Teaching children to respect others

In a divided nation, how can we promote community cohesion?


It’s an issue that’s close to the heart of Barnabas in Schools – BRF’s professional religious education service. Each year the Barnabas team brings Christianity to life in hundreds of primary schools all over England, enthusing and inspiring children and teaching staff alike through creative Barnabas RE Days covering a wide range of themes supported by inexpensive or free resource material on barnabasinschools.org.uk and through empowering INSET sessions.

Where community cohesion is particularly fragile, four Barnabas topics are especially relevant: Who is My Neighbour? and three that come together under the heading Creating Character - Friendship, Forgiveness and Peace, Compassion, Service and Community and Respect, Resilience and Responsibility.

‘It made me realise that I need to work on my forgiveness and loving others.’
Year 3 pupil feedback

Supporting community cohesion – a real life example

Creating Character RE Day themes

One of the Barnabas in Schools team recently spent time with an urban church school that serves an ethnically and culturally diverse area in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which has experienced a high number of recorded hate crimes. Locally, the Christian ethos of St Paul’s CE Primary School in Elswick  is noted for generating a strong sense of shared community, especially amongst those of different faiths. To support these, they requested sessions on Respect, Resilience and Responsibility and Compassion, Service and Community. Both Bible-based themes provide opportunities for active roleplay, storytelling and discussion to stimulate questioning and reflection.

During the visit we collected evidence of how these Barnabas RE Day sessions helped children…

  • learn about respect, from Jonah
  • learn to stick together, from Paul
  • extend their moral vocabulary
  • develop resilience
  • discover that people need each other
‘Do not judge others because God makes everyone the same’
Year 5 pupil feedback

Exploring community relations through Bible stories

During the morning, some Year 3 pupils (aged 7-8) had fun enjoying a creative, interactive session on the story of Jonah, that brought out issues of respect and forgiveness.

‘It’s good to respect everyone even though they have a different religion,’

 ‘To respect each other, even if they don’t like you.’

Year 3 pupil feedback

‘The story of Jonah was good for showing the children that we judge others and condemn them too easily, and the importance of forgiveness, not revenge.’

Teacher feedback

Next, the story of St Paul’s shipwrecked journey to Rome presented a community in peril on a raging sea and brought out the need to stick together in a time of crisis:

‘In my community we have to learn how to band together.’

Year 3 pupil feedback

‘It made me feel better about God.’

Year 3 pupil feedback

Staff were pleased to notice children using the words ‘respect’ and ‘responsibility’ during the discussions, demonstrating that the sessions were effective in extending children’s moral vocabulary and increasing their understanding through real-life examples.

‘You should respect and help everyone because they’re a person just like you. Everyone makes mistakes. I believe that you should give people second chances.’
Year 5 pupil feedback

Later, some Year 5 pupils (aged 9-10) experienced the same workshop, throwing themselves into the role play with gusto.

They were struck by how the apostle Paul began his voyage as a prisoner, but he ended it as the decisive leader of a panicking crew through taking responsibility and being respectful.

‘If someone gives you a lot of chances, you shouldn’t take advantage of it and just do anything you like, and expect forgiveness.’

Year 5 pupil feedback

‘I’ve learned to be responsible even when it is hard. Try to respect people even if it is hard, try to do your best. This workshop changed my mind. I should try to be responsible in the things that I do, and respect everyone even if it is hard with the people I don’t get on with.’

Year 5 pupil feedback

‘The children’s responses to the discussion time showed that they were applying the story to the big ideas of showing Respect, Responsibility and Resilience.'
Teacher feedback

The afternoon workshops on Compassion, Service and Community included the stories of the paralysed man (whose friends overcame obstacles, letting him through a hole in the roof to place him at Jesus’ feet), the dilemmas in caring for the elderly community faced by the early church, and the apostle Paul’s idea of the church working together as a ‘body’.

‘I’ve learnt that we can all be a community and help each other... with help, we can achieve things… we cannot do everything by ourselves. I’ve changed my mind about helping others... I found out that with some help, people are much happier, and things work out better.’

‘I learnt that some people need time, and it’s good to be patient. If you see someone sad or angry around you, talk to them or perhaps make them feel better’

At a time when community relationships are under stress, we don’t know what kind of language and ideas children are being exposed to outside of school. As the comments from St Paul’s shows, children fortunate enough to experience one of these Barnabas RE Days will leave school that day understanding the difference it makes when we treat others with respect, compassion and responsibility, serve others in the community and be resilient and forgiving when things go wrong.

Read more about how we're helping primary schools develop resilience in pupils.

‘The quality of the sessions was excellent, and our children were clearly inspired to think more deeply about these important issues.’

Find out more about Barnabas in Schools 

Explore Barnabas RE Days topics

Could you help?

Last year, we delivered 143 creative arts-based Barnabas RE Days helping 29,000 primary school pupils explore Christianity creatively and confidently. With public sector schools under increasingly severe financial pressure and having to cut ‘extras’ from the budget, could you donate to help us keep this service affordable?

Donate to Barnabas in Schools