After just over a year of thinking about applying for our REQM we finally took the plunge in January. More than anything the process of applying for the quality mark has been the most worthwhile aspect. If you are unfamiliar with what the REQM is, or how to apply then click here.
It is good to have professionals external to your department and even the school come in and share their thoughts and observations. We were part of the National Society’s audit in 2014 and this helped us to further develop and refine our KS3 curriculum. We approached the REQM with a similar attitude, trusting that our good work would be recognised but that we’d also gain an insight for further development along the way.
The REQM requires applicants to complete their evidence grids. This is divided into bronze, silver and gold. Filling this in helped us to see where there were aspects of RE that we could develop. For example we will be looking to increase our engagement with parents in terms of their feedback on their children’s experience of RE. We could identify a lot of opportunities for creative responses in class by our students but there is scope to increase the use of music and drama. It was quite encouraging to be able to identify all that we do offer and provide, not just in our department but within the school and more widely in the RE community. To move into silver and then onto gold it is important to demonstrate this wider impact of RE, both across the whole school but also on a more national scale.
I was quite daunted about the assessors visit and got various guidance via twitter. However the REQM administration team are really helpful. In advance of our assessor visit the admin team were able to put us in touch with a project manager. For us this was the marvellous Mary Wyatt. Being able to talk through the evidence I had prepared and to have some ideas of how the assessors visit was likely to go was invaluable. As I was reminded more than once, this was not an inspection!
In advance of the assessors visit I prepared one small file that contained;
- a summary of our headline info
- an analysis of our student questionnaires
- Correspondance with staff in my school, national bodies and organisations that we’d provided some form of INSET for
- screen shots of professional blogs, twitter CPD and shared RE pad lets/youtube
- A table of visiting speakers for the year
- letters from parents & past students
- work samples (non-book work) e.g. artwork, discussion trees drawn on tables during lessons
Aside from this we had to have a range of books for the assessor to look at.
On the day of the assessors visit ten students were selected and interviewed by the assessor for about thirty minutes, without me being present. Following this I spent about two hours looking through our evidence and explaining our work to the assessor. This was a good professional dialogue and a great chance for me to unpack some of what we’d offered in our written evidence. Finally the assessor met with out deputy and my line manager for about twenty minutes.
At the end of this the assessor spent about fifteen more minutes feeding back to me before giving us his decision on our QM, which was a gold award.
We are delighted to receive this award but the process has helped to direct our focus for the coming term. We will be specifically be seeking to;
- develop a trip in KS3 with the support of SLT
- create a questionnaire to use with parents to get their feedback
- enhance our creative work by incorporating music/drama in year 9 work
Our experience of the REQM has been very positive. A year or so ago it got us considering areas to really embed before our application and now it has given us some areas to continue to work upon. It has kept the presence of RE at the forefront of school life and recognised the quality of the teaching and learning that we deliver. I’d recommend it to all schools as part of the ongoing development of any RE department.