RE at DGS: Aspiring to create erudite, reflective, respectful thinkers primed to explore the Great Questions of Existence
Our vision is that the study of religion and beliefs should be inclusive, interesting, informative, enjoyable, enriching and thought-provoking. We embrace the challenging depth and breadth of the subject via an ambitious curriculum that prioritises the three core elements of the subject: religion, ethics and philosophy. We name it ERP (Ethics, Religion and Philosophy) to ensure that students, at every stage of their learning - studying Core RE or engaging with GCSE / A Level RS - recognise the broad and challenging nature of RE. Following the Oxfordshire Agreed Syllabus, Challenging RE, we aim to increase awareness of the spiritual dimension of existence, and to encourage students of all ages to explore their own thoughts and develop a mature response to the views of others, learning both 'about religion' and 'from religion'. We aspire to develop students' empathy, self-awareness, creativity, and self-expression; to engender an appreciation of difference alongside the ability to think philosophically and critically (judicially / analytically); to create an awareness of a moral compass and to appreciate the impact of belief upon individual, community and cultural perspectives.
Our emphasis is on tolerance and sensitivity, and all of our courses are accessible to believers and non-believers alike. Inclusivity is at the heart of our approach as we encourage all students to develop skills of analysis, expression, thinking, empathy, communication, listening, co-operation, understanding and evaluation. We use a variety of teaching and learning activities, including: discussion; group work; case studies; research; art / creative work; reflection; and the development of thinking and listening skills.
ERP (RE & RS) is delivered in accordance with the aims and attitudes outlined in the Oxfordshire Agreed Syllabus for RE, with opportunities to Learn About Religion and to Learn From Religion provided for all students, alongside a commitment to the development of self-awareness, respect for all, open-mindedness, and appreciation and wonder.
During their ERP lessons, students are encouraged:
- to acquire knowledge and understanding of the beliefs and practices of Christianity and other World Religions;
- to explore relevant ethical issues and reflect upon challenging philosophical questions;
- to be aware of and respond to life experiences and the questions they raise for individuals, communities and the world;
- to evaluate the significance of religious concepts, beliefs and practices through an ability to express personal opinions based on the use of appropriate evidence and argument;
- to expand their literacy and vocabulary skills via an exploration of religious language;
- to develop tolerance and sensitivity towards the beliefs of other people; and
- to appreciate the diversity of and the opportunities afforded by living within Britain's multicultural society and the wider world.
Our Key Stage 3 course is designed to give students insight into the nature of religion and the ways in which it motivates people both individually and as part of a community. It requires them to reflect, to explore and to respond to challenging ethical issues and big philosophical questions. To this end, students study the following modules:
- Why do we study ERP (RE & RS)?
- What do people believe about God?
- Why is worship important to believers? (key religion: Sikhism)
- Does it matter what you eat?
- Why is Gotama Buddha so special for Buddhists? (key religion: Buddhism)
- Is there an afterlife?
- Do human rights matter?
- What are the ethics of poverty and wealth?
- Why are evil and suffering a 'problem'?
Core RE is also delivered via Super Learning Days, when the usual timetable is suspended, and students are given opportunities to challenge prejudice, stereotypes and assumptions in an immediate way that is not always possible inside the classroom. Each of these days affords students the opportunity to learn about and from religion via engagement with the local, wider and world community. For example, World Religions Day takes students out into the local community to visit Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish and Sikh places of worship, to engage with adherents of these World Religions and to grapple with fundamental questions about belief and its practice in the modern world.
Students may also opt to study Religious Studies at both GCSE and A Level. 'Religious Studies' is the study of religion as an academic discipline and is the name given to RE at examination level. At DGS, we follow the AQA RS GCSE course and focus upon two religions - Christianity and Sikhism - alongside a range of ethical and philosophical questions and issues. At A Level, we follow the OCR RS course, which affords students the opportunity to continue the ERP learning journey they began with us back in Year 7, via the study of three areas: Philosophy of Religion, Religion and Ethics, and Developments in Christian Thought.