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National Curriculum

Planning and assessment religious education


Planning across the key stage

School-based planning in RE should be approached using, in the case of community and voluntary-controlled schools, the local agreed syllabus, and in the case of voluntary-aided schools with a religious character, the approved policy of the governors. Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education (SACREs) and agreed syllabus conferences may wish to provide planning in the form of units of work that are consistent with the non-statutory national framework and the QCA schemes of work.

When planning, teachers may find it helpful to consider the following questions.

  • How will you use the key concepts as the basis of planning, to shape knowledge and understanding?

  • How will you achieve a balance of 'learning about religion' and 'learning from religion', ensuring they support and complement each other?

  • How will you use the key processes to shape classroom approaches and as the basis of short-term planning?

  • How can you incorporate questions into units of work or lessons, ensuring they are based around enquiry into concepts and issues rather than focused on delivering content?

  • How can you provide a rich mixture of learning activities to widen students’ horizons, challenge their views of the world and stretch their conceptualisation of meaning?

  • How can you provide differentiated activities that challenge students at all levels?

  • What approach can you use to systematically gather evidence of students’ achievement to support assessment for learning?

Planning in RE needs to take into account the integrity of the religion or belief system studied including, as appropriate, its local, national and global presence. Planning needs to show sensitivity towards different beliefs. Tasks need to be relevant to the key concepts identified, and assessment needs to address the relevant key processes and range and content.

Continuity across the key stages

To make good progress students need continuity and opportunities for development across the key stages. To achieve this, curriculum planning at key stage 4 needs to:

  • build on and extend students' achievements and experiences at key stage 3

  • provide students with a clear sense of how teaching and learning is helping them develop their knowledge, skills and understanding, and what they are aiming to achieve by the end of the key stage

  • prepare students for the demands of further study in the subject or for the world of work.

Key stage 3

Most agreed syllabuses at key stage 3 provide students with opportunities to learn about and from Christianity and at least two other principal religions in local, national and global contexts. Some agreed syllabuses offer the additional possibility of studying a religious community with a significant local presence as well as a secular world view where appropriate. This means that students can recognise, describe and begin to raise questions about religious diversity and the impact of belief on a wide range of personal and communal contexts. They can apply their understanding of religions and beliefs to a range of ultimate questions and ethical issues.

By the end of key stage 3, students should have studied all six principal religions to a depth sufficient to acquire understanding of the religion in relation to several key concepts. Depending on the syllabus they follow, they may also have had experience of studying other religious beliefs and non-religious viewpoints. In demonstrating their understanding of reasons for differences and similarities in beliefs and values, they can refer to personal and religious ideas and to key vocabulary. Their reflection on the influence of religion and belief includes a consideration of questions of sources and interpretation, and an awareness of concepts such as authority and truth. Their evaluative responses are developing balance, insight and thoughtfulness.

Key stage 4 

At the start of key stage 4, students may broaden their range of content by studying new beliefs, practices or issues. They may also study familiar content in greater depth, for example by exploring concepts that are more demanding because they require an awareness of complexity and ambiguity. Students use their knowledge and understanding of principal religions and other beliefs to develop their skills of enquiry. They raise issues and develop and evaluate arguments and personal perspectives. They build on their understanding of beliefs by expressing questions and answers, analysing differences and similarities and beginning to be aware of the methods of study they are using.

New opportunities

The revised programmes of study offer many opportunities to refresh and renew RE through agreed syllabuses and other arrangements. There are opportunities to ensure that RE fulfils its potential to challenge and inspire all learners with questions, concepts and processes matched to their capacity. The new opportunities are:

A concept-led curriculum

The programme of study is organised around six key concepts. Using key concepts as the basic structure enables planners and teachers to build RE programmes that challenge and inspire the learner. Many successful agreed syllabuses and programmes are structured around concepts such as identity or diversity, among several others. Often these concepts will be presented as questions such as ‘what does it mean to belong?’ or ‘why are there different religions or beliefs?’ Concepts and questions are powerful drivers. They engage learners with issues that are relevant, demanding and important. Choosing appropriate content to go with concepts remains a vital task for planners and teachers, enabling them to respond to their local contexts. By leading with concepts and choosing content accordingly, teachers will enhance the interest and appeal of RE. By embedding a concept-led approach, teachers will give learners many opportunities to learn about and learn from religion, moving between the two key processes with increasing confidence and engagement.

Addressing the role of religion in the modern world

By including key concepts such as practices and ways of life, and values and commitments, these programmes of study enable teachers to pose questions about the role of religion in the modern world. Since many young people assume that religion is a major source of intolerance and conflict, RE can present numerous opportunities to examine the role of faith and belief in specific conflicts, in the development and functioning of political structures, in attitudes to the environment and in scientific and cultural progress. There is an opportunity to provide learning experiences that help young people to recognise that most religions and beliefs are ambiguous in their impact on the world, and to move beyond simplistic positions.

Working creatively with other subjects

Presenting the RE programmes of study in the same format as the other national curriculum subjects makes it easier to identify opportunities for appropriate cross-subject collaboration. For example, learners could explore identity at personal, local, national and global levels in citizenship and personal wellbeing as well as in RE. Collaboration should be based on shared concepts or substantial content, rather than superficial and identical aspects of content.

RE in the 14–19 curriculum

By having a programme of study for key stage 4 and for 16–19, RE is well placed to respond to initiatives in vocational education for 14- to 19-year-olds, and to see their progression in RE as a continuum across key stage 4 and beyond. Learners from 14 to 19 can engage with concepts in RE through a variety of settings, including extended school, workplaces and community settings.

Planning for inclusion

Planning an inclusive key stage 4 means thinking about shaping the curriculum to match the needs and interests of the full range of learners.

These include:

  • the gifted and talented

  • those with special educational needs and disabilities

  • pupils who have English as a second language

  • the different needs of boys and girls.

Pupils will also bring to school a range of cultural perspectives and experiences, which can be reflected in the curriculum and used to further pupils' understanding of the importance of the issues of diversity.

An inclusive curriculum is one where:

  • different groups of pupils are all able to see the relevance of the curriculum to their own experiences and aspirations

  • all pupils, regardless of ability, have sufficient opportunities to succeed in their learning at the highest standard.

You may find that a useful starting point to planning for inclusion could be to consider your own school's Disability Action Plan, Race Equality Plan and other equality policies alongside a comprehensive overview of the data available on pupils from various groups. This can then be used to draw up a useful framework for curriculum review. You will also be able to identify appropriate points to involve learners themselves in some of these developments.

Teachers may find the following additional information helpful when implementing the statutory inclusion statement: Providing effective learning opportunities for all pupils. Teachers need to consider the full requirements of the inclusion statement when planning for individuals or groups of pupils.

Support for assessment

Assessment is an essential part of normal teaching and learning in all subjects. It can take many forms and be used for a range of purposes. To be effective assessment must be ‘fit for purpose’; being clear what you want the assessment to achieve will determine the nature of the assessment and what the outcome will be.

When planning assessment opportunities consider the following.

Purpose – What is the assessment for and how will it be used?

Does it form part of ongoing assessment for learning to provide individual feedback or targets so that the student knows what to do next? Is it to provide an overall judgement about how the student is progressing against national curriculum levels? Related to this is the need to consider how the purpose of assessment affects the frequency of assessment. For example, there needs to be sufficient time between level-related judgements to allow a student to show progress, whereas to be effective the assessment of ongoing work should be embedded in day-to-day teaching and learning.

Evidence – What are the best ways to gather the evidence needed to support the purpose of the assessment?

Assessment shouldn’t be limited to written outcomes and any meaningful judgement of progress or attainment should be based on a range of evidence. This could include assessing the learning as it’s happening through observation, discussion or focused questioning; involving students in the process through peer or self-assessment or sampling a range of work over a period of time. If there are areas where you don’t have sufficient evidence you could either adjust your planning or use a more focused short task or test to fill the gap. The gathering of evidence also needs to be manageable. With care, the same evidence may be used for a variety of purposes.

Outcome – What form will the assessment outcome take and how will it be used?

Depending on the purpose of the assessment the outcome could be a level judgement of progress over time or a specific and measurable improvement target for the student. Effective use of the assessment outcome results in actions such as providing an instant response or by planning for the longer term. The best means of communicating assessment outcomes should also be considered. For example, it might be through written feedback or discussion. The outcome may also provide you with valuable information for your future planning, by identifying areas that need to be revisited by a class or individuals to secure understanding or by revealing gaps in curriculum coverage where there is no evidence of achievement in a particular area to assess.

Further guidance on gathering evidence, integrating assessment, periodic assessment and the role of tasks and tests can be found in the assessment section of the website.

Further guidance on day-to-day assessment and peer and self-assessment can be found under the assessment section of the website.

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