New to leading RE

If you have been ‘lumbered with being the subject leader for RE’, you may now feel (even more) daunted about going back in September. The journey ahead isn’t going to be always easy, but you will have lots of joy along the way and will hopefully not feel lumbered.

Firstly, let me start by welcoming you to the best community of teachers and advisers. There are a host of passionate people and organisations cheering you on and available for support (I’ll share some key ones at the end of this blog).

Here are some things to get you things you started with leading:

Aim high: Vision and purpose

It is important to know what you are aiming for and this will be underpinned by the purpose of RE. There are many answers to the questions around purpose, so don’t be put off by the numerous names for RE! Having purpose and vision will ensure senior leaders understand its value, and this in turn can feed into the whole school vision too. RE can enhance the whole curriculum, but this should not mean that the quality of it is watered down by allowing it to be taught through other subjects like PSHE or through assemblies. Be firm about the importance of the subject and its necessity as a stand-alone subject of a balanced curriculum.

You may find it useful to read the recent Commission on RE report (CORE) Some of its main findings relate to purpose, including the need quality teaching with a rigorous and rich analysis of both religious and non-religious worldviews and their impact on communities and individuals.

Rich and rigorous: The curriculum

It’s good for you as the lead to understand about developments within the subject as well as things which will affect it. The National Entitlement proposal is in line with Ofsted’s expectations that RE teachers will be able to talk about the subject’s purpose and quality of the curriculum.

The Agreed Syllabus

All maintained schools have a statutory duty to teach RE, including academies and free schools. Without a national curriculum, the RE curriculum is determined by the local Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE) and they are responsible for creating a Locally Agreed Syllabus which should reflect the local faiths and will be predominantly Christian. If you are in a faith school, you can prioritise one religion, but you should still recognise the diverse faiths and non-religious worldviews too. Your Agreed Syllabus will detail the amount of time given to RE (despite how many senior leaderships will try to merge it with PSHE or do drop-down days) so make sure your pupils are getting what they are entitled to.

In a C of E school, you will have a Diocesan syllabus to follow.

With the current Ofsted framework, it will be useful for you to think about your curriculum plans with the 3 Is in mind.

Intent– what’s the purpose of learning in the topics and why are they learning it?

Implementation– how does the planning and teaching meet the curriculum aims? How do you assess this?

Impact– how can you see that learning has taken place? A rich, systematic, and coherent curriculum will have a positive impact on the children in your care.

Not alone: Engaging with support

The best thing about leading RE is the wealth of support out there.

NATRE (National Association for Teachers of RE) is a great place to start. There are a range of packages to choose from in terms of membership with books and magazines delivered termly, and there are a whole load of downloadable resources to find there. There are some great ideas about assessment there too (I haven’t gone there in this blog as assessment is so varied from school to school. You need to find the way that works best for you, in line with the school’s system.)

NATRE also believes in the importance of networking and almost 300 local groups are meeting across the country. Check out this page to find a local group or connect with your regional ambassador.

Culham St Gabriel’s provide lots of excellent support in terms of developing your leadership and subject knowledge skills. You’ll also find super resources, blogs, and interactive support on their RE Online site.

RE Quality Mark There is a fabulous audit for your department on their site so you can think carefully about what you offer and how learning is effective in your school. I recommend going for the award once you’re settled into leading your department.

Ready for anything: A checklist

There will be plenty of time to gather all the things together in your subject leader file. I’ve been leading RE for 19 years now and still haven’t got everything complete! Don’t feel that you have to have everything ready for September, but there’s a great list here which you may find useful: https://www.reonline.org.uk/leading-re/a-practical-checklist/

There’s so much I could cover, but for now, I want to wish you all the best with your RE leadership journey. I am sure you’ll find many passionate people in the RE community who are cheering you on and want to support you.

Sarah Payne subject leader for RE and PSHCE at Woodland Middle School and the South Central Regional Ambassador. @SPayneRE

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