RE at Edge Hill

Author: Michael Ashton

RE PGCE Subject Knowledge Enhancement course 2016


Life  in places of learning tends to follow a  seasonal pattern and each year in late summer just prior to the new academic year commencing the RE team at Edge Hill along with eminent visiting tutors delivers a subject knowledge enhancement course . The course is designed to give our new PGCE students a refresher in the basic beliefs and practises of the main world religions and an opportunity to visit local faith communities.

For me,  this aspect of the enhancement course really brings what we try to do as RE teachers to life. It puts flesh on the bones of our classroom teaching and allows for honest  inquiry and genuine human interaction with living, breathing  people of faith communities.


Christianity in Leyland 2014 Visit

Taking the pulse of Christianity in the Lancashire Town of Leyland has become an annual Pilgrimage for our Year One Undergraduate Trainee RE Teachers.  As part of the Module on the History of Christian thought and culture we visited four Christian Churches beginning with St Mary’s a Roman Catholic Church were we joined the community for the week day celebration of Mass and then for breakfast.  Fr Jonathan Cotton then gave us a tour of the Church and answered questions. The Church has recently won an award as one of the best modern church buildings in Britain. Christie commented that how the altar was positioned in the centre of the building gave it a really different feel to more traditional churches.



The second Church we visited was the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Apostles. We were welcomed warmly by Fr Dionysius who gave us a very entertaining overview of the Greek Orthodox Church.


After lunch we moved onto Leyland Baptist Church were we met Pastor Tony. Pastor Tony shared his beliefs and described the ministry of the Church in detail. Becky commented that she hadn’t realised that the Baptist Church did not have a hierarchical system and thought that this was a real positive !

Finally we were welcomed at  St James Church Of England by Fr Mark


Year 2 Visit the National Holocaust Centre

Just prior to the Christmas Holidays, the Second Year, RE undergraduates visited the National Holocaust Centre near Newark on Trent in Nottinghamshire. This was a first visit for Edge Hill University but proved to be well worth the journey. 

Our visit began with an introductory talk and a  tour of the ground floor which was set out like a traditional museum with artefacts and factual information.



However for me personally, the afternoon was the highlight of the day.  Firstly we were very privileged to meet  Janine Webber who shared her experiences of growing up as a Polish Jew after the German army occupied her native Lwow in 1941.  Janine now aged 81 shared her truly harrowing story of how her Parents, Grandmother and younger brother were murdered by the Nazis. How she was betrayed by people who had promised to care for her and how she lived in a hole without seeing daylight for a year.  


If anyone had any right to be angry or bitter it was Janine but she was an incredibly, spirited, warm and forgiving person who seemed to bear no hatred or malice towards those who had caused her such pain. She said her only feeling was one of sadness. 


The second part of the afternoon was spent in part of the centre that had been set up to follow the experiences of Leo, a fictional German-Jewish boy living in Berlin during Nazi rule. The Journey is the first exhibition to be built in the UK, solely for the teaching of the Holocaust to primary-aged children. Leo’s  story unfolds in a series of rooms, which not only detail Leo’s experience but also that of children who lived during the Holocaust and survived. 

Although designed for Primary school children we all found it a moving and inspirational experience.



The Holocaust Centre is a peaceful oasis in the heart of the Nottinghamshire countryside that allows visitors to reflect sensitively on the Holocaust. I would wholeheartedly recommend a visit to anyone who is engaged in teaching or learning about the Holocaust.

To find out more visit the Holocaust Centre website 


Year One Undergraduate experience of Hindu Dharma

At Edge Hill University we believe that to really begin to understand a Religion it is vital that we visit  religious communities and meet with devotees. In this academic year for the Hindu Dharma module this began on Monday 4th of November when the Year One Undergraduate RE group attended Diwali celebrations at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Preston.

The Mandir was beautifully decorated and the offerings pictured below were truly remarkable. Once seated no one could tell that the Mandir was in fact an old factory !IMG_2307


The hospitality and welcome we were given was also tremendous and very humbling, especially for me as I was treated like a VIP and included in the Garlanding ceremony .   For all of us it was great to join in the Festival of Lights and to feel part of a living, vibrant Hindu Community.


In December we visited the Gujarati Hindu Mandir in Preston which is the second largest purpose built Mandir in the UK.  Once again we were made very welcome and we were able to ask the ever patient Mr Patel questions about the practicalities of following Hindu Dharma in Britain.



To round off the module, we invited my neighbours Karmesh and Saguntha Pulya to share their beliefs and understanding of Sanata Dharma. Karmesh and Saguntha have become regulars at Edge Hill over the last four years and once again help in our understanding of Hindu Dharma as a living faith.  Saguntha sets up a shrine and  sings to Ganesh as she performs Puja, I for one always find this very moving is very moving.

Another regular feature of their visit is that Saguntha  draws Rangoli patterns  using rice flour. Previous attempts by yours truly have always proved disastrous but this year one of the trainees, Sarah managed to impress Saguntha with her artistic abilities!



Year two attend Holocaust Conference at the Imperial War Museum of the North

For the last three years the  second year KS 2-3  RE Trainees have attended the Autumn Holocaust Conference at the Imperial War Museum of the North. The Conference is organised jointly between the Museum and the Centre for Jewish Studies at Manchester University. As part of their Judaism studies the conference give a unique and valuable opportunity for our trainees to explore different aspects of the Holocaust.

This year the theme was  Hiding, Flight and Rescue under Nazi occupation.

Scholars from Britain, Europe and the USA presented their research on how despite the odds some European Jews managed to survive  the relentless onslaught of the Nazis.

Perhaps the highlight of the day was hearing the personal witness of Lady Milena Grenfell-Baines who shared her memories of the Kindertransport and her escape from Czechoslovakia as a nine year old with her younger sister. Despite the great odds stacked against her family, once she and her sister were settled in Britain, she was reunited with her Father and then later her Mother who had managed to escape through Sweden.

An inspirational day that brought home the complexity of the human responses to the Holocaust and of the power of the human spirit to endure the most dreadful persecutions  and yet not be crushed. As always following days like this I was left pondering what I would have done if faced with such persecution and hatred?


Primary Practice for year 1

The New RE syllabus for Catholic Primary Schools ‘Come and See’ requires that pupils gain an insight into the major world religions. For the mutual benefit of the school and our undergraduate Trainees we were invited in to Blackbrook St Mary’s Primary School to deliver an assembly on the Story of Rama and Sita to years 5 and 6 and then to deliver 4 lessons on Hinduism across the two year groups.

Suited and booted !

Matthew H said:

The Year 1 Undergraduate class paid a visit to Blackbrook Primary School, under request from the Head Teacher, Mrs Ashton. It was there that we had a go at teaching the primary school children about Hinduism. We had been divided into a groups, I had been paired up with Emma, Matthew, and Lauren. We had been tasked with creating an assembly that would introduce to the children about Hinduism. We chose to create a fun / daft play which told the story of Rama and Sita. I played Sita ( Rama’s Wife), Lauren played the part of Rama, and Matt played (Hannuma and The Golden Deer that appears, and Ravana the ten headed demon) Emma  narrated the play.

Sita, Hanuman and Rama

Andrew said:

On the last day of November, (Friday 30th) our RE class were given the opportunity to perform and teach to year 5 and 6 pupils about Hinduism. This was an exciting day for us because what we had been learning in lessons, we were now passing on that knowledge to a classroom of students. There was some preparation to organise because a small proportion of our class decided to reinact the story of Rama and Sita in an assembly to the majority of the primary school. I thought this to be a very effective method of teaching because it was very entertaining. After the assembly we were divided into groups and sent to individual classrooms and during that time we were teaching Hinduism again. As a group we organised bingo and a quiz activity were the winner(s) won sweets. I think that’s why the pupils liked us the most.


Hannah said:

Today I taught a primary school class for an hour about the Hindu Gods. We had to produce a starter, main and plenary for the class to complete thinking about the time we had and what activities we were going to be doing.

Hayley and I worked together to deliver the lesson. Our starter activity was used to find out what the children already knew about Hinduism, we gave them a sheet with the Hindu Om symbol on it; they then had to mind map any knowledge they already had on Hinduism. This knowledge was then fed back to the whole class so we could see what they had been learning about already. Once we had begun the main part of the lesson we asked the children to use the small bit of play dough they had been given and create their own version of a Hindu God, we told them to think about the assembly they had just seen and we put some images on the board as a visual aid for them. We then asked them to leave the play dough and we went onto the main part of the lesson where we showed a Power Point on the Trimurti and the Gods included in that. We then asked them had they seen the film ‘Avatar’ and asked what they though an Avatar, most of the class had seen it and were able to explain very well what they though one was, this led onto how we had created our own Avatar with the play dough and how we were about to paint Hindu masks of the Gods. Whilst the children were painting the masks we supervised them whilst asking and answering questions about the Gods. At first I was really nervous about teaching a primary class because I didn’t know how they would respond to the different activities and if they would get bored easily. However everything seemed to work out OK and the children seemed to enjoy what they were learning.

Richard said:

Friday 30th November my RE group went to St. Mary’s School, and led a lesson for an hour, I was partnered with Andrew and the lesson was about the Hindu God’s, but before this 4 other people in my group did a 10 minute assembly enactment of the story of Rama and Sita which the kids loved, then the children went to their rooms where we taught the lesson, Andrew and my lesson started with  the children writing everything they know about Hinduism, and then a power point on the Gods with comparison to some things in Christianity so that it would seem less alien to them.


The visit concluded with a a tour around the school, which was very good. Blackbrook Primary School is a brilliant school to develop any ones intellectual needs.


All in all a brilliant experience of teaching and learning for all involved.

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