Rethinking KS3 RE


I’m in the process of reviewing our KS3 RE Curriculum. Apart from it being the end of an academic year and time to reflect there are other reasons for this review. First we were part of the National Society RE audit of provision. We had some really positive feedback as the result of this but also a suggestion that we needed to narrow our curriculum and therefore seek to deliver greater depth. Secondly with the changes to assessment and life beyond levels it is reasonable to review the bigger curriculum picture of provision in RE.

Several things have struck me about RE as I have reflected;

1. The units are not necessarily progressive or linked one to the next.

For example in year 7 students currently do a unit of work on Buddhism, a unit of work on Judaism and some Christianity units. Then in year 8 they will student Sikhism, Islam, Hinduism and Christianity.

It doesn’t actually matter what order or in what year we do these units. The Agreed Syllabus hasn’t been designed in this way either.

2. In year 7 I have students working from top level 3 through to level 6, in year 8 I have students working from low level 4 through to level 6. These students only ever work with others in their year group.

I wonder why this is the case when at primary and junior schools there is often interaction between year groups which can be highly productive?

3. I am obliged to make sure I cover the objectives in the units of work on the agreed syllabus but how I achieve this is flexible, however I have always tended to follow the units provided.

In response to these reflections I have decided to completely restructure the teaching of RE in year 7 and 8. This restructuring is designed to;

– allow for the possibility of students in different year groups and classes to work together at times in what we shall refer to as ‘away teams’.

– deliver RE around a ‘fertile question’ based approach. (See Creating Outstanding Classrooms by Knight and Benson)which directly engages with the world around us.

– slim down the breadth of study but increase the depth of study and increase the student’s subject knowledge. This seems to mirror the direction of thinking within the CofE National Society and moves within GCSE development.

So What Will This Curriculum Look Like?

Key Stage 3 RE

The year 7 & 8 curriculum will work on a two year cycle. So year 7 & 8 beginning in September 2014 will begin on year 1. As the year 7 then move into year 8 in September 2015 they, along with the new intake will move onto year 2. Thus years 7 & 8 will always be studying the same units. The work will be structured to allow progress for all students, dependant upon their ability not their year group. SOLO taxonomy plays a large part in many of our lessons now.

When there are two groups on at any one time teachers can choose to have their classes mix, creating away teams of students. These mixed up teams could be set by shared ability levels, or with mixed abilities depending on the teacher’s intention in creating the mix.

The units will last between 9 and 10 weeks and will examine specific religious knowledge in a depth previously not achieved. On the whole the fertile questions will be explored through the study of Christianity and either Islam and/or Judaism. This work forms the foundation for the more significant philosophical focus during year 9 work, which helps develop the skills and thinking required for our choice of GCSE (OCR Philosophy and Ethics) and A-Level (OCR RS, Philosophy & NT Theology).

comfort zone

I have plenty more thinking and planning to do on this before it is ready to run in September. It is a new approach for us and in that sense a bit of a risk. However as we step out of our comfort zone I hope that it will be a productive time for us as teachers, but most importantly for our learners.


About Learning to Teach Lorraine Abbott

Deputy Headteacher in a Surrey School Author for Hodder Education
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2 Responses to Rethinking KS3 RE

  1. Rachel Haig-Williams says:

    This all sounds really exciting! I agree on the lack of progression in Agreed Syllabus and with the expectation of covering all 6 main religions the approach may become more thematic. Solo has been used successfully in KS4 lessons but keen to bring into KS3. Preparation for harder GCSE and greater emphasise on thinking skills will be increasingly necessary at KS3 and the rich and diverse subjects in RE definitely lend themselves to digging deeper. Will look forward to hearing how you get on! @haigwilliams

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