1.Setting the Context
In promoting Scotland’s Skills Strategy, “Curriculum for Excellence aims to achieve a transformation in education in Scotland by providing a coherent, more flexible and enriched curriculum from 3 -18 firmly focused on the needs of the young person and designed to develop the four capacities” (Building the Curriculum 3, 2008). Saint Peter the Apostle High School recognises that high quality learning and teaching is at the heart of meeting learners’ needs and improving outcomes for young people. Our curriculum is rooted firmly in the principles of curriculum design – breadth, coherence, challenge and enjoyment, depth, relevance, progression, personalisation and choice – and focuses on developing all learners as successful, confident individuals who contribute positively and responsibly to the school and wider community. Our Curriculum for Excellence Strategy builds upon existing good practice designed to ensure that all of our young people “develop a range of skills for learning, life and work that will sustain them in their destinations beyond school and college.” (Curriculum Review – Experiences and Outcomes, May 2009).
All young people in Saint Peter the Apostle High School are entitled to a curriculum that:-
- is coherent from 3 – 18
- offers a broad general education from 3 – 15
- includes a senior phase after S3 which provides opportunities to achieve qualifications as well as continuing to develop the four capacities
- continuously focuses on literacy, numeracy and health and well being with opportunities to develop skills for learning, skills for life and skills for work
- provides personal support for all young people to enable them to gain as much as possible in their learning
- supports all young people moving into positive and sustained destinations beyond school
In Saint Peter the Apostle High School we will secure the above entitlements for all young people by:-
- creating a school community built upon the gospel values of love, tolerance and respect in which every member of the community feels valued, recognises the importance of open, positive relationships and, in the spirit of collegiality, ensures the well being of all members of the community .
- providing opportunities for interdisciplinary learning, planned around clear purposes, with a focus on literacy, numeracy and health and well being. Central to this will be ensuring skills progression across a range of curricular areas and building partnerships beyond the immediate school community in order to enrich the learning experiences of young people. The critical transitions from primary to secondary and from school to further education, employment or training will be of particular importance in developing interdisciplinary opportunities.
- continuing to build upon developments in promoting, recognising and celebrating the wider achievements of all young people in the classroom and beyond, ensuring close liaison with community and other partners.
Religious Education in a Catholic School
The position of Religious Education in denominational schools is set out in statute.1 In Catholic schools, the Catholic Education Commission has responsibility for the faith content of the curriculum on behalf of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland. The Scottish Government is working in partnership with the Catholic Education Commission in the development of guidance for Catholic schools in keeping with the values, purposes and principles of Curriculum for Excellence. In Catholic schools the term ‘Religious Education’ is used in preference to ‘religious and moral education’.
Religious education in Catholic schools takes place within the context of the wider Catholic faith community, in partnership with home and parish. It is an integral part of the Catholic school, which is itself a community of faith. The central purpose of religious education in the Catholic school is to assist learners to make an informed, mature response to God's call to relationship. (This is Our Faith, 2011) It offers opportunities for both evangelisation – proclaiming the Gospel message to all – and catechesis – the deepening of existing faith commitments among believers. Finally, religious education in the Catholic school endeavours to promote the relevance of the Catholic faith to everyday human life and experience. (This is Our Faith, 2011)
2. Curriculum Area Rationale
As many schools and teachers recognise, the curriculum is more than curriculum areas and subjects: it is the totality of experiences which are planned for children and young people through their education – a canvas upon which their learning experiences are formed. Learning through Religious Education in Roman Catholic schools is no exception, contributing to the four aspects of the curriculum from Progress and Proposals: the ethos and life of the school, interdisciplinary studies, curriculum areas and subjects, and opportunities for personal achievement.
Within Roman Catholic schools children and young people will be at different places in the spectrum of faith development. While most young people will be of the Catholic tradition, some will be of other denominations and faiths or have stances for living which may be independent of religious belief. Religious education should support all children and young people in their personal search for truth and meaning in life, and so it is central to their educational development. This is recognised in Church documents which offer guidance on Catholic education:
Students will surely have different levels of faith response. The Christian vision of existence must be presented in such a way that it meets all of these levels, ranging from the most elementary evangelisation all the way to communion in the same faith.
(Lay Catholics in School, Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education 1982, 28).
Learning through Religious Education enables children and young people to consolidate their skills as following:
- the capacity to interpret their experiences and the teachings of the Church
- the skills of critical thinking and analysis in searching for meaning in life
- the skills to express a coherent understanding of faith and life
- awareness of, and respect for, the views and ways of life of others
- the ability to make moral decisions with an informed Conscience
- the capacity to participate effectively in faith celebrations, rituals and prayer.
Also assist pupils to deepen their beliefs, values and practices such through:
- appropriate experiences and celebration of prayer, reflection, meditation and liturgy
- consideration of relevant life situations which present moral challenges
- experience of engaging with the community of faith in home, school and parish
- participation in acts of charity and service for communities, locally and globally.
Teachers will remain faithful to the mission of promoting an understanding of the Catholic faith and they will also teach respect for persons of different religious convictions. Religious education in the Catholic school considers the significance of faith from the perspective of the life of the person and of the faith community.
Pupils are also encouraged to make their own judgments about the meaning and
significance of religious belief. Indeed the approach is not to study religion as a phenomenon from an external perspective, but the emphasis is to encourage pupils to make their own judgments about the meaning and significance of religious belief. (This is Our Faith, 2011)
In addition to developing their understanding of the Catholic faith, children and young people will also learn respect for, and understanding of, other Christian traditions. They will also come to an appreciation of significant aspects of major world religions, recognising and respecting the sincere search for truth which takes place in other faiths. Where appropriate they will learn similarly about stances for living which are independent of religious belief.
Learning experiences in Religious Education will afford continual opportunities for our young people to develop and successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors.
3. Subject Rationale
The process of learning in the Religious Education department should be seen as a journey of faith, a quest for personal growth and response within the community of faith. To ensure that each young person is able to participate fully and actively in this journey, it is essential that they are accompanied by adults who can engage, question and explain in such a way that the young person is enabled to reflect, understand deeply and respond appropriately.
The learning approach, referred to as ‘The Emmaus Approach’, which can be useful at appropriate stages on the journey of faith, is described below:
The teacher establishes a relationship of respect and trust with learners. They recognise the importance of the learner’s understanding of his or her own life experience and affirm the unique capacity of each person to reflect upon events. Activities are constructed which allow the teacher to walk with the children and young people in a supportive and discerning fashion.
Varied, stimulating learning opportunities are presented which catch the imagination, and focus attention on a selected aspect of life. Learners are led to think in such a way that they enter their own, or another person’s, life experience. They are invited to respond by identifying and declaring the thoughts and feelings which they experience.
Through questioning, the learners recognise key issues common to all people, which lie at the root of the life experience under reflection. This demands much skill and awareness on the part of the teacher and can often be best achieved through the use of open-ended questioning.
The teacher explains the meaning of aspects of Sacred Scripture and Tradition which help the learner make sense of the particular element of life experience under consideration.
The way that the teaching is unpacked contains elements which help the learner engage and understand at levels that go beyond cognitive understanding alone. Experiences such as poetry, prayer, meditation, music, drama and faith witness can open not only the mind but also the heart and soul of the learner.
The teacher creates a climate of respect for the beliefs of all learners and affirms the worth of each person being able to reflect, identify and describe their personal understanding of what they believe in the context under study. Within this ethos learners are led on to reflect upon the challenge to respond to God’s call which lies at the heart of the study under consideration. They are asked to describe and explain their response and how this may affect their own life and that of others.
Responding in this way, when connected to the other five elements above, presents learners within the Catholic tradition with the opportunity to deepen their existing faith commitment. Within this ethos, learners of other denominations, faiths and stances for living which may be independent of religious belief are presented with the opportunity to progress their personal search for meaning and truth.
Such dynamic experiences of learning and teaching will be achieved where teachers in their planning seek to:
- build in time for personal reflection and encourage in depth discussion of ideas, experiences and moral challenges
- help learners to recognise the significance of their experience and nurture their capacity to reflect on and evaluate it
- incorporate experiences of prayer, liturgy and reflection and other opportunities for spiritual growth, enabling children and young people to experience the life of faith
- provide opportunities for learners to experience participation in service to others and meet people who show their faith in action
- highlight the relevance of faith and learning in Religious Education to the lives of young people in modern society
- encourage children and young people to probe the basis of different beliefs within an ethos of inclusion and respect
- recognise and build on the considerable scope for linking with learning across the curriculum and the ethos and life of the Catholic school community
- take account of the developmental stage of children and young people and their capacity to engage with complex ideas
- help children and young people to develop critical thinking skills
- maximise opportunities for collaborative and independent learning
- draw upon a variety of creative approaches which promote active learning
- engage learners in the assessment of their own learning
- make imaginative use of resources
The curriculum within Religious Education is structured around the 8 organisers set out in This Is Our Faith with an overarching arrangement around the Church’s liturgical year:
Mystery of God
- In the Image of God
- Revealed Truth of God
- Son of God
- Signs of God
- Word of God
- Hours of God
- Reign of God
4. Interdisciplinary Learning Across Curriculum Areas
Recognising the importance of interdisciplinary learning, the Religious Education department is committed to developing links across learning in the curriculum.
5. Responsibility of All – Literacy/ Numeracy/Health
Health and Wellbeing
The Religious Education department recognises that it has a key responsibility in developing literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing in all of our learners. To this end, our curriculum reflects the inherent relationship between learning in these aspects alongside the subject specific skills associated with social studies. Learning experiences arising from our curriculum will enable our young people to develop reading, writing, talking and listening skills in a range of contexts. For example, pupils will analyse and reflect on texts, collaborate in group projects and produce extended pieces of writing focusing on the experiences and outcomes. In addition to this, where it is clearly thematic to the curriculum, our young people will enjoy some opportunities to develop numeracy skills such as money, spending and the associated ethics of finance in a global context. Further to this, the Religious Education curriculum affords many opportunities for our young people to reflect on the importance of developing a healthy lifestyle and healthy relationships with a holistic outlook which supports the development of the whole person, mind, body and soul.
As reflected in our curriculum plans, the S1 Religious Education curriculum includes the following outcomes and experiences:-
6. Contribution to Whole School Rich Tasks
While recognising the limits of departmental resources, and with a clear priority to develop the learning and teaching resources within the department, the Religious Education department is committed to contributing to the success of whole school rich tasks.
In particular, the Religious Education department will continue to contribute to the planning, development and implementation of a cross-school celebration of Catholic Education Week.
Beyond direct involvement in rich task activities, the department is committed to developing key literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing skills during our focus weeks. For example, during our “Literacy Week” in February, the department will complement rich task activities by affording pupils the opportunity to apply their new learning in contexts beyond the immediate parameters of the rich task. Similarly, during “Health Week” in May, pupils will focus specifically on issues of holistic development, specifically focusing on issues of spiritual health. An outline of how Religious Education will contribute to the numeracy, literacy and health and wellbeing themed weeks is available in Appendix 3. It is the intention of the Religious Education department to explore as many opportunities as possible which will enable our young people to enjoy deep and challenging learning in a range of interdisciplinary contexts.
7. Assessment and Reporting
The Religious Education department is firmly committed to the principles of assessment as outlined in Building the Curriculum 5:-
l Developing the knowledge & understanding, skills, attributes and capabilities of learners
l Recognise progression in learning
l Summarise what learners have achieved
l Use assessment to inform next steps in learning
l Use assessment to inform future improvements in learning & teaching
Assessment for learning will feature strongly in classroom practice and pupils will enjoy opportunities to demonstrate what they have learned in a wide range of ways including through discussion, completing projects and presenting work orally and in a range of written formats.
Teachers will determine progress is secure / level achieved when pupils:-
- l Have experienced BREADTH of learning across the experiences/outcomes in social studies
- l Can respond to level of CHALLENGE set out in experiences/outcomes in social studies
- l Can APPLY what they have learned in new and unfamiliar situations
The Religious Education department will work collaboratively with the Assessment and Reporting Steering Group to ensure that our practices in relation to sharing the standard, moderation and reporting to parents are in line with whole school and authority approaches. One member of the department will participate in the planning and development tasks of this working group.
8. Learning and Teaching
Recognising that high quality learning and teaching is at the heart of school improvement, the Religious Education department fully endorses the whole school learning and teaching policy.
9. Future Improvement Priorities
The Religious Education department is committed to developing curriculum for excellence alongside learning and teaching, self-evaluation and leadership. Our departmental improvement plan for session 2014 – 2015 articulates clear targets for ensuring that we continue to place pupils’ learning at the heart of our improvement agenda.