Intention

At Hexham Middle School we believe that pupils should have the opportunity to explore and express their own potential spirituality and search for answers to philosophical questions. Our curriculum has been planned so that pupils are able to build confidence and resilience when they learn about world faiths and other belief systems. Teaching and learning in religious studies seeks to help pupils sustain discussions and debates. We will actively support pupils to develop their communication and language skills.

Religious studies is a statutory subject that fundamentally engages with the meaning and purpose of life, with the concepts of self, the very nature of reality and belief systems around God(s). A core principle explored in religious studies is that of right and wrong and ultimately what it means to be human.

It is very important to stress that religious studies does not exist to urge individuals to follow particular religious or world view beliefs. The curriculum is also not intent on compromising a pupil’s existing beliefs or viewpoints. The essence of our curriculum is to establish a sense of self; sense of community; and sense of the world beyond the school. An excellent analogy to explain our approach is underpinned by a curriculum of ‘mirrors and windows’ – pupils reflect on their own pre-conceived ideas and allow themselves to appreciate the perspectives of others, or simply put, looking back at yourself and looking outwards.

As a subject, we intend our pupils to embrace values of truth, justice, respect for all and care for the environment. As a school, we have considered Northumberland County Councils agreed syllabus for religious education and reinforce the viewpoint that religious traditions in Great Britain are in the main Christian. Our curriculum however helps to build knowledge and understanding of principal religions including Judaism, Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism as well as the consideration of secularism including Humanism.

Key aims of religious studies at Hexham Middle School include:

  • knowing about and understand a range of religions and worldviews;
  • expressing ideas and insights about the nature, significance and impact of religions and worldviews;
  • acquiring and deploying the skills needed to engage seriously with religions and worldviews

Implementation

The curriculum in year 5 and 6 focuses on the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism and Christianity. Home-based learning in Key Stage 2 introduces pupils to aspects of Islam in contrast to their class-based learning. This will provide some background context when they explore Islam in more detail during year 7. The study of Christianity will have a particular focus in years 5 and 6. We will ensure that pupils will be exposed to teaching and learning that is non-denominational in nature i.e. there will be no bias towards Anglicanism or Catholicism.

The selection of world religions studied at both Key Stage 2 and 3 are in alignment with Northumberland’s SACRE guidance.

At the start of each academic year in Key Stage 3, pupils undertake studies of a thematic nature, unlike the second and final terms which focus on domain-specific religions. By adopting this approach, we feel it provides our pupils with a balance of secure subject knowledge and the opportunity to explore, consider and discover the meaning of key concepts. It also ensures avenues to discuss alternative viewpoints including Buddhism, the Bahai Faith and Rastafarianism.

We have chosen to study Islam in year 7, which is regarded as optional by Northumberland SACRE, due to them studying related subject matter in year 8 in English (Terrorism, 9/11 and extremist views).

As pupils progress in their studies into year 8, were expect them to synthesise knowledge gained employing this with increased rigour.

We actively promote trips and guest speakers to engage our pupils’ interest and curiosity about religion and world views. This can include visits to places of worship, assemblies lead by religious leaders, Christian-based services linked to Christmas and Easter, and workshops including those delivered by Humanists UK.

Impact

When measuring the impact of our religious studies curriculum, we will consider the following assessment objectives (AO) which teachers will use to inform their planning and teaching, structure feedback and support attainment judgements:

Key Stage 2

  • AO1: Describe and make connections between different features of the religions and worldviews they study, discovering more about celebrations, worship, pilgrimages and the rituals which mark important points in life, in order to reflect on their significance.
  • AO2: Describe and understand links between stories and other aspects of the communities they are investigating, responding thoughtfully to a range of sources of wisdom and to beliefs and teachings that arise from them in different communities.
  • AO3: Explore and describe a range of beliefs, symbols and actions so that they can understand different ways of life and ways of expressing meaning.
  • AO4: Observe and understand different examples of religions and worldviews so that they can explain, with reasons, their meaning and significance to individuals and communities.
  • AO5: Understand the challenges of commitment to a community of faith or belief, and suggest why belonging to a community may be valuable, both in the diverse communities being studied and in their own lives.
  • AO6: Observe and consider different dimensions of religion, so that they can explore and show understanding of similarities and differences within and between different religions and worldviews.
  • AO7: Discuss and present thoughtfully their own and others’ views on challenging questions about belonging, meaning, purpose and truth, applying ideas of their own in different forms including music, art, poetry or reasoned argument.
  • AO8: Consider and apply ideas about ways in which diverse communities can live together for the well-being of all, responding thoughtfully to ideas about community, shared values and respect for others.
  • AO9: Discuss and apply their own and others’ ideas about ethical questions, including ideas about what is right and wrong and what is just and fair, and express their own ideas clearly in response.

Key Stage 3

  • AO1: Explain and interpret how religions and worldviews influence individuals and communities through their beliefs and practices, in order to evaluate the reasons why some people support and others question these influences.
  • AO2: Explain and interpret a range of beliefs, teachings and sources of wisdom and authority, including experience itself, in order to understand religions and worldviews as coherent systems or ways of seeing the world.
  • AO3: Explain how and why individuals and communities express the meanings of their beliefs and values in many different forms and ways of living, enquiring into the variety, differences and relationships that exist within and between them.
  • AO4: Explain and evaluate from different perspectives (e.g. that of an atheist, a sociologist, a theologian) dimensions of religions and worldviews which they encounter such as sources of authority, beliefs, practices and key values.
  • AO5: Observe and interpret a wide range of ways in which commitment and identity are expressed. They analyse and evaluate controversies about commitment to religions and worldviews, accounting for the impact of diversity within and between communities.
  • AO6: Consider and evaluate the question: What is religion? They analyse the nature of religion using the main disciplines by which religion is studied.
  • AO7: Explore some of the ultimate questions raised by human existence, making well-informed and reasoned personal responses, and expressing insights that draw on a wide range of examples including the arts, the media and philosophy.
  • AO8: Examine and evaluate issues about community relations and respect for all in the light of perspectives from different religions and worldviews.
  • AO9: Explore and express insights into significant moral and ethical questions posed by being human in ways that are well informed and which invite personal response. They use reasoning which may draw on a range of examples from real life, fiction or other forms of media.

How will we assess pupils in religious studies?

Data will be reported identifying if pupils are at Foundation level (FO), Working Towards (WT), at Expected Standard (EX) or working at Greater Depth (GD). Teacher assessment using assessment objectives will play a significant part in reaching judgements on a pupil’s attainment and progress.

Pupils in Key Stage 2 will receive feedback from their teachers from a range of formative assessment methods. This will include instant verbal feedback in the classroom following targeted questioning, or written comments (in the form our school’s TLF approach), in their exercise book. Mini quizzes will also play a part in checking a pupil’s retention of knowledge.

Those pupils in Key Stage 3 will complete an interim (Spring Half Term) and terminal (Summer Term 2) assessment each year, which will seek to check knowledge gained and its application. These assessments will influence attainment and progress judgements. It will also assess if pupils can use procedural techniques to express their own viewpoints and opinions, in the form of short answer questions. To prepare pupils for study at high school, they need to be able to use the PETPEJC format: make a point; provide evidence; explain the teaching; raise an opposing point; outline further evidence; explore justifications and then state a conclusion. Pupils’ communication and language will also be assessed during classroom debates and research project presentations. Clear criteria linked closely with oracy frameworks will be used to assess a pupil’s performance.

Sequence of Learning

Year 5 Religious Studies

 CurriculumHome-based Learning
Half Term 2Judaism – worship and community (7/8 lessons)How do Muslims celebrate and worship throughout the year?
Half Term 4The Origin of the Bible (6 lessons)Where does the Qu’ran come from?
Half Term 6Belief in our Community (7 lessons)Religious Charity Case Study (Research Project)

Year 6 Religious Studies

 CurriculumHome-based Learning
Half Term 2What is a Church? (7/8 lessons)Explore at least two other key world faith religious buildings including Mosques.
Half Term 4The Easter Story (6 lessons)The 14 Stations of the Cross
Half Term 6Stories in the Bible (7 lessons)Explore the meaning and significance of an Islamic religious story.

Year 7 Religious Studies

 CurriculumHome-based Learning
Half Term 1What is Authority and Spirituality?Good and Bad/Right and Wrong
Half Term 2Religion in the WorldPreparation for Christmas Debates (theme: Rights and Responsibilities)
Half Term 3IslamReading/Comprehension
Half Term 4IslamPETPEJC Practice
Half Term 5HinduismReading/Comprehension
Half Term 6HinduismPETPEJC Practice

Year 8 Religious Studies

 CurriculumHome-based Learning
Half Term 1Science and ReligionReligion and the Environment
Half Term 2Beliefs about God(s) and the meaning of life! The big questions…Preparation for Christmas Debates (theme: The world would be better if it was secular!)
Half Term 3ChristianityReading/Comprehension
Half Term 4ChristianityPETPEJC Practice
Half Term 5SikhismReading/Comprehension
Half Term 6SikhismResearch Project – Social and Moral Issues

Home-based Learning

Home-based learning seeks to provide pupils with additional opportunities to explore, consider and discover more about the world of faith and belief systems.

Key Stage 2 – Pupils will undertake contrasting studies to the learning that takes place in their lessons. Frameworks will be provided to support pupils to acquire and apply knowledge and understanding.

Key Stage 3 – Pupils will start each academic year with studying a thematic concept for their home-based learning which then leads into preparation time for the ‘Christmas Debates’  Each year group will have their own focus.  For the final two terms, home-based learning centres on the promotion of independent reading and related comprehension as well as the application of knowledge using the PETPEJC writing framework: Point, Evidence, Teaching, Point, Evidence, Justification, and Conclusion.

Disciplinary Literacy

Keywords or Buzzwords will be shared with pupils at the start of new units of study. Pupils’ knowledge and understanding of these buzzwords will be checked throughout their learning. They will be expected to apply knowledge of this disciplinary literacy.

KS3 Christmas Debates

Years 7 and 8 will get the opportunity to develop their debating skills with some planned Christmas debates in the classroom. Preparatory literature sources are provided and pupils will be expected to plan for these class debates. Feedback is an integral part of this activity using oracy criteria.

Year 8 Social and Morals Research Project

At the end of year 8, our pupils will undertake a research project focusing on a particular theme as outlined below:

  • Attitudes to sex
  • Sexuality
  • Same-sex marriage
  • Divorce
  • The role of men and women
  • Euthanasia
  • Abortion
  • Animal rights
  • Environment
  • Death penalty
  • Retribution vs rehabilitation
  • Corporal punishment
  • Forgiveness
  • Just war
  • Terrorism
  • Pacifism

There is an opportunity for pupils to work collaboratively to put together a short presentation.  The intention of this activity is to develop self-confidence and oracy.