only support the children with embedding their RE knowledge, but also contribute to their oracy and critical thinking skills. Exposure to and analysis of religious texts can also enhance their reading, comprehension and inference skills.
In Step 3, they complete an assessment activity to evaluate the question again in light of their new knowledge, and have further opportunities to embed their own reflections on the learning in Step 4. The recommended Discovery RE model for Key Stages 1 and 2, of studying Christianity plus one other religion in each year group, means both religions have multiple enquiries (or 6 week units) per year. This ensures that the children revisit prior learning for both religions throughout the year to build on the previous enquiries, and Christmas and Easter enquiries are built on year-on-year throughout the child’s primary school journey.
“The positive results of pupils’ learning can then be seen in the standards they achieve.” Ofsted, 2019
At Bookwell, in order to be confident in the impact of RE, senior leaders and the RE leader monitors the subject each term, using scrutiny and moderation of outcomes. Information from moderation and scrutiny is fed back to colleagues through staff meetings and emails and colleagues views are taken into account (to ensure that impact matches intent across our school - from Reception to Year 6).
The RE subject leader carries out discussions with pupils regularly to see what the children feel is the impact on them of their learning and what we could do better to improve RE.
Assessment is a major contributor in evidencing the impact of children's RE learning at Bookwell. NATRE Assessment in Discovery RE is both formative and summative. Clear over-arching learning objectives and the key- coloured boxes within the planning allow the teacher to be mindful of the assessment elements within that step that can formatively help them pitch and plan subsequent lessons, and also the content which can contribute to the overall summative assessment completed in Step 3 and when the unit is completed.
The three colour-coded aspects are: Green: personal resonance with or reflection on the subject content in relation to the enquiry question. Blue: knowledge and understanding of the subject content in relation to the enquiry question Red: evaluation/critical thinking in relation to the enquiry question.
The children also have an opportunity to self-assess and to identify their own next steps using the “TINT” (To improve next time) box in the “My Learning Progress” sheets with Discovery RE.