No Time for Global Learning!

Two years ago, I was fortunate to be able to complete a Farmington’s Scholarship with this very title. It came from leading a Global Learning Expert Centre at my primary school where I was providing CPD for a network of 24 schools. Attendees loved the idea of Global Learning in principal but struggled to find a way to include it in their curriculum. My Farmington’s developed resources which created opportunities for Global Learning within RE provision. This blog is my thoughts for how you can assist with developing children to be more active and globally aware in RE.

Firstly, look at the Global Learning Skills. Oxfam list these as;

  • Critical and creative thinking
  • Empathy
  • Self-awareness and reflection
  • Communication
  • Co-operation and conflict resolution
  • Ability to manage complexity and uncertainty
  • Informed and reflective action

I then use these skills when designing schemes of work, aiming to include activities which develop these skills and explaining to the children which Global Learning Skill we are developing today. Taking one of these areas to give you some examples on “managing complexity and uncertainty” the sort of opportunities for learning I would facilitate may include;

  • P4C on Heaven and Hell or role of prayer, exploring own views, views of peers and compare with faith beliefs


  • Consider how throughout history people have maintained their faith through times of uncertainty, e.g. genocide, Holocaust, migration, if your life changed suddenly what would you want to keep


  • Respond to RE related news events including controversial issues, giving children space to reflect, find out what happened and compare views, answering questions honestly showing age appropriate awareness


  • Discuss Extremism, Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, what may have led people to have extreme views and what can we do about it if we encounter prejudice today

At the start of a session, when explaining the intent, I would explain which skill we are including today. Ask the children why it is an important Global Learning Skill and how I am going to be awarding team points for those who demonstrate empathy / communication / co-operation etc. There can then be time to feedback on how they have used those skills at the end of the lesson.


Some tips for thinking globally in RE

  • Develop sustained links with your faith visitors booking them on a regular basis so children can link aspects of faith with a believer they have met. Using questions link “How do you think …. would answer your query?” makes it more relevant and develops respect and empathy. Remember to promote diversity, “Some Christians may believe……but other Christians may say …….” Build in age appropriate technical terms.


  • Developing questioning techniques with progressive expectations, give children clues but ask them to develop the question and enquiry, make them the detectives, learn about different sorts of questions and how to design them. With younger children ask them to “I wonder……?” when looking at a religious photograph.


  • Look at the wider world not just RE in your own locality. Look at places of worship around the world, photographs of worshippers in a variety of communities, how is the same festival celebrated in different or similar ways.


  • Whole school approaches which promote Global Learning themes like One World Weeks to raise profile of Global Learning, don’t just teach about different countries, include recent issues and key themes.


  • Use Philosophy for Children as a regular method for enquiry-based learning, you are developing children as critical thinkers, listeners who value and learn from each other developing respect and an acknowledgement that you can change your opinions. Use a belief line as a warmup strategy and revisit at the end to see how opinions may have changed.


  • Use pictorial charts to remind children about Global Learning, refer to the Global Development Goals use a Global Dimension or Religious Calendar as a wall chart in the classroom for children to keep an eye on key religious events around the world. Purchase RE resources from around the world and look at the packages they arrive in with the class. Map where the artefact came from and its journey to the UK.


  • Push your international partnerships to more than just being pen pals with a display of smiling faces on the wall. Meet face to face, host pupil visits, ask meaningful questions and share RE projects with each other. If you don’t have an international school link, try Connecting Classrooms through the British Council.


  • Allow time for children to discuss topical events they may have seen on the news the evening before but don’t always respond to the issue straight away. It’s perfectly ok to say that you will come back to this in a day when you have found our more information. There may also be resources online by then from Newsround etc. Be controversial, take risks.

Other great resources to have a look at include UNICEF’s Rights Respecting Schools and Christian Aid’s Global Neighbours, Global Dimension, Think Global, Connecting Classrooms.

For me, Global Citizenship is all about engaging with the world and the belief that each of us can make a difference. RE lessons seem a great platform for this but a whole school approach is needed so get the rest of the staff on board as well. Share your passion about the world in which you live, if you want to make a difference, however great or small, your pupils will too.

Naomi Anstice National Ambassador for Religious Education Networks. @naomianstice

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