The role of Religious Education in schools is to help prepare and equip all pupils for life and citizenship in today’s diverse and plural Britain, through fostering in each pupil an increasing level of religious literacy. What does it mean to be ‘religiously literate’? A religiously literate person would have an established and growing knowledge and understanding of beliefs, practices, spiritual insights and secular world views. In the context of their own considered standpoint they would also be open to engaging with the views of others in a plural world.
Circulated to schools in time for the start of the new school year in September 2016, Staffordshire’s new Agreed Syllabus received its official launch in January 2017. Teachers are enthusiastically implementing it and acclaiming its up-to-date educational content and its teacher-friendly character. Two other West Midlands SACREs are now looking to adopt the Syllabus for their own schools.
While containing some elements of continuity with the previous Agreed Syllabus, the new Syllabus has some important innovatory and radical features. Its undergirding rationale is that of fostering in each pupil an increasing level of religious literacy. Three complementary aims spell this out in terms of Exploring (to acquire insightful knowledge), Engaging (with ultimate questions), and Reflecting (on the reality of religious diversity and the issues this raises). The third of these aims goes beyond “learning about” and “learning from” religion, drawing pupils out of their comfort zones and supporting them as they develop skills and dispositions appropriate to living well in a religiously plural and open society.
The Syllabus offers a framework for assessing progress in RE by means of a table of age-related statements of expectation for each aim. This table is an entirely original and independent piece of work. Other new features include a steer that Islam should feature in the RE curriculum in all Key Stages, in addition to Christianity. The Agreed Syllabus Conference’s aspiration is that the new Syllabus will engender meaningful insights and constructive attitudes as pupils grow in religious literacy and in their understanding and awareness of the world they live in and of their future in it.