Monday, 7 October 2013

Ofsted and RE: realising the potential

Today the Broughton Youth Voice and Young Ambassadors for RE held a joint meeting to discuss the Ofsted report about RE that was published at the weekend.

We were saddened by the report as it does not reflect the type of RE that we experience at Broughton.  However, we recognise that there are too many schools where RE is not a strong or valued subject and the report makes it clear that this needs to change. We totally agree that RE should make a ‘major contribution’, not just to the education of young people, but to their lives and that for this to happen RE must be ‘intellectually challenging’.

One of the things that concerned us about the newspaper reports was the obvious lack of understanding about RE today. Images of children praying and reading the Bible suggests that many people still have a very traditional and stereotypical view of RE as a way of teaching people to be religious, whereas the reality is that modern-day RE is about giving us the knowledge, skills and a safe place to discuss the big questions about life and to understand the complicated world we live in. Wherever you look in the world you see the effects of religion; sometimes this is good and sometimes it is bad, but you cannot deny that it is an important part of human life. Maybe it is because RE is all around us that it is sometimes not valued. Adults take it for granted without realising that young people want to understand the background to some of the things that are going on and to be helped to make up our minds about the things that really matter in life. RE helps us to understand philosophical and social issues and relate religious beliefs to what is going on in the real world. It teaches us to disagree respectfully and to not make assumptions.

At our school RE is interesting and popular. This is because our teachers make it so. They are trained to teach the subject and are supported by our Head teacher, Mr Morris. If every pupil in every school had the same experience of RE then maybe views would change. Teachers need to know what they are doing so that they can handle discussions and encourage us to think deeply and ask difficult questions.  After speaking to the trainee RE teachers at our school we realise that there needs to be more funding available for training better RE teachers.  It is a subject that needs to be taught well in order to be valued.

Finally, we think it is important to focus on good RE and making sure that people don’t end up thinking that all RE is bad. We would have preferred the report to start with the positives and then say what happens when RE is not supported. Too many people only listen to the headlines or read the first page. We hope enough people recognise that there is still plenty of good RE out there, it just needs more recognition and support. Last week, Y7 pupils asked their parents about RE and how it has changed…

“Looking at how RE is taught now and reflecting on my own experiences at school, I can’t help but think that a lack of knowledge about other people’s religion has contributed to discrimination and hatred in today’s society. I applaud the lessons and skills of today’s RE which promote tolerance and understanding in the mind of the youth, and hopefully they will be able to educate the older members of society.” (from a Y7 parent)

The feedback from parents suggests that no matter what the Ofsted report says, RE today is much better than when our parents were at school. What we need now is for it to start being valued so that it can continue to develop. People need to realise that RE is not just learning about the Bible; we learn so much more than this. Without RE we would not understand the many different ways that people live their lives all over the world and how this is influenced by beliefs. We would also struggle on our own to make sense of our own place and purpose in the world. It is  now time for young people to educate our parents and make sure they understand how and why RE matters to us and think about how we can make a difference. Just like Ofsted, we want RE to be good, we want high quality teachers to teach us and we want to know that we are not the only ones who think that it is important.

Will, Habeeba, Sonya, Saskia, Gitana, Amberine, Jordan and Louis.

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