Religion & Philosophy
“RP at PGS seeks to instil deep reflection, critical thinking, and develop a rich sense of identity for all students.”
The RP curriculum at Poole Grammar School has three elements:
1) Intent: What do we learn?
2) Implementation: How do we learn it?
3) Impact: How do we know we have been successful?
In RP, the curriculum is designed with three distinct aims in mind. Firstly, we aim to foster independent, critical thinking within the subject that our students can use across the curriculum. Secondly, we aim to develop the academic skills required for success at both KS4 and KS5. Finally, we look to implement aspects of the Bournemouth and Poole SACRE, which focuses on students gaining a rich sense of personal identity.
At Key Stage 3, students are taught to discuss and reflect with respect for the opinions and views of others. They are also introduced to extended writing and essay-writing skills required at both GCSE and A-level wherein topics are understood, evaluated, and assessed by the students. They are also introduced to ethical and philosophical concepts through units designed to challenge their thinking and pre-conceived notions. Religion and Philosophy are given equal weight at KS3, with topics covering both in years 7 and 8.
At Key Stage 4, the focus is on success at GCSE. Students are still given frequent opportunities to discuss and debate issues of faith and ethics, but more emphasis is placed on written work, with students frequently practicing both AO1 (knowledge) and AO2 (evaluation) exam questions. At this stage there is extra focus placed on students learning to justify and defend their own positions (which is a level 9 criteria at GCSE.) This skill is also vital for success at A-level Philosophy, and by learning to defend a position at GCSE, students find they are ready to extend that skill at Key Stage 5.
The over-arching concepts for the subjects are intellectual rigor, deep thought, personal reflection, and a definite sense of identity and belonging that all students should feel by the end of year 11.
With the RP curriculum, we are looking to provide first-class instruction for both Religious Studies and Philosophy qualifications, and provide a space for students to think and reflect, helping to produce adults who have both empathy and think rationally about the world around them.
The curriculum is both ambitious and appropriate for all learners; without a national curriculum for the subject, we set high expectations, and look to push and challenge the thinking of every student regardless of their ability.
The curriculum in RP is broken down thus:
Year 7: Introduction to Ethics, Buddhism, Philosophy of Religion, World Religions. Students receive 2 hours teaching per cycle.
Year 8: ‘School Of Athens’ (ancient Greek philosophy & modern thinkers) Pilgrimage, Religion Vs Science, Islam. Students receive 3 hours teaching per cycle.
Year 9: Philosophy Research Project, ‘Is Religion Dangerous?’ (Historical and current events) Introduction to GCSE RS (including core Christian beliefs/history) Students receive 3 hours teaching per cycle.
Year 10: AQA Religious Studies ‘A’ GCSE study. Students receive 3 hours teaching per cycle.
Year 11: AQA Religious Studies ‘A’ GCSE study. Students receive 4 hours study per cycle.
At Key Stage 3, there is an equal weight given to both the study of religion and philosophy. In both subjects, there are common skills practiced and developed: discussion, critical thinking, and empathy.
A range of strategies are utilised to deliver the curriculum: Along with traditional textbook work, there is a huge emphasis on discussion and debate. Students are also given research projects of increasing length and complexity to complete in years 7, 8 and 9, thus developing their independent work skills, and granting them a degree of freedom to pursue areas of interest to them as individuals. Students are also invited to watch documentaries throughout the course – given the limitations of a school budget, and the topical areas studied at GCSE, this represents an excellent opportunity to be exposed to ideas, events and beliefs from around the world. ICT is also employed in RP for every year group, with tasks factored into all schemes of work. The OUP Kerboodle service is heavily employed at GCSE for both revision, and as an aid to enable students who have missed lessons to fully catch up.
The curriculum is coherent as it introduces students to the skills needed for success in year 7, and then adds and improves on these skills up to and beyond the GCSE. We can say with confidence that the curriculum is well-delivered via two means: firstly, the performance management cycle, which sees lessons constantly assessed as either ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’, and regular learning walks and drop-ins from the head of department ensure a level of consistency throughout the department. Secondly, there are the outcomes for students; 91% of students achieved grades 9-6 at GCSE in 2019, and 87% of the cohort had Religious Studies in their A8 basket.
The subject is having a clear impact on students’ knowledge and understanding as measured by outcomes: at GCSE, Poole Grammar students produce double the 9-7 grades of ‘Similar Centers’ (i.e. selective schools) as revealed by data released by AQA. In 2019, 91% of students achieved grades 9-6 – this is exceptional for a non-option, whole cohort subject. Once again, 87% of the cohort had Religious Studies in their A8 basket, confirming how well the students engage with the subject and the teaching pedagogy of the subject.
There are constant links to prior, current and future learning throughout the curriculum; the value of rational thinking and articulate expression is made explicit in year 7, and it’s explained to students how these skills will serve them in their GCSEs and beyond. Students are asked to use a common assessment framework in year 7, this is then used and augmented throughout their schooling in RP.
Given the nature of the subject, quantifying ‘achievement’ can be often be challenging – however, using assessment criteria similar to that used by the exam boards, students are judged by their ability to construct coherent arguments and express their own views articulately. As the student moves through the school, they will gain knowledge of a variety of religious views, philosophical positions, and salient current events.
Students complete their RP education very well prepared for the next stage in their lives – they either continue to employ the skills learnt at KS5, in A-levels such as Philosophy, English Language, History and Psychology, and more importantly, they gain a sense of both themselves, and the lives and paradigms of others, resulting in students who are ready to play a part in a diverse and increasingly ambiguous world.