As RE teachers battle to make sure their subject is not marginalised, Elizabeth Holmes highlights a variety of events and resources to promote their professional development

Religious education in our schools is facing challenges. Its current omission from the English baccalaureate and the perception that the RE subject knowledge of teachers, particularly in the primary sector, is less excellent than it might be, are generating deep worries.

John Keast, an officer of the RE Council and former national RE advisor to the (then) Department for Children, Schools and Families, points to the fragmentary nature of CPD for RE as a key difficulty. ‘There is a different syllabus in each local authority and, in addition, schools with a religious character follow their own plans for RE, so training is essentially haphazard,’ he says. ‘This raises big concerns about the consistency and coherence of RE.’

Addressing concerns

At a time when CPD might address these issues, budget constraints add another tier of concern. NATRE is the professional subject teacher association for RE. Rosemary Rivett, its executive officer with responsibilities for education work including CPD, has deep concerns about funding. ‘RE can be marginalised as a subject in some schools, and therefore does not always get the same opportunities to take advantage of CPD, which has to be paid for,’ she told CPD Update.

When it comes to what works best in RE CPD, she finds that teachers value face-to-face opportunities. ‘Where this takes place locally, for example in local network groups of teachers typically meeting once a term in a twilight session, and with colleagues who are likely to be teaching the same syllabus, this can be a very effective context for CPD opportunities,’ she explains. NATRE has 160 such local network groups of teachers linked to it (see below for contact details).

Celebrating RE: ideas for your school

The RE Celebration Month of March 2011 saw a creative showcase of RE at its very best, but celebrating RE needn’t just be for a month – it can be a year round activity!

  • Want to expand your knowledge of how schools with a character different from your own approach RE? Take a look at Julia Ipgrave’s booklet Building e-bridges for ways of setting up and developing e-links with other schools.
  • Teacher exchanges can be really effective ways of reinvigorating your work as an RE teacher. See if you can set up an exchange through a local group (see www.natre.org.uk) and if you want to go further afield – to Europe, perhaps – check out the European Forum for Teachers of RE.
  • The Face to Faith programme offered by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation offers teacher training through local coordinators covering a range of subjects including enquiry-learning, collaborative learning and debating, dealing with sensitive subjects and issues, social action projects and video-conferencing.
  • Sayings and quotes are a great way of raising the profile of RE around your school and enriching the work that goes on in your classroom. The RE Council of England and Wales has produced a useful guide to inspire you.
  • There are many other ideas for RE CPD from Celebrating RE.

The Religious Education CPD Handbook

This online resource at www.re-handbook.org.uk contains nine sections with short summaries on essential issues for teachers wishing to improve their subject and professional knowledge. The sections cover issues such as the history of religious education; research; and approaches to teaching, learning and assessment in RE. The section on leading and managing  RE  includes information on raising the profile of RE in school; planning schemes of work; self-evaluation for RE subject leaders; and leading RE in primary and secondary schools.

Find out more…

What’s on?

  • NATRE and RE Today provide a variety of CPD opportunities throughout the year. Here are just a few of the opportunities coming up in the next few months.
  • ‘Challenging RE’ is a two-day residential conference for 100 primary and secondary teachers taking place in York on 7-8 May.
  • ‘Assessing Pupil Progress (secondary)’ takes place in London on 9 June.
  • ‘Challenging and Creative Curriculum’ is a one-day conference in Leicester on 26 May.
  • Gloucestershire SACRE Conference in Cirencester, takes place on 21 June.
  • Westhill Seminars is a series of weekend seminars bringing together classroom teachers, RE trainers, researchers
    and academics:

    • The Representation of Religion, Birmingham, 7-9 October.
    • Spirituality and RE, Leeds, 25-27 November.
    • Primary Curriculum and RE, Bristol, 16-18 March 2012.
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