Helping to grow confidence in teaching Christianity
Sue Holmes is an Independent Religious Education Consultant and Ex-Diocesan Education Adviser/CE Inspector. She has co-written the Humber region-agreed syllabus and schemes of work, and advises on RE, Collective Worship and spiritual development. We spoke to her about RE in schools today.
What is the importance of RE in schools?
Christianity is the main religion taught within any local RE syllabus. Teachers need a good grounding in Christianity, but many have no faith background and cannot see the breadth of it. I train them to look for the cross-curricular links, especially through children's spiritual, moral, social and cultural development (SMSC).
With recent changes to education making Key Content more prominent, it is important teachers link to other subjects, whilst taking care not to dilute explicitly religious aspects.
How do you encourage teachers?
We encourage teachers to share ideas, as they are the ones who put them into practice. My advice is always to be creative with the school's allocated curriculum time for RE. Good RE teaching is often about confidence, and teachers need a mixture of practicals skills and religious knowledge to make RE lessons fun and exciting in the classroom.
'Children should have the space to ask questions, listen to answers and enjoy exploring faith'
What does BRF offer to schools?
I regularly recommended Barnabas in Schools books, because they are full of ideas that can be used extensively in the classroom, and they are affordable for teachers who might not be allocated a vast RE budget. One of the books that I get the most feedback from is the RE in the Classroom with 4–5s. Many schools don’t understand what Early Years RE should look like, but this book allows practitioners to be enthused because it is full of easy-to-use ides and you can almost pick it up at a moment’s notice.
I have used What Price Peace? extensively with schools since the 1914 centenary to help children learn the lesson of war, and it will no doubt come out again in 2018 to consider the lessons of peace.
What would be your advice to children?
I would encourage children to know that religion isn’t black and white, and to approach it with an open mind. Children need to explore religious beliefs and concepts for themselves. They find them fascinating! Children should have space to ask questions, listen and learn from the answers, and enjoy exploring what it means to have faith.