Curriculum and Religious Education

Religious Education

In Church of England schools, where pupils and staff come from all faiths and none, religious education (RE) is a highly valued academic subject that enables understanding of how religion and beliefs affect our lives.  At the heart of RE in church schools is the teaching of Christianity, rooted in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  There is a clear expectation that as inclusive communities, church schools encourage learning about and learning from other religions and foster respect for other religions and world views.  Religious education is not religious instruction, but rather it is a core subject that allows pupils to develop religious and theological literacy through investigation of religious and non-religious beliefs, practices and values. 

Although there is not a National Curriculum for RE all maintained schools have a statutory duty to teach it. This is equally applicable to academies and free schools as it is to maintained schools as it is embedded in their trust deed. In foundation and voluntary controlled schools with a religious character, RE must be taught according to the Locally Agreed Syllabus unless parents request RE in accordance with the trust deed of the school; and, in voluntary aided schools RE must be taught in accordance with the trust deed.  Voluntary aided and academies often use this local syllabus, but they have more curriculum freedom to develop their own syllabus. Some may use a syllabus developed by their diocese or group of regional dioceses, which will still be based on the commitment above to teaching about a range of faiths.

The SIAMS Evaluation Schedule assesses the way religious education contributes to a church school's Christian character. It highlights the responsibility of church school leaders to support and resource religious education, and those teaching it.  In voluntary aided schools, a judgement on standards in teaching and learning in religious education is included in the SIAMS report.

The Church of England Education Office sets out its expectations for RE in Church schools in our Statement of Entitlement.  This statement outlines the aims of RE in Church schools as well as the standards expected to be met by Church schools and judged against in the SIAMS inspection.

Understanding Christianity

Understanding Christianity is a substantial resource to support the teaching of Christianity in religious education in all schools.  The resource was developed in response to Ofsted RE subject reports and to the Church of England's own Making a Difference? report into the quality of RE teaching and learning in schools.  The key purpose of this project is to help all teachers support pupils in developing their own thinking and their understanding of Christianity, as a contribution to their understanding of the world and their own experience within it. We aim to see pupils leave school with a coherent understanding of Christian belief and practice. Pupils from 4-14 explore the significant theological concepts within Christianity as part of developing their wider religious, theological and cultural literacy. We seek to support teachers in developing their own knowledge and understanding of Christianity theology to be able to teach with confidence. It is a resource not a whole curriculum and we would expect schools to have a balanced RE curriculum that includes teaching about other faiths and world views, as well as considering the role of religion in society and some philosophical approaches.

Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE)

Although currently a non-statutory subject, the government advises that PSHE is an important part of pupils' education and that PSHE education should build upon the national curriculum as well as statutory guidance on drug education, financial education, sex and relationship education (SRE) and the importance of physical activity and diet for a healthy lifestyle.    

PSHE in Church schools should reflect the Christian character and ethos of the school.      

Sex and Relationships Education (SRE)

SRE is an important part of PSHE.  The Church of England believes that it is important to value and to protect all God's children and this informs our approach to Sex and Relationship education. We believe that all children are entitled to good quality Sex and Relationship education that treats all with dignity and respect.  It is a statutory duty for maintained schools to provide Sex and relationships education.  Governors and leaders of maintained schools must provide a Sex and Relationships Education policy and it is a statutory duty to do this with regard to government guidance. Academies do not have to provide SRE but must also have regard to government guidance when they do.  Schools must also follow the sex education component of the science curriculum.  The Church of England Education Office does not have an SRE policy.  Church of England Schools must create their own policy based on local guidance and context.  

Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development (SMSC)

All schools in England must show how they develop SMSC in their pupils, and in Church of England Schools opportunities for SMSC development can and should be reflective of the Christian char, Church schools are inspected on how well the school promotes and provides for progressively deeper experiences of spiritual, moral, social and cultural development for all learners.

A breadth of experiences through the curriculum and extra-curricular activities should be offered to allow pupils to:

  • explore and reflect upon beliefs, values, and experiences of themselves and others;
  • demonstrate and investigate right and wrong and the consequences of behaviour and actions;
  • develop sound social skills which will allow them to make a positive contribution in community life;
  • appreciate, understand, and celebrate culture and diversity.

The Christian ethos of Church of England schools should inform these opportunities and this can be powerfully enabled through the Religious Education and Collective Worship offered.  












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