The 'new' approach to RE that's stood the test of time

20 years of Barnabas in Schools

The right approach at the right time

For 20 years BRF’s highly talented Barnabas in Schools team has travelled the country, bringing RE to life in primary schools urban and rural, from small church schools to large academy trusts.

Using story and song, role play and rhyme, puppetry and even Playmobil – in energetic activities and quiet reflection – their interactive Barnabas RE Days have unpacked Christian beliefs and themes for countless children in ways that stick.

Two decades ago it was considered innovative; today the Barnabas in Schools approach is accepted as good practice.

The Barnabas in Schools approach

'Our approach is not to tell the children what to think, but to give them plenty of interesting things to think about.'

Chris Hudson, Barnabas in Schools team member for north-east England

'In many ways BRF was ahead of the game, exploring the big questions about life in an open-ended, lively and thoughtful way which allowed children to make discoveries for themselves.'

Former Barnabas in Schools team member Martyn Payne

'It's important for pupils to be able to learn about, learn from and explore faith concepts within their educational development.'
Jane Butcher, BRF’s Barnabas in Schools team leader

Interaction and discovery - the Barnabas RE Day

Barnabas RE Day

'Barnabas RE Days encourage children to think about Christian stories in a new way – and challenge teachers to try new strategies in class to engage their pupils.'

Chris Hudson

Previously, RE providers had tended to ‘just come and do an assembly,’ former team member Martyn Payne explains. While Barnabas in Schools does offer collective worship that the whole school can enjoy, more significantly, they were the first to provide ‘a proper, professional educational day’s experience along the lines of a Shakespeare Day or a Science Day, which were available for other areas of the curriculum...Teachers were often amazed in the early days that we weren’t there just to sit the children down at their desks and talk to them, but that we needed space for movement, and that there was a lot of interaction.’

About Barnabas RE Days

Easing the burden for schools

Katie Bruce running Narnia Barnabas RE Day

'There was a time when RE teaching in the UK focused just on Christianity,' explains Martyn, 'but pressure on the curriculum meant schools needed to cover an ever-greater range of topics, so RE tended to be given less space. At the same time, because the UK had become much more multifaith, RE had to cover so much more.'

Barnabas in Schools appeared at just the right time to ease the burden, leading the way with a formula that worked.

Lucy Moore, BRF's first official Barnabas in Schools employee (who went on to become the founder of Messy Church), has been struck by 'how the workshop ideas and plans have stood the test of time'. Included in the professional help now on offer are INSET sessions that 'raise the profile of the subject in school,' says Chris, 'by giving staff new ideas, new resources – and frequently new courage to make a difference for the subject in their school.'

Many teachers make the Barnabas in Schools website – choc-full of free ideas and resources – their first port of call when planning lessons. And there are regular e-news updates too – for the 20th anniversary year, they’re landing in teachers’ inboxes every other week with instant, topical tips and ideas they can put into action in the weeks ahead.

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‘Without an understanding of Christianity, a generation of children will be left adrift, disconnected from a key source of Western world culture.’
Chris Hudson

Investing in a new generation

'Barnabas in Schools is widely respected across the country as being a reliable source of professional and innovative support for RE,' says Martyn. 'There are many, many children who have been introduced to what Christians believe through a Barnabas RE Day – and who can ever measure what a legacy that will have?'

Thanks to BRF donors, the cost of RE Days is kept competitively low at just £295. Could you donate the cost of an RE day for a school that can’t afford to even pay this much?

Donate to Barnabas in Schools

You might also like to consider leaving a gift in your will so that BRF can continue to help primary schools around the country explore Christianity creatively and confidently.

Thank you! Your financial support and prayers are so greatly appreciated.

Jane Butcher, Barnabas in Schools team leader