The Importance of the Child in Your RE

The return of children to school this September must surely be one of the most talked-about issues for all of us this year. Even families who do not have people specifically affected by the return to school will be aware of the importance of schools opening again and the impact this will have on their local community.

At such a time, it is really important to begin our RE planning with the children themselves and their experiences of lockdown and afterward at the heart of our planning. It is also important to recognise their feelings as they return to school with excitement, relief or anxiety, or perhaps a mix of all three. For those of us who work in R.E., it is natural that we will be thinking about how much study children have missed and many of us will have been reflecting on this over the summer break. However, this year in particular it is more important than ever that we pause and remember why we are so passionate about R.E. and why it is so valuable in helping our children to begin this new school year acknowledging their experiences and feelings on their return to school and using such experiences to help consider their own beliefs and opinions in RE.

The NATRE website has some useful reminders for us all about the purpose of RE in the section “About RE”:

Religious Education contributes dynamically to children and young people’s education in schools by provoking challenging questions about meaning and purpose in life, beliefs about God, ultimate reality, issues of right and wrong and what it means to be human. In RE they learn about and from religions and worldviews in local, national and global contexts, to discover, explore and consider different answers to these questions. They learn to weigh up the value of wisdom from different sources, to develop and express their insights in response, and to agree or disagree respectfully.

There has never been a more pertinent time for us all to hold these principles in mind, whatever Locally Agreed Syllabus we follow,  as we plan for children’s enquiries in this new school year and use these principles to consider how we can plan for meaningful RE.

Let’s consider how we might use these aims in the term ahead in RE:

  • Provoking challenging questions about meaning and purpose in life – allow children the time and space in RE to share how lockdown and coming out of lockdown has been for them as individuals, their families, and communities here and around the world (many for example might have families that are or were separated around the world). What was meaningful and what was challenging? Did it make them question the way life was before lockdown? Why? Has it provoked questions for them about their own community and the world? How did they adapt? Has it made a difference in their own family going forward? How?
  • Beliefs about God – has it made any of the children in the class think differently about their beliefs? Has it changed the way they view the environment, society, and the concept of God? How? Has the experience made them reflect more or less on these issues? Why?
  • Issues of right and wrong – did the experience make the children think about issues of right and wrong more or less? What examples do they have of their own local communities doing things well and for the benefit of others? Did they get to know their neighbours better? Did they do anything differently for others? Were there any things that they saw as wrong? Why? What should we change and what should we keep going forward?
  • What does it mean to be human? What things did they and their family miss doing? Do they still miss doing these things? What things don’t they miss from the way life was? Why? What needs do we all have as humans?
  • What religious and non-religious responses to the situation can we share with children? Did anyone’s families watch religious services on-line? Which ones? Why do you think they did that? Did anyone’s families join groups on-line that were non-religious but gave them feelings of belonging, such as neighborhood groups, craft groups, sports groups and interest groups? Why? Did any such groups do special things for others? Why did they do this do you think?
  • Where did they gain their own advice and wisdom from? What advice did they find most useful during lockdown? Who gave them the advice? Did they share such advice with others? What advice or wisdom will they take with them going forward?

By taking the time to reflect on the purpose of R.E. by asking these questions will help you and the children reflect on your experiences during the past six months and think about what this means in R.E. it will allow you to consider the big questions that R.E. is so wonderful for generating right from the start of your first lesson with the children.

Enjoy your time enquiring together, there has never been a more important time for R.E. together!

Justine Ball, NATRE ambassador for the South East, Hampshire Adviser/Inspector for Primary RE, Joint Chair of AREIAC with Julia Diamond Conway @justineballRE

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