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Blackfen School for Girls

Blackfen School for Girls

Raising aspirations - releasing potential

Religious Studies (RS)

Welcome to Religious Studies, part of the Humanities Faculty at Blackfen School for Girls.  All students participate in RS through Key Stage 3.  At Key Stage 4 students may choose to study RS at GGCE, with a further option to study Philosophy, Ethics and Religion (Christianity) as an A Level subject at Key Stage 5.

Despite the secularisation of society, RS remains more important than ever in preparing students for adult life, employment and lifelong learning.  It enables them to develop respect for and sensitivity to others, promoting good judgment and encouraging students to approach all areas of life with an open mind and without prejudice.  Fundamentally, RS is learning about what people believe in and why, developing an understanding of how faith and belief are relevant to people’s lives.  Studying RS is not about indoctrination of any religion nor about making students religious, instead the subject affords students the space to think about and question, for themselves, religious beliefs and ethical issues.  Students are introduced to the historical aspects of religion, focussing on the religious and cultural heritage of Britain, identifying the role which religion, specifically Christianity, has played in shaping British society and its values, simultaneously learning about themselves as individuals and as part of society.  Finally RS across all Key Stages is integral for giving students opportunities to grow and develop an open and critical mind, striving towards tolerance and understanding of the diverse world around them, being introduced to various belief systems - including those that believe in God, Humanism, Atheism, Science and other smaller religious traditions - so they are able to mature into responsible citizens living in a multi-ethnic and multi-faith society, free from ignorance which causes prejudice, hatred and violence.

What do we study?

Key stage 3: Years 7-9

Before starting in Year 7, students have a Transition Booklet to complete; the RS activities in this booklet form a ‘baseline’ for their learning in Year 7 RS.  This work is used during the first lesson, allowing staff the opportunity to loosely measure students’ prior knowledge, understanding and skills learnt in RS prior to starting Key Stage 3.

Year 7 begins with a Philosophy Unit.  In this unit, students are introduced to some of the big questions of life and are encouraged to start questioning and thinking in new, more advanced ways.  The rest of Year 7 and Year 8 are focussed on developing basic knowledge of the six major world religions.  This provides a sound foundation to the learning journey throughout Key Stage 3 and onto GCSE and A Level.  Students continue developing their knowledge, understanding, analysis, evaluation and expression of these religions, whilst engaging with other belief systems, specifically Humanism, Atheism and Agnosticism, comparing and contrasting views in relation to the themes covered, whilst developing and reflecting on their own opinions, beliefs and values.  The end of Year 7 is marked with a national Spirited Arts competition, where students are able to create a piece of artwork based on their own beliefs and ideas about the world around them.  Year 8 ends with an opportunity to investigate religious themes woven into literature.  Students’ learning in Year 9 takes a more ethics-based approach, focusing on three key themes for the year – the relationship between science and religion; crime, justice and punishment; evil and suffering and the Holocaust – exploring varying attitudes towards these themes.

In KS3 students are formally assessed once every half term through a variety of tasks - Q&A tasks, GCSE style questions, posters, group work and presentations, essay answers, etc. – each style of assessment developing key skills in RS which are transferrable to other subjects, as well as preparing them for GCSE RS and A Level Philosophy, Ethics and Religion (RS).  Students also have a formal exam once a year in Key Stage 3.  Throughout, students are encouraged to take increasing responsibility for their learning, with many elements of the KS3 curriculum designed to be more student-led as students progress, as well as becoming more enquiry based throughout Year 9 and on into GCSE.

Year 7

Term

Unit of Work

Summary

Autumn Term 1

Philosophy

Over the course of this unit, students are encouraged to start thinking in new ways and to question knowledge and understanding of the world around them.  They are given space to explore three key questions – What is Truth?  What is Belief?  Where does knowledge come from? – to consider what knowledge actually is and where it comes from, identifying different sources of knowledge (religious and non-religious), discussing the reliability of different sources and how they may be verified.  From this, students are encouraged to think about their own knowledge and learning and complete an assessment linked into ideas surrounding truth and belief.  This leads into an exploration of the concept of God, including an introduction to the challenging topic of religious language, specifically how we talk about God and religion.  Students begin to study two of the main arguments for the existence of God – the Teleological (Design) argument and the Cosmological argument – considering the strengths and weaknesses of both arguments and questioning the validity of both arguments in proving God’s existence.  Time is also spent considering some of the main arguments against the existence of God.  Students also begin to identify the impact and spread of religions across the world, and how these religions have shaped societies and the global community.

Autumn Term 2

Eastern Religions:

Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism

For each of these religions, students will gain knowledge and understanding about

  • The origins of each religion, and influences from or on other religious traditions
  • The concept of God or higher powers
  • The founder – who they were, importance (then and now) for believers, teachings, etc.
  • Key religious teachings
  • Sources of Authority in the religion – holy book, key figures, place of worship
  • Important celebrations, commemorations and festivals

Students will also have the opportunity to analyse and evaluate what it means to be part of the religion in the world/British society today, identifying the religious beliefs and teachings in practice.

Spring Term 1

Spring Term 2
Summer Term 1
Summer Term 2 Religious Expression in Art In this unit, students will spend some time investigating how and why religious belief is expressed through art and take part in the national Spirited Arts competition (http://www.natre.org.uk/about-natre/projects/spirited-arts/spirited-arts-2020/) creating their own piece of artwork.

Year 8

Term

Unit of Work

Summary

Autumn Term 1

Abrahamic (Western)

Religions

To start this unit, students get an introduction to Abrahamic religions – the origins of them, who was Abraham and why was he so important, and how do the three religions link together.  Following this, students work through the three main Western religions in chronological order - Judaism, Christianity and then Islam.  For each of these religions, students will gain knowledge and understanding about

  • The origins of each religion, and influences from or on other religious traditions
  • The concept of God
  • The founder – who they were, importance (then and now) for believers, teachings, etc.
  • Key religious teachings
  • Sources of Authority in the religion – holy book, key figures, place of worship
  • Important celebrations, commemorations and festivals

Students will also have the opportunity to analyse and evaluate what it means to be part of the religion in the world/British society today, identifying the religious beliefs and teachings in practice

Christianity and Islam are the two religions that are studied in further detail at GCSE, so a good foundational knowledge from Year 8 will be useful for those students wanting to continue with RS at GCSE.

Autumn Term 2

Spring Term 1

Spring Term 2

Summer Term 1

Origins and Sanctity of Life

Students begin this unit by investigating a number of creation myths about the origins of the universe and human life, from different religions and cultures, including Australian Aborigines, Native American and Scientific explanations.  They will consider how these beliefs affect the lives and behaviour of the believers.

Following this, students will consider the value of human life, exploring the principle of the sanctity of life, specifically in relation to war and organ donation.  They will spend some time learning about human rights and teachings about morality; how do we as individuals, groups and societies determine what is right or good.  Finally, students will explore ideas about animal rights – whether they have rights and to what extent and whether humans have the right to use animals to their advantage.

 

Summer Term 2

Religious Themes in Fiction

Focus on Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)

Students will investigate how and why religious themes are incorporated into other areas of life, specifically fiction, and discuss the wider implications of this, for social and cultural learning and understanding.  Following on from this, students will focus on two works of fiction – Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia – to further investigate religious themes in fiction.

Year 9

Term

Unit of Work

Summary

Autumn Term 1

Ethics, Religion and Science

 

 

Beliefs explored: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism and Humanism, alongside non-religious views.

 

Students start the year with an Introduction to Ethics, including Medical Ethics, using A Level content differentiated for challenge and a growth mindset approach, building on content from Year 8, which considered how we decided what is good or right.  This leads into challenging the preconceived notion that science and religion are polar opposites of one another and are in constant conflict.  Students spend time investigating the origins of science and identifying areas of conflict between religion and science, specifically in relation to medical ethics, as well as where these two areas of study may support one another, considering why issues between the two may exist.  Students investigate in detail two contemporary controversial issues – abortion and euthanasia - from both religious and scientific viewpoints, considering reasons for the controversy surrounding the issue of their choice.  They investigate, linking back to the main ethical theories, how individuals, groups and societies determine what is right in relation to abortion and euthanasia.  Both of these topics will be studied again at GCSE, so this unit introduces students to a more GCSE style of learning.  This unit is assessed through an essay-based GCSE style question where students consider whether science and religion are truly incompatible.

Autumn Term 2

Spring Term 1

Justice, Crime and Punishment

 

Evil and Suffering

 

The Holocaust

Students start the year with their Year 9 exam.  This exam is designed to test their knowledge and skills from topics learnt across KS3 and to help students in choosing their GCSE options.

Students recap prior learning about morals and how individuals, groups and societies determine what is right or good.  This is further explored through study of the role of conscience and free will.  They explore concepts of justice and punishment, making links to GCSE content, and identifying various methods and purposes of punishment.

Students have the opportunity to participate in a GCSE taster lesson, investigating capital punishment and whether it has any place in the world today. 

The latter part of the term focuses on evil and suffering, identifying the main causes of suffering and understanding some of the reasons given from both Eastern and Western religions as to why people suffer.  Students will also begin to study one of the most prominent philosophical issues – The Problem of Evil, and consider the nature of God in relation to the existence of evil.  They will contemplate some of the religious responses to evil (specifically Christian and Muslim) and whether they solve the problem of evil, giving a satisfactory explanation for the existence of evil and the existence of God. 

Spring Term 2

Summer Term 1

 

Finally students consider whether all people have the responsibility to help those who suffer

 

Students end Year 9 drawing together prior learning and learning from other Humanities subjects, to develop their knowledge and understanding about the Holocaust, and to consider topics such as responsibility (a theme further explored in A Level History), punishment and justice and the impact and implications of the Holocaust.

 

The Challenge Day at the end of June gives students the unique opportunity to further put their prior learning into context, with their day based on other aspects of the Holocaust, such as The Nuremburg Trials, the role of women, the concept and treatment of ‘undesirables’, the use of about propaganda and about medical experimentation, as well as the role we all have to ensure the atrocities are never forgotten.  Students also have the opportunity to meet and listen to the personal testimony of a Holocaust survivor*.  Alternatively, students have the opportunity to visit the Imperial War Museum or the Jewish Museum to further enhance their understanding of the events of The Holocaust.  Students end Year 9 with a verbal or written debate, one which has existed and will continue to exist for many years to come: ‘Is it possible to believe in an all-loving, all-powerful and all-knowing God, if evil and suffering exist?’

 

*NB: This is subject to a survivor being available to come into school.  Whilst students have been fortunate enough to have listened to survivor testimonies for the past seven academic years, I cannot guarantee this for future years.

Summer Term 2

KS4 Year 10

KS4 – Year 10 and 11

For RS at GCSE students follow the Edexcel GSCE (9-1) Religious Studies 2016: Beliefs in Action (Full Course Specification B) (www.edexcel.com), completing Area 1: Religion & Ethics (based on Christianity) and Area 2: Religion, Peace & Conflict (Based on Islam).  Both areas consist of four sections:

  • Area 1 consists of Section 1: Christian Beliefs, Section 2: Marriage & the Family, Section 3: Living the Christian Life, Section 4: Matters of Life & Death
  • Area 2 consists of Section 1: Muslim Beliefs, Section 2: Crime & Punishment, Section 3: Living the Muslim Life, Section 4: Peace & Conflict

RS at GCSE is a positive qualification for students’ CVs; many Further Education and Sixth Form Colleges and Universities look favourably on students who are interested in the world around them and are capable of considering different points of view, whilst being able to think and communicate effectively – skills learnt and honed throughout the RE GCSE course.  The course also provides students with opportunities to do many things, including:

  • Enhance their own spiritual and moral development
  • Develop understanding and tolerance for society
  • Consider religious, non-religious and personal responses to moral and ethical issues
  • Investigate and respond to fundamental questions, raised by religion and society
  • Explore positive aspects of living in a diverse, multi-faith and multi-cultural society, learning how they can make a difference to the society in which we live
  • Make cross curricular links to other subjects studied at GCSE and develop a solid foundation for many BTEC and A-Level subjects, university degrees and jobs students may work towards for the future

Most importantly, you do not have to be religious to study GCSE RS!  RS is becoming more important as the Government are keen that all students should develop a sense of ‘community cohesion’ (a common vision and shared sense of belonging for all groups in society), whilst students are finding that RS is becoming more applicable to their lives, because it is no longer just about religion – much more time is spent looking at moral, social and ethical issues and what students think about these issues and how they do apply to the world in which they live.

 

Term

Unit of Work

Summary

Autumn Term 1

Section 1: Christian Beliefs

Section 1 - Topics Covered:

  • The Trinity
  • The Creation of the Universe and of Humanity
  • The Incarnation (of Jesus)
  • The Last Days of Jesus’ Life
  • The Nature of Salvation
  • Christian Eschatology (Beliefs about End Times)
  • The Problem of Evil and Suffering
  • Solutions to the Problem of Evil and Suffering

Section 2 – Topics Covered:

  • Marriage
  • Sexual Relationships
  • Families
  • Support for the Family in the Local Parish
  • Family Planning
  • Divorce and Remarriage
  • Equality of Men and Women in the Family
  • Gender Prejudice and Discrimination

Section 3 – Topics Covered:

  • Worship
  • The Role of the Sacraments in Christian Life
  • The Nature and Purpose of Prayer
  • Pilgrimage
  • Christian Religious Celebrations
  • The Future of the Church
  • The Importance of the Local Church
  • The Worldwide Church

Section 4 – Topics Covered:

  • Origins and Value of the Universe
  • Sanctity of Life
  • The Origins and Value of Human Life
  • The Issue of Abortion
  • Death and the Afterlife
  • Non-religious Arguments Against Life After Death
  • Euthanasia
  • The Natural World

 

Autumn Term 2

Continue Section 1

     Section 2: Marriage         and the Family

Spring Term 1

Continue Section 2

    

Spring Term 2

Section 3: Living the Christian Life

Summer Term 1

Section 4: Matters of Life & Death

Summer Term 2

Revision – Area 1

PPE (Pre-Public Exam)

Start Area 2

Students complete a PPE (Pre-Public Exam) for all work completed in Area 1.  In this exam students complete a mock exam paper, sitting in the hall, as a practise for their proper exams at the end of Year 11

Area 2: Religion, Peace & Conflict – based on Islam – students complete some introductory work to Islam

KS4 – Year 11

Term

Unit of Work

Summary

Autumn Term 1

Section 1: Muslim Beliefs

Section 1 – Topics Covered:

  • The Six Beliefs of Islam
  • The Five Roots of Shi’a Islam
  • The Nature of Allah
  • Risalah (Prophets)
  • Muslim Holy Books
  • Malaikah (Angels)
  • Al-Qadr (Fate)
  • Akirah (Life after Death)

Section 2 – Topics Covered:

  • Justice
  • Crime
  • Attitudes to good, evil and suffering
  • Aims of and attitudes to punishment
  • Forgiveness
  • Treatment of criminals
  • Death Penalty

Section 3 – Topics Covered:

  • The Ten Obligatory Acts
  • The Five Pillars – Shahadah, Salah, Sawm, Zakah, Hajj
  • Jihad
  • Celebrations and commemorations

Section 4 – Topics Covered:

  • Attitudes to Peace
  • Role of Muslims in Peace-making
  • Attitudes to conflict
  • Pacifism
  • Just War and Holy War
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction

Issues surrounding conflict

Autumn Term 2

Continue Section 1

 

Section 2: Crime and Punishment

Spring Term 1

Continue Section 2

Section 3: Living the Muslim Life

Spring Term 2

Continue Section 3

Section 4: Peace and Conflict

Summer Term 1

Revision

GCSE Exams