Religious Education monitoring visit December 2015

Collective Worship and Religious Education Monitoring Visit Report

9th December 2015

Purpose of the Monitoring visit:

  1. to see that safeguarding concerns in Birmingham are met in Collective Worship (CW) and Religious Education (RE) and to ensure these activities comport with ‘British’ values;
  2. to check that CW and RE contributes to the broad and balanced curriculum that serves the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development 1/ of children, and 2/ of society;
  3. to consider the nature and character of the provision of RE and CW to see how they match the aims and ambitions of the school.
  4. To consider and discuss any legal constraints and opportunities for CW and RE in the school with senior management and person(s) responsible for RE and CW.

Information about the school:

King Edward VI Grammar School for Girls has a long history (1883) and a distinguished academic record. It located on its current site in 1911 and comprises of a suite of modern and older buildings. It is a selective school and thus draws pupils from a large catchment area. Pupils with an ethnic minority heritage comprise about 70% of its intake. It is religiously diverse. Numerically, the largest group is Muslim at 35%, Christian at 30%, Sikh at 17%, Hindu at 8%, Buddhist 1%, other religions 1%, those who declared no religion or who refused to disclose their religious allegiance were 6% and 2% respectively. 29% of the pupils have English as an Additional Language; an impressive 36 different languages are represented in the distribution of their mother tongue. 94 out of the 938 pupils attract the pupil premium.

The governing body are supportive and appropriately critical. It is an ethnically diverse body like the pupil population they serve. It has a curriculum committee as well as a pupil welfare committee. Its policies are regularly reviewed and updated.

The curriculum in the school is broad and balanced, and includes Music, Art and PE, Modern Foreign languages (specifically French and German, and after school it facilitates teaching in Punjabi, Chinese and Urdu). Safeguarding is taken seriously and includes a prevent programme against extremism.

Core Foci:

Survey:

The survey was completed expeditiously and its self-evaluation was rightly excellent in all the dimensions of RE and CW. It was noted that parents are informed of the right to withdraw their children from these areas of the curriculum and that these areas were regularly reviewed by the curriculum committee of the governing body.

Key observations:

  1. Ethos:

The school was a warm and welcoming institution, imbued with a purposeful and hardworking  atmosphere. Its vision and values statement in the survey seemed to be a fair representation of its ethos, and summarised in the school motto: Love of Learning, Pride in Diversity, Excellence for All.

There is a serious concern for others through a commitment to various charities and through a widening access programme.

  1. Collective Worship:

The school’s collective worship is well planned and complies with the requirements set out in law. The act of CW that was observed was truly outstanding and appropriate for the advent season. The mood was set with piano music, a christmas carol was sung with vigour, and led by the acting Headteacher, Ms. C. Berry, and by two pupils. The pupils had devised a testing series of True or False statements that effectively engaged the entire pupil body. Their poise and self-confidence were impressive, and not surprisingly attracted a round of applause from their peers. They are really to be commended for their original and outstandingly creative contribution. Advent was associated with candles and being a light in what can at times appear to be a bleak and dark world. Pupils were encouraged to hope and to brighten the lives of others. This was a genuinely serious contribution to the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils.

  1. RE

The RE in the school follows the Birmingham Agreed Syllabus. It also offers the opportunity to do Religious Studies at GCSE, AS and A2 level and is taught by specialist teachers. The RE lesson that was observed and taught by Ms Thacker was unequivocally outstanding. The initial stimulus was of a picture taken on Nov. 15th, 2013 that pupils were collectively invited to identify and interpret. Following good discussion this was finally identified by a pupil as people fleeing the impact of a Tsunami in the Phillipines, but it was also of people risking all to safeguard their treasures of religious icons and artifacts. This led to a detailed discussion of human suffering and religious belief, in particular Hindu belief in avatars, the quest for meaning and the expectation of intervention.  What was especially impressive about the lesson was its pedagogy. Pupils were divided into groups of six and further divided into two with the expectation of arguing on paper and in writing for and against a statement, providing reasons, testing evidence, providing counter arguments and rebuttals. It was a fine example of pupils being encouraged jointly to think deeply and systematically through a topic. The atmosphere in the class was one of pupils quietly and busily working devising their debates on paper. There was a good summary at the end and homework was set. The level of debate in the writing that was observed was substantive. It is not surprising that the pupils achieve the highest grades in the subject’s formal examinations with this approach to teaching.

  1. Organisation and management

The organisation and staff resources for both RE and CW are thorough and substantive.

Conclusion re Safeguarding:

One can very confidently say that there are no safeguarding concerns in the delivery of these areas (RE and CW) of the curriculum.

What the school might do:

Share their expertise and critical skills on the city’s RE website www.faithmakesadifference.co.uk .

What SACRE might do:

Facilitate a network of RE teachers to improve the provision in Birmingham overall and to breakdown any barriers between different religious groupings and schools.