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National Curriculum

Developing personal, learning and thinking skills in religious education


What are we trying to achieve?

The new secondary curriculum focuses on developing the skills and qualities that learners need to succeed in school and the broader community. The development of personal, learning and thinking skills (PLTS) is essential to meeting the three national curriculum aims of becoming successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens.

The individual subjects, which make up the curriculum, provide the essential range of activities, learning opportunities and contexts essential for the effective development of these skills (PLTS).

The framework comprises of six PLTS:

  • independent enquirers

  • creative thinkers

  • team workers

  • self-managers

  • effective participators

  • reflective learners.

PLTS underpin the whole curriculum and can transform young people’s engagement with learning. They support learners’ understanding of themselves as well as their relationship with others and the world around them. Effective development of PLTS can raise achievement and make a considerable impact on learners’ ability to succeed, both now and in adult life.

How do we develop PLTS?

The religious education programmes of study provide a rich and exciting range of opportunities to develop PLTS as an integral part of subject teaching and learning. Explicit and implicit opportunities are present in the key concepts, key processes, range and content, and curriculum opportunities.

Independent enquirers

Learners can develop as independent enquirers when they are provided with opportunities in religious education to:

  • structure their own investigations, researching answers to different types of questions, issues or problems that they have identified for themselves, for example about the impact and the influence of religion and/or a belief

  • explore issues from a personal perspective by gathering, analysing and evaluating evidence to reach their own, well-reasoned decisions and conclusions about beliefs and values

  • investigate with increasing independence and apply what they have learned to develop their own answers to more complex questions.

Creative thinkers

Learners can develop as creative thinkers when they are provided with opportunities in religious education to:

  • generate their own ideas and explore possibilities of how a belief or ideal could apply to their life and the lives of others
  • connect with their experiences and those of others to inform answers to ultimate questions and ethical issues
  • question their own and others’ assumptions and use reasoned arguments to express insights and beliefs for themselves
  • develop their confidence to challenge assumptions and construct imaginative solutions to issues or problems.

Team workers

Learners can develop as team workers when they are provided with opportunities in religious education to:

  • discuss their own ideas and experiences, inviting everyone’s views on an equal basis and using diplomacy to present opinions and responses

  • recognise their own strengths and those of others to allocate roles and tasks, and take responsibility for their own contribution, for example to organise visits, plan investigations or prepare presentations

  • extend their understanding of different beliefs, practices and ways of life of others, for example by using modern communications systems to work with different schools, people and countries

  • provide and respond to constructive feedback to complete tasks, developing the confidence to resolve issues and achieve their identified goals.


Learners can develop as self-managers when they are provided with opportunities in religious education to:

  • take personal responsibility for organising their time and resources, prioritising actions and managing risks to carry out and complete a task, for example an investigation of a religious community of local significance carried out over several weeks

  • address challenging issues and tasks, for example those that may evoke strong emotional reactions in them or require a sensitive approach

  • consider and recognise what is meant by ‘appropriate behaviour’ in different contexts, for example in workplaces, religious centres and meetings 

  • respond positively to new or changing priorities, for example actively embracing the challenges of investigating new ideas or issues.

Effective participators

Learners can develop as effective participators when they are provided with opportunities in religious education to:

  • engage personally with questions of belief and issues of religion relevant to their own lives, for example issues such as suffering or discrimination

  • encounter and question diverse communities and contribute their own views and experiences, for example in visiting places of religious significance or questioning invited speakers

  • explore for themselves how religious and non-religious approaches can make a difference to issues, for example of conflict, environment and lifestyles

  • consider alternatives and act as an advocate for views and beliefs, including those that may differ from their own.

Reflective learners

Learners can develop as reflective learners when they are provided with opportunities in religious education to:

  • invite and reflect on feedback from others to monitor and improve on their performance

  • reflect on and express their beliefs, attitudes, pre-suppositions and values in the light of their learning about religions and beliefs, including how their own beliefs or attitudes may have changed

  • identify and plan for their own realistic goals, recognising how adapting and refining their ideas as work progresses can make for enhanced outcomes

  • select and use a range of ways to communicate ideas and responses, for example in encountering people from different religious, cultural and philosophical groups or in visiting places of religious significance.

How do we plan for PLTS?

Effective planning for PLTS in religious education needs to ensure that they are embedded into sequences of work, teaching approaches and learning outcomes. When this is done well, it will enrich the experiences of learners and support their progress in religious education while increasing coherence across the curriculum.

The following are some questions we might ask to support the development of PLTS through religious education.

  • Are there planned opportunities for learning and teaching, where the six PLTS can be taught, practised and reinforced in a range of contexts?

  • Are planned experiences sufficiently ‘open’ for learners to draw on personal experiences and set themselves personal challenges?

  • Do activities encourage learners to explore a range of settings, for example collaborative work, individual work, in the classroom, the school and events in the community?

  • Are learners encouraged to communicate in a variety of ways?

  • Are there opportunities to make coherent links to learning in other curriculum areas to effectively connect and enhance learners’ experiences?

  • Are e-technologies used effectively to enable and support such learning?


The teacher plans for the class to investigate why worship is important to many people and what difference it makes to their lives, and to develop team-working and reflective skills through this context.

It is important for the learners to develop the skills to become increasingly independent, to make decisions and take responsibility about the direction and format of their work.

Learners work in groups, taking on various roles and responsibilities that reflect individual strengths and ensuring that each group member contributes effectively. They will work over several lessons to a time-frame and will conclude by making group presentations to the whole school, which will be part of a series of special assemblies on culture and diversity.

They are supported and encouraged to develop appropriate success criteria and design their own individual and group evaluation forms. They complete the forms at the end of the task to help them reflect on their contributions and identify how their enquiry might have been improved.

This activity involves learners in:

  • planning how to research the importance of worship for their chosen religious groups, including which lines of enquiry and methods to use (independent enquirers, team workers)

  • allocating roles in welcoming and thanking their visiting faith representative and deciding on what questions to ask (team workers, creative thinkers)

  • conducting a survey and organising a visit to a place of worship to gather information on people’s views (team working, effective participators)

  • discussing and evaluating the evidence to agree different ways of presenting the information for maximum effect (team workers, creative thinkers)

  • taking responsibility for the delivery of different aspects of the presentation and giving constructive feedback to each other (effective participators, team workers, reflective learners)

  • evaluating their own performance against criteria, including their perseverance in completing the project on time and identifying targets for improvement (self-managers, reflective learners).

Are we achieving our aims?

In planning for progression, it is important to develop a clear picture of how learners demonstrate PLTS in the context of teaching and learning in religious education and how those skills can raise achievement in this subject. For example, learners may demonstrate that they are:

  • making personal choices about their learning and finding ways to improve their work, for example by identifying their own questions and planning their own enquiries

  • transferring understanding, for example of a process from one subject to another

  • increasingly drawing on their own experiences and making connections with key concepts to develop insight, for example considering how their own values and commitments might impact on their life in school and in their community

  • extending their understanding, for example by exploring new ideas, options and points of view, including their own, with more confidence and creativity.

Quick links

How religious education links to

Planning and assessment

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