“The unexamined life is not worth living” – Socrates

Religious Studies deals with people and ideas, developing thinking skills which are needed for any academic subject. Pupils develop the ability to find information, use a variety of enquiring techniques, ask and consider challenging philosophical questions and empathize with alternative viewpoints. Religious Studies also provides an opportunity for pupils to explore their own beliefs and gain great understanding about the world we live in and the other people we share it with.

The Ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates, considered the investigation of life’s most ultimate questions as a pastime worth dying for. As a teacher he was a maverick: he never asked his students to write a word but he did expect them to think deeply and question everything. His commitment to moving beyond superficial understanding, led to his pupils becoming the rebels of their day. Their refusal to accept laws without questioning them meant their mentor Socrates was considered a rabble-rouser. He was eventually charged with corruption and rebellion. Socrates ultimately considered the study of religion, philosophy and ethics worth dying for. He refused to compromise his belief in questions and as such, opted for a lethal hemlock poison, rather than imprisonment.

The study of RS at King Edward VI Handsworth is designed to encourage students to live the examined life. Students study a wide range of religious, scientific, and non-religious perspectives on some of life’s most fundamental questions. In RS classrooms, students will develop the questioning habit, as they explore such topics as the meaning of life, the nature of morality and the origin of the world. Whilst the RS department does not expect the same level of dedication as Socrates, it will expect students to open their minds to a range of views! It is only through the examination of a wide range of perspectives, that students will begin to be sure of their own views.

Aims

  • Develop life-long learners with intellectual curiosity and a passion for understanding the world
  • Develop deep thinkers who can confidently evaluate complex religious, moral and philosophical questions
  • Develop an enquiring, critical and reflective approach to the study of religion
  • Empower students to recognise the important and distinctive features of religious expression, and to recognise the diversity inherent in faith traditions
  • Enhance their personal, social and cultural development, their understanding of different cultures locally, nationally and in the wider world and to contribute to social and community cohesion
  • Recognise the holistic development of the child, encouraging them to reflect upon and express elements of our common humanity
  • Empower all students to express their personal theology (or atheology!) in a developed way

Curriculum

Year 7

Year 8

Year 9

Year 10

Year 11

Year 12

Year 13

Term 1

Autumn Term 1

Introduction to RS at KEVHS

Introduction to the Learning Habits used in RS

Introduction to key concepts from the six major World Religions

Spring Term 1

Religious Leaders

Investigation into the life, teachings and actions of a religious leader

Why might this religious leader be seen as an inspiration?

Summer Term 1

Belief into Action

An investigation into St. Francis of Assisi and how he translated his Christian beliefs into action.

Term 2

Autumn Term 2

Believing in God

What reasons would someone give for being an atheist, theist or an agnostic?

What do different faiths believe about the nature of God?

Spring Term 2

Creation Myths

Examination of creation myths from different cultures – do they contain literal or universal truth?

Summer Term 2

Celebrating and Remembering

An examination of the Jewish celebration of Passover.

Should we celebrate sad historical events?

Term 1

Autumn Term 1

Pilgrimage

An investigation into the actions of pilgrims at Hajj and Lourdes.

What is the purpose and value of going on a pilgrimage?

Spring Term 1

The Environment

Students investigate different religions’ views on our treatment of the environment.

Production of a ‘sales pitch’ to encourage people to come to planet earth

Summer Term 1

Prayer

A study into different types of prayer

Is prayer meaningful and valuable in the 21st century?

 

Term 2

Autumn Term 2

Justice and Injustice

An examination into a famous woman who has fought injustice, and what teachings motivated her

Spring Term 2

Buddhism Project

Students design their own research question and conduct an independent investigation into an aspect of Buddhism

Summer Term 2

Sacred Space

What do we mean when we call a space ‘sacred’?

Students design a multi-faith place of worship

Term 1

Autumn Term 1

Human Relationships

Students examine different types of relationships, including marriage and investigate questions of human sexuality

Spring Term 1

Resurrection (1)

Students examine the differences between the Gospel accounts and why these might have occurred.

A Crime Report is produced entitled ‘The Case of the Missing Body’.

Summer Term 1

Good and Evil

Students consider the philosophical questions raised by the Problem of Evil and Christian responses to this dilemma

Term 2

Autumn Term 2

The Puzzle of God

Students investigate and evaluate the success of different arguments for the existence of God.

Key Question: Is the Universe well designed?

Spring Term 2

Resurrection (2)

Students create a piece of art work on the theme of ‘What does the Resurrection mean for Christians?’

Summer Term 2

The Nature of God

Christian beliefs about God

God as omnipotent, loving and just

The Trinity

The role of God in Creation

Term 1

Course Structure and Assessment

Beliefs, teachings and practices of two from:

  • Buddhism
  • Christianity
  • Catholic Christianity
  • Hinduism
  • Islam
  • Judaism
  • Sikhism
  • Christianity and Catholic Christianity is a prohibited combination.

How it’s assessed

  • Written exam: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • 96 marks (plus 5 marks for spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPaG))
  • 50% of GCSE

Autumn Term 1

Hindu Beliefs

Beliefs about Deity

  • Brahman
  • Trimurti
  • Avatars
  • Popular deities

Beliefs about the Nature of Human Life:

  • Atman
  • Karma
  • Samsara
  • Moksha
  • Cosmology
  • Varnashramadharma
  • Sanatan Dharma

Spring Term 1

Hindu Practices

Hindu lifestyles

  • Pilgrimage – Varanasi and the Kumbh Mela
  • Hindu care of the environment
  • Hindu involvement in cow protection charities
  • Hindu contribution to other charities

Summer Term 1

Christian Practices

Worship and Festivals

  • Liturgical and non-liturgical worship
  • Set and informal prayers
  • The Sacraments- Baptism and Holy Communion
  • Pilgrimage – Lourdes and Iona
  • Festivals – Christmas and Easter

Term 2

Autumn Term 2

Hindu Practices

Worship and Festivals

  • Worship in the temple
  • Worship in the home
  • Different types of worship
  • The four paths towards yoga
  • Festivals – Holi and Diwali

Spring Term 2

Christian Beliefs

The nature of God and Jesus Christ

  • The nature and attributes of God
  • The incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus
  • Beliefs about life after death
  • Resurrection and life after death
  • The afterlife and judgement
  • Heaven and hell
  • Sin and salvation
  • The role of Christ in salvation

Summer Term 2

Christian Practices

The role of the Church

  • Food banks and street pastors
  • Mission and evangelism
  • Church growth
  • Persecution and reconciliation
  • Responses to poverty

Term 1

Course Structure and Assessment

What’s assessed

Four themes, from a choice of:

  • Theme A: Relationships and families.
  • Theme B: Religion and life.
  • Theme C: The existence of God and revelation.
  • Theme D: Religion, peace and conflict.
  • Theme E: Religion, crime and punishment.
  • Theme F: Religion, human rights and social justice.

How it’s assessed

  • Written exam: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • 96 marks (plus 5 marks for spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPaG))
  • 50% of GCSE

Each theme is studied from the point of view of Christianity and HInduism

Autumn Term 1

Relationships and Famililes

Teachings about human sexuality
Sexual relationships
Contraception
Nature and purpose of marriage
Same-sex marriage and cohabitation
Divorce and re-marriage

Spring Term 1

Religion and Life

The origins of the universe
Use and abuse of the environment
Treatment of animals
The origins of human life
Abortion
Euthanasia
Death and the Afterlife

Summer Term 1

Practice assessments and revision

Term 2

Autumn Term 2

Religion, Peace and Conflict

Violent protest and terrorism
Reasons for war
Nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction
Just War theory
Holy War
Pacifism
Religious responses to victims of war

Spring Term 2

Religion, Human Rights and Social Justice

Social justice and human rights
Prejudice and discrimination
Religious freedom
Disability and race
Teachings about wealth
Poverty
Exploitation of the poor
Giving aid to the poor

Summer Term 2

Final examinations

Term 1

Course Structure and Assessment

What’s assessed

Three components –

Philosophy of Religion

Ethics

Study of a Major World Religion

(Christianity)

How it’s assessed:

Three examinations at the end of year 13 one on each component.

Each component is worth 33.3% of the final grade.

Autumn Term 1

Ethics

Absolutist and Relativist Ethics
Divine Command Theory
Virtue Ethics
Ethical Egoism

Situation Ethics
Natural Moral Law

Spring Term 1

Philosophy

Arguments for the existence of God:
Cosmological Argument
Teleological Argument
Ontological Argument

Summer Term 1

Philosophy

Religious Language
Religious Experiences

Term 2

Autumn Term 2

Ethics

Meta-ethical approaches
Naturalism
Intuitionism
Emotivism

Normative Ethics:
Modern Developments of Natural Moral Law
Utilitarianism
Free will and Determinism

Spring Term 2

Philosophy

Challenges to religious belief:
The Problem of Evil
Freud and Jung
Atheism
Challenges from Science

Summer Term 2

Christianity

Religious Figures and Sacred Texts:
The Bible as a source of wisdom and authority
Jesus: His Birth
Jesus: His Resurrection
The kerygmata in Acts of the Apostles

Term 1

Course Structure and Assessment

What’s assessed

Three components –

Philosophy of Religion

Ethics

Study of a Major World Religion

(Christianity)

How it’s assessed:

Three examinations at the end of year 13 one on each component.

Each component is worth 33.3% of the final grade.

Autumn Term 1

Christianity

Religious Figures and Sacred Texts:
Two views of Jesus

Religious Concepts:
The Trinity
Atonement
Is God male or female?
Can God suffer?

Spring Term 1

Christianity

Social and historical developments in religious thought:
Migration and Christianity in the UK
Feminist theology – the changing role of men and women
The Ecumenical Movement
The Charismatic Movement
Liberation Theology

Summer Term 1

Revision and final examination preparation

Term 2

Autumn Term 2

Christianity

Religious life:
Faith and works
Community of believers
Key moral principles

Social and historical developments in religious thought:
Secularisation
Pluralism and Diversity
Attitudes towards wealth

Spring Term 2

Christianity

Religious Practices:
Different understandings of Baptism
Different understandings of the Eucharist
Christmas and Easter

Summer Term 2

Final examinations

Staff

  • Dr E Clewlow (Head of Department)
  • Mrs B Nock
  • Miss C Berry (Deputy Head)

Additional Information

How can parents help?

  • Discuss your own beliefs and reasons for these with your daughter. Ask questions about moral issues in the news (e.g. Is it ever right to forgive a murderer?)
  • Help your daughter to self-assess her exercise book using the assessment booklet
  • Visits to local places of worship and exhibitions.
  • Television programmes on religious and ethical issues are popular. Encourage your daughter to watch programmes that discuss religious practice or belief, or moral issues. A useful source is often 4thought (3 minutes programme following the Channel 4 news).
  • Encouraging your daughter to take advantage of the opportunities available at school.

Where next

Where next?

RS helps us understand other people better, and helps us recognise, develop and express our own values and beliefs. This subject is useful for a variety of career options, in particular those that demand analytical and writing skills (e.g. journalism, law, politics) and the caring professions (e.g. medicine, social care)

RS is a well-respected GCSE and A Level option and an increasing number of our girls are going on to study Theology, Religion and/or Philosophy at University. At A Level RS works well alongside other Humanities, but is particularly popular alongside the sciences as it provides a good underpinning for Medicine due to compulsory Medical Ethics section. It also provides critical thinking and analytic skills that are well suited to careers in Law, Media and Politics.

Although RS is not a facilitating subject (as it is rarely a requirement for particular degree entry) The Russell Group’s ‘Informed Choices’ recognises it as a demanding and highly suitable preparation for university entrance.   ‘There are some advanced level subjects, which provide suitable preparation for entry to university generally… Examples of such subjects include Economics, Religious Studies and Welsh.’ (Informed Choices)

20% of those who study PPE, 18% of those who study English and 13% of those who study History at Oxford have RS A Level. Philosophy graduates are popular candidates for a variety of high-powered professions – journalism, research, the civil service, politics, and law.

A recent Times poll revealed that the business world favours philosophy graduates above all others. Barristers or solicitors benefit from training in philosophy as they have been taught to examine and dissect arguments, even cabinet ministers find a philosophic training useful as they seek to master complex ‘briefs’ and to analyse opposing arguments.

What will I gain from a study of Theology?

  • The opportunity to study a wide range of subjects using a variety of approaches
  •  Encounters with people from all faiths and none
  •  An ability to handle sensitive topics intelligently and with circumspection
  •  Critical skills and the ability to argue my case
  •  An appetite for the ‘search for wisdom’
  •  Integration of intellectual and personal formation
  •  Challenges to my own prejudices and assumptions
  •  An in-depth exploration of some of the most important questions I will ever ask
  •  An appreciation of complexity and paradox in the role of religion in society

Final words from our ex-Head Girl, now studying Medicine at University

‘So glad I took RS, in my other subjects I just learnt things, in RS I learnt how to think’

Opportunities out of lessons

The Religious Studies department runs a Varied Voices discussion group, where we welcome those of all faiths or none to debate current issues.

Students in year 10 are encouraged to enter the national ‘Spirited Arts’ competition, which involves creating a piece of art work from a choice of themes.

As part of the year 8 ‘Sacred Space’ module, students visit a variety of places of worship.

Since 2016, year 8 girls have participated in the Anne Frank Exhibition, which aims to teach year 7 students about the life and death of Anne Frank, and what we can learn from it..

Useful links