Pupils from Broadclyst Community Primary School.

Local schools trial radical new approach to Easter story

Six local schools are changing the way in which Religious Education is taught, thanks to a pioneering new approach to learning developed by researchers from the University of Exeter’s Graduate School of Education.

Instead of simply learning about different religions, the new approach encourages pupils and teachers to reflect on their own beliefs and how these relate to their experiences of teaching and learning.

The team, led by University of Exeter lecturer Dr Shirley Larkin, has developed lesson plans based around the theme of Easter, which, rather than focusing on the Easter story itself, are built around three key themes: kingship, sacrifice and resurrection.

The scheme is currently being trialled in six primary schools around Exeter with a view to taking it nationwide in the future.

The programme encourages pupils to consider their own worldviews as an object of study while considering those of others as well. By focusing on this at a young age, pupils can progress through primary and onto secondary school with a growing appreciation of their own beliefs and a greater understanding of the beliefs of others.

The lesson on sacrifice uses a trading card game and scoring system to challenge pupils to make tough decisions about what they value most in their lives and what they would ultimately sacrifice, ranging from material goods such as their mobile phone to their hearing or the happiness of their family.

Dr Shirley Larkin of the University of Exeter's Graduate School of Education said: “The project aims to make RE personally relevant to all pupils, thereby deepening their engagement with the subject and increasing their motivation. Helping pupils and teachers reflect on their own experiences enables them to engage in discussion with others. By developing this ability we expect that both teachers and pupils will be better placed to understand RE as critical dialogue between multiple faiths rather than the study of individual religions.”

Victoria Hampshire, a teacher at Broadclyst Community Primary School, says: “We sometimes think that children are unable to understand or cope with challenging concepts but this approach has proven they are able to engage and articulate ideas in a thoughtful way. It has also been incredibly interesting and rewarding for me as a teacher to see the children develop their ideas through deeper thinking and self-reflection.”

The RE-flect project is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

The research team will be running workshops and CPD courses on this new way of teaching RE in the autumn. More details and downloadable Easter lessons for teachers can be found here.

Date: 3 April 2012