Philosophy Religion and Ethics (PRE)
Philosophy Religion and Ethics (PRE) is studied by all students in year 7 to 9. Students can choose to take Religious Studies further in year 10 and 11, as one of their GCSE option choices.
Reason for sequencing the curriculum for every year group in the way it is, and the subject specific/pedagogical approach taken:
PRE (Philosophy, Religion and Ethics) is taught to all students in Key Stage 3 for one lesson each fortnight. At Key Stage 4 it is an option subject for GCSE and there is also an element of core PRE in our PSHE lessons for year 10 and 11. It is a subject where we study religious and non-religious beliefs, we look at how beliefs influence people’s actions, how and why people have contrasting views and we study a wide range of ethical and philosophical topics. It is a subject where students are encouraged to think critically and to discuss their own views as well as being able to respond respectfully to ideas that might differ from their own.
The key skills are taught in each year group. These include being able to give convincing reasons, specific examples, and evidence to support a point. Using sources of authority to explain religious beliefs and practices and being able to evaluate arguments and make judgements about whether they are convincing or not.
In year 7 each of the units focus on the concept of believing in one God. We also link the three religions together by using stories to explain the core beliefs. We start with Judaism, which is a foundation for all the Christianity units. This focuses on the belief in one God and the key beliefs and practices of the religion including the stories of Abraham, Moses and the Exodus. We also look at some of the texts of the Old Testament. We then move onto Sikhism where there is again, an emphasis on one God and a focus on equality. This is taught through the stories of the first and last Gurus and we introduce some quotes from Sikh texts. In the third term we make connections between the Judaism unit and the teachings of Christianity, the second Abrahamic religion. These beliefs are taught through a creative project that introduces the students to how Jesus is presented in artwork throughout the world and how Christians believe in one God, yet the Holy Trinity.
Throughout year 8 we focus on the skill of explaining how a belief influences a believer. We start with Buddhism and use Aung San Suu Kyi as a modern Buddhist to evaluate how she might have been influenced by her beliefs on being unselfish. We also critically evaluate whether Aung San Suu Kyi should still be considered a positive role model in light of recent events in Myanmar. In the second term we move from looking at one religion to studying contrasting religious beliefs about how the world began and how religious people view the environment. Students see a variety of media clips about the problems in the environment and campaigns that have tried to raise awareness. We then focus on how beliefs in the creation stories might influence believers to care about the environment by reading the text of the creation story. We also introduce other creation myths as a comparison to the Biblical tradition. In term 3 we return to Christianity with the life of Jesus and more key concepts such as salvation, which leads to discussion about how belief in salvation influences believers to Evangelise. There is also the opportunity to think critically about how other religions might view the concept of Evangelism and evaluate whether miracles do happen, which includes looking at some Humanist views. In year 8 we also focus on the idea of dilemmas, where believers have difficult choices to make.
In year 9 the schemes of work are philosophical, ethical and religious. We start with a unit on science and religion, looking at whether they are in conflict or can co-exist. The key focus here is to ask questions and to explain contrasting ideas about the origins of the Universe, building on knowledge gained in the Year 8 Environment topic. We then move on to an ethical unit on life and death and the possible conflict arising from contrasting religious and secular views on abortion or capital punishment. We show media clips to present different perspectives and we hold class discussions to encourage students to articulate their own ideas and to critically respond to views they disagree with. We always include thinking time as well as paired discussion. In term 3 we introduce the life and teachings of Muhammad and look briefly at the conflict that has arisen from the Sunni and Shi’a split. Students can evaluate who they think should have succeeded Muhammad by looking at evidence for each side of the debate.
Students are assessed formally each term with a combination of short factual recall questions together with longer evaluative questions. Regular knowledge recall questions are also included at the start of each lesson together with regular keyword tests to enable students to develop confidence in using the key terminology when they speak and when they write.
In Key Stage 4 we follow the AQA Religious GCSE specification which studies Christianity and Islam in one paper, and four ethical themes in the second paper. A greater amount of time is devoted to the study of Christianity to acknowledge the fact that Christianity is still seen as the main religious tradition of Great Britain. Islam is studied as the second religion because it addresses many preconceptions students often have about Islam and how it is presented in the media. It is also a good religion to contrast with Christianity as many of the beliefs are similar and yet there are also important differences.
In the ethical themes paper we learn 4 out of the 6 topics on the paper. We study Religion and Life because that links well to the work studied in science on evolution and it is a topical unit for example examining the debate about animal experimentation and the ethics of abortion and assisted suicide. We study a philosophical unit on the existence of God as that allows some freedom for discussion and debate over issues such as whether miracles happen. We teach the crime unit because it allows for discussion and debate on issues surrounding the treatment of criminals and contrasting views on types of punishment such as the death penalty. There is also a unit of work on Peace and Conflict which links well to the history curriculum and the work studied on Christianity and Islam looking at reasons for war, attitudes to pacifism and whether there can be a Just or Holy War.
There is also a core PRE programme that is followed in the PSHE curriculum at Key Stage 4. This covers some ethical topics such as different religious attitudes to sex and relationships, abortion, fertility treatment, crime, and addiction. This programme focuses on contrasting religious views both within and between religions and gives some time for students to discuss attitudes and understand where the beliefs originate from. More detail about this can be found in the PSHE Curriculum Map.
How we build on prior learning:
In year 7 we find out what religions the students have already studied but in addition to this, each time a new topic is introduced, we find out what prior knowledge the students already have. To do this we have an activity where students create a mind-map of their knowledge of the new topic. We then share their ideas and they add more detail to their mind maps from the collective knowledge of the class. This is then used this as a starting point and, where the class do have a good basic knowledge, teaching is adapted accordingly.
In each year there is an element of Christianity as that is the religion they need to understand in the most detail and they can then apply their knowledge of the Christian beliefs to ethical issues. Judaism is the foundation of the Abrahamic religions and so it is important to cover that in year 7 so that students understand the background to the Christian beliefs more clearly. It also links well to the Islam topic in year 9 where, for example, knowledge of Abraham is useful when explaining the importance of the Hajj.
All the Key Stage 3 topics are a good foundation for the GCSE. Some of the same beliefs and issues are introduced in Key Stage 3 but then developed in more depth at GCSE. In Key Stage 4 students are expected to understand the sources of belief and quote from texts; they think more critically and develop a deeper understanding of the beliefs. For example, we introduce Capital Punishment in year 9 where we look at arguments for and against, but at GCSE students can draw on their knowledge of Christianity and Islam and offer contrasting religious views on the debate and use texts to support their arguments. They will also be more confident about analysing the arguments to state whether they find them convincing or not. Also, introducing Abraham in year 7 means that students will be clearer about the importance of the Islamic Hajj at GCSE if they know the stories about Abraham in the Bible and if they understand the concept of Prophets; they will then at GCSE be able to appreciate the idea that Muhammad was chosen as the final prophet.
Secular and Humanist views are built on and developed. These are first introduced in year 8 when looking at whether miracles happen. They are also included when looking at philosophical and ethical arguments in year 9, and then in year 11 the Existence of God unit specifically requires secular responses to the existence of God, miracles and the problem of evil.
The key skills in PRE are introduced in year 7. These include giving reasons, examples, evidence, explaining influences and contrasting beliefs, using quotes and texts and making judgements on whether an argument is convincing or not. This means that by Key Stage 4 students understand the feedback of, for example, ‘you need more reasons for your opinion’, or ‘you need to state whether that argument is persuasive’ as they have been working on these skills throughout their 5 years.
The core PRE element in Key Stage 4 builds on the Sanctity of Life unit that year 9 studied, where they learnt about various ethical theories. In year 10 and 11 they can use this knowledge to develop their discussions on religious attitudes to topics like when life begins, attitudes to sex outside of marriage and homosexuality. They also discuss religious attitudes to the treatment of prisoners and contrasting views about alcohol and addiction. These topics are then developed in more detail as part of the GCSE for those who take it as an option.
How we prepare students for the future:
PRE encourages critical thinking, so students are developing their ability to think for themselves about different beliefs and ideas. They will also develop a respect and understanding that people come from different backgrounds and believe different things. They will learn to disagree respectfully and so be more prepared in the future to live and work with people that come from different cultures or backgrounds to themselves and who might have very different views on a range of issues.
Students will also have had time to consider issues that they might face in the future or see on the news. These issues might include suffering, divorce, homophobia, and assisted suicide, for example. PRE helps develop a greater awareness of what is happening in the wider world for example the issues of climate change and animal experimentation. Students will also understand the religious beliefs in some depth and so will be able to look beyond how the media presents issues and have a more comprehensive understanding of religious beliefs and practices.
PRE is a subject that can prepare students to enter a wide variety of professions. Developing empathy and an understanding of beliefs and cultures might prepares them for any of the caring professions or for work in the travel industry. It would also help students understand work colleagues who come from a different culture or religion in the future. Critical thinking skills might be relevant for a career in law. The religious beliefs prepare students who might want a career within the Church or as a hospital or prison chaplain. An understanding of many social aspects of the course might lead them to consider teaching, politics, social work, prison work or the police or fire service or a wide range of environmental jobs.
Additional provision to support learning:
There is a challenge box available with additional reading for students who want to develop their understanding beyond the curriculum. There are also writing frames and sentence starters provided to those who need support with their writing as well as one to one support during the lesson where needed.
We have invited local religious speakers to come into Religious Studies lessons at Key Stage 4 to explain their beliefs. Each year we plan a Year 7 trip to a Jewish Synagogue in Norwich. We also plan a year 9 trip to visit a Mosque in Cambridge and in year 10 there is a GCSE visit to Norwich Cathedral to explore some of the core beliefs and practices in Christianity.