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“Hardly anyone can ever find God because God is right at the end of your mind after all the background thoughts are gone.”
Maisie Satchwell-Hust
 

Coventry and Warwickshire Sacres*

Signposting: Supporting teachers with subject knowledge in Religious Education 

 * SACRE: Standing Advistory Council for Religious Education

[Covid-19 update: We do not yet know exactly when this project will recommence.]

This project was launched by Warwickshire SACRE back in Autumn 2019 in response to a growing number of local Religious Education (RE) lead-teachers asking for support with their RE Subject Knowledge. We know they received, on average, 3 hours of RE whilst engaged in Initial Teacher Training. We have devised a programme that makes use of local places of worship and SACRE members in 'expert' roles to provide a tour, talk, and Q&A's based on their faith tradition. Sessions are filmed to provide digital Continuous Professional Development for teachers back in school, increasing the reach and impact of the project further.

What Are We Doing?

 
Warwickshire SACRE (working in partnership with Coventry SACRE) ran 2 CPD sessions during 2019-20 purely focused on developing the RE subject knowledge of local RE teachers and subject leaders. Those faith traditions were Sikhism (Autumn Term 2019), Islam (Spring Term 2020) and, unfortunately, the session planned on Judaism for June 2020 was postponed due to the Coronavirus Pandemic and is yet to be rescheduled. Coventry SACRE have since been fortunate enough to secure a Westhill grant to continue the programme and when government guidelines suggest teachers from different schools can meet together indoors, the programme will recommence with the postponed Judaism session and then move on to Hinduism, Christianity and Buddhism.

The planned sessions look like this:
 
• Each session is held in a place of worship for the focus faith
 
• Tour of place of worship with key features and links to practices pointed out, led by SACRE member for the focus faith
 
• Talk by relevant SACRE member to give a basic overview of the focus faith
 
• Q&A session for anything not covered in the tour and talk
 
• Filming by a professional filmographer so that the tour and talk can be used in schools for staff meetings and CPD. The quality of the two completed films is excellent and we hope to use the same filmographer for the duration of the project.
 
• A 'Road Map' suggesting teaching approaches and appropriate resources to be used back in school for teaching that faith tradition/worldview
 
• Certificates of Attendance for RE Subject Leadership file as evidence RE subject leaders have been intentional about developing their subject knowledge
 

Why Are We Doing It?
 
This is what the latest Ofsted Inspection Handbook has to say about subject knowledge:
 
- Teachers have expert knowledge of the subjects that they teach. If they do not, they are supported to address gaps in their knowledge so that pupils are not disadvantaged by ineffective teaching.
 
- Discussions with subject specialists and leaders about the content and pedagogical content knowledge of teachers, and what is done to support them
 

Implementation
 
From ‘Good’ Descriptor for Quality of education:
 
- Teachers have good knowledge of the subject(s) and courses they teach. Leaders provide effective support for those teaching outside their main areas of expertise.
 
- Teachers present subject matter clearly, promoting appropriate discussion about the subject matter being taught. They check pupils’ understanding systematically, identify misconceptions accurately and provide clear, direct feedback. In so doing, they respond and adapt their teaching as necessary without unnecessarily elaborate or individualised approaches.
 

The CORE Report also highlighted subject knowledge of teachers as an area for development for the subject nationally. As part of Recommendation 2 it was stated that:
 
Pupils are therefore entitled to be taught by teachers who:
 
- Have secure subject knowledge
 
- Are capable of addressing misconceptions and misunderstandings and handling controversial issues
 
- Demonstrate a critical understanding of developments in the study of religion and worldviews 
 
- Promote the value of scholarship
 

 
 

The films to date: 

These two films are completed parts of the project which were created before the Covid-19 restrictions and are now available and in use by teachers.

 


 
 
 
We are aware from our conversations with local ITE providers that trainees receive approximately 3 hours of tuition on RE. Many are asked to lead the subject 2-3 years later and do so based on this small amount of subject knowledge, having not accessed any further RE-specific CPD as part of school CPD programmes. 
 
When we asked RE Subject Leaders, via our SACRE twilight CPD session evaluation forms, which aspects of RE Subject Knowledge we can best help them with, we have received frequent responses like:
 
ANYTHING -  ALL OF IT 


It was a combination of all these things which led us towards devising a programme for teachers we hope will enhance their RE subject knowledge.
 

What Do We Hope To Achieve?

We hope that the subject knowledge sessions themselves will allow those that attend to develop their subject knowledge and address any gaps in understanding they may have. These sessions will also support contact with SACRE, allowing for more pupils visits to places of worship to take place and more faith visitors to visit schools to support ‘encounter’ as part of a good quality RE curriculum.

The digital elements of the programme, in the form of the film clips of the tour and talk, will allow schools to use these materials to run CPD sessions in school based on different fait traditions, which will further increase the impact of the project. The ‘Road Map’ document is intended to guide teachers in selecting teaching approaches and resources to ensure the faith tradition is taught with expertise and these documents are endorsed by the relevant faith representatives of SACRE.

It is hoped that we will see increased confidence and subject knowledge in our RE teachers and 
subject leaders and that these will be reflected in our subsequent evaluation forms, as well as an increase in visits to places of worship and faith visitors in schools. 

We would also like to see Ofsted inspections commenting on the quality of RE leadership in our schools and the good subject knowledge of teachers teaching RE to pupils locally. 
 


For more information: 
sacre@warwickshire.gov.uk