RE at Edge Hill

Category: Partnership (page 3 of 5)

Experiencing Hajj in Frodsham

Paul Smalley and a small number of Year 1 Undergraduate RE students were recently invited to take part in the Cheshire West & Chester SACRE Primary Pupil conference.  This two-day event, funded by a generous grant from NASACRE and organised by Naomi Anstice, was held at the Forest Hills Hotel in Frodsham and brought together over 100 primary school children from a range of primary schools

SACRE RE Program

The session we had been invited to deliver was an experiential Hajj.  Pupils from Years 5 and 6 began by hearing about how Muslim pilgrims enter a state of Ihram before the begin their pilgrimage.  Pupils then washed their hands, promised to themselves that they would enter into the activities as much as possible and try to do their best, before donning a sheet of white flipchart paper.  This made us realise how pilgrims get a real sense of unity when all are dressed the same.

The children circled the Ka’ba, before hearing a story and replicating Hajar’s desperate seach for water as they looked for a hidden bottle of ‘Special Zam-Zam Water’. Before bedding down for the first (rather noisy!) night, pupils used iPads to record the first of their video diaries.

I enjoyed the Hajj acting and learnt that Muslims get to go to sleep on pilgrimage

The video diaries helped me to remember what we had already done

The pupils held their hands up on the Mount of mercy whilst thinking about what problem they would want solving in the world, or what they had done wrong and might need to put right.  They listened to the story of Ibrahim’s sacrifice and then, before the second night’s video diary and ‘sleep’, they each collected seven post it notes from around the room.

I liked learning about the story of Ibraham and how he sacrificed a sheep instead of his son

Today I learned about the pilgrims going on Hajj and I enjoyed acting the different parts and using the ipads to record our family diary

The next morning the pupils thought deeply and wrote on their post it notes seven things that they might be tempted to do, even though they know they are bad, before scrunching them up and throwing them at a jamarah, like the pillars representing Shaytan in Makkah.

I really enjoyed the pilgrimage today

Then to celebrate Eid-ul-adha, a sheep (cake) was sacrificed and shared out by each family, before compleing Hajj with a final Tawaf and a last video diary.

I loved sacrificing the sheep cake

I loved making a film and sacrificing a sheep

We liked the practical way to introduce Hajj to children

Good ideas for teachers to take back to schools. Our children partically enjoyed the experiential Hajj and it was good to hear then reflect about our RE  lessons back in school.

Teaching A Level at Deanery

As a follow up to the inspirational day with Peter and Charlotte Vardy, Final Year Undergraduate students visited Deanery CofE High School and Sixth Form College in Wigan, to hear about the practicalities of teaching Post-16 students.  The day began with students observing a Lower Sixth Ethics lesson with Mr Michiels. He used a variety of techniques to introduce Kant’s deontological ideas including the Ricky Gervais film ‘The Invention of Lying’ and Phoebe from Friends’ attempts at performing a selfless good act.

Lesson two was an Upper Sixth Philosophy lesson with Miss Daley, where the students were working in groups to revise the topic of Miracles. They used a market place activity before finishing with a fun quiz using buzzers. Progress was measured by students’ self evaluating at the start and end of the lesson using RAG scoring, allowing them to set their own revision targets. Both upper and lower sixth were handing in essays, reminding us about the demanding workload for students and teachers in the Sixth Form.

After a cup of tea in the staff room at break, Sarah led a session on teaching and Assessing RE at KS5, giving examples of what makes a good A level lesson. Students were struck the many of the techniques and activities were just the same as lower down the school, with structured lessons using active learning, an emphasis on questioning and facilitating independent learning – simply at a higher level.


The morning ended with students working together to plan a short plenary for the Upper Sixth lesson on predestination which they then delivered. The undergraduates are now well prepared to plan and deliver A level classes on their final placement after Christmas, or even in their first teaching job!


Teaching A-level with the Vardys

We were delighted to recently welcome Charlotte and Peter Vardy to Edge Hill to spend a day with a postgraduate and third year undergraduate RE students and a small number of school based patrners, helping them think about how to teach RS to pupils in the sixth form.


The day began with a discussion of the proposed changes to the GCSE and A-level content which have been proposed, followed by an introductory session considering what is truth and what this means in a post-modern age. After a break came two weighty sessions led by Charlotte Vardy explaining some tried and tested approaches to teaching the Design Argument and the  Cosmological Argument.  Students and teachers were able to improve their knowledge and understanding of the arguments, becoming more confident in their teaching.


After lunch Dr Peter Vardy considered how to teach the problems of Evil and Suffering, considering the fundamental philosophical issues it raises about truth, human freedom and responsibility, before Charlotte Vardy explored Utilitarianism, considering what differentiates between mediocre teaching from excellent teaching in relation to this topic.


The thought provoking day ended with a final Peter Vardy session discussing Natural Law and Sexual Ethics.  This was a mentally taxing day which was made much easier by the energy and enthusiasm of the speakers and has enabled students to be ready and confident to teach these topics during the Post 16 elements of  their teaching placements.  The school based partners were equally pleased to have been able to attend and leave having considered how to improve their teaching of A level.

“Thanks for a informative, educational day” – Glynn, teacher of A level RS in a partner school.


“A truly inspiring RE department”

There is no substitute for seeing good RE practice in action so RE PGCE trainees were given a taste of what makes a really effective RE team at Cowley International College on September 5th. Trainees met senior staff and  heard an enthusiastic endorsement of RE by the Head Teacher. We were treated to presentations by Edge Hill RE PGCE graduates Rachel, Chelsea and Ashley and Edge Hill Professional Mentor, Sue. Trainee feedback speaks for itself, enjoy the comments!

Joe Murphy writes:

Our PGCE group was lucky enough to have an insight to a successful Religious Education department last week. The trip was very insightful and encouraging.

The morning started with a brief introduction from the Head of the RE department followed by a briefing from the Deputy Headmaster. The information that we were given during this time was exactly what we needed as we started in a school such as this one the following Monday. Here we received great advice how to remain professional in and out of the classroom and staffroom.  We had information previous to this in Edge Hill, however it was good to hear it from the staff at the school as they take pride in their professionalism and have had some experience with the consequences of teachers not adhering to the laws of professionalism.

After this we went to an RE classroom, here we took part in a discussion with the Head of RE and completed some tasks in pairs. This was a great exercise as it involved me working with people in my PGCE group that I have not had the chance to work with yet. During the activity we prioritised the jobs and responsibilities of a teacher. The results were very insightful as each group had a different answer, showing us that all of these attributes are equally important.


Next on our to-do list was to liaise with some RE students within the school. This was a major help and a great activity as it gave us hints and tips from the children themselves about what they like to do in a RE lesson, why they enjoy RE and what they have learned from RE. Speaking to the children was a great idea as it solidified my decision to become an RE teacher, it had taught these kids some very valuable lessons that they use in everyday life.

Lastly we had a chance to talk to some of the staff of the school that had graduated from the course that we are about to embark on. For me this was a very worthwhile exercise as it answered some of the questions that I had about the course from a previous student’s point of view. The girls who finished this course are now in their first teaching job and to see that was encouraging and it silenced some of the doubts that were forming in my head.

To finish what was an excellent experience, we done some meditation with another teacher who had graduated from Edge Hill two years previous. She showed us the process that she had undertaken with some of her classes after it proved to be very successful. This was a great idea and very rewarding, it had a great effect on the children that took part and it is something that I could see myself doing in the future. This idea allows the children to express themselves and it can also create a good relationship with a class, and in some cases could make a difficult class easier to teach.For me the day at Cowley high school was an extremely worthwhile experience and it made me feel a bit more confident about the PGCE.

Shabana writes: Sharing dialogue with Religious Education pupils reinforced the validity of the subject amongst today’s youth.

Nasira writes: They helped calm any nerves about the impending placement and assessments. I also found the meditation session wonderful and will definitely be using it in my lessons!

Final words go to Rosanna who sums up the experience for us all when she says:  Overall it was a fantastic experience. It was truly inspiring to see a successful RE department, and meet teachers who very clearly believe in the value of Religious Education




A Very Special School Visit

Year 1 Undergraduate Students spent a very worthwhile afternoon in a local school for children with Special Educational Needs.  Rowan Park School is an Outstanding School, meeting the needs of up to 126 pupils aged 3 to 19 years, with severe, complex, profound and multiple learning difficulties, ASC and sensory impairments.

Students studying to be Secondary RE teachers at Edge Hill were met by the Deputy Headteacher, Cathy Harley.  She gave an overview of the work of the school before leading students on a tour of the school.  We started at the youngest end of the school, where the butterflies, who may be as young as 3 spend their school time.  We finished up at the Oldest End – where the 6th Form students have their common room – and heard about the plans for expansion. In between we saw all manner of brilliant teaching going on, with specialist rooms for children with syndromes such as Autism, the hydrotherapy pool, and the dark and light sensory rooms.

We were struck by the patience, dedication and skill of the staff, and were challenged to think how this form of education could help us to become outstanding teachers.  A number of students expressed a desire to have a placement – or some enhancement time – in a school like Rowan Park.  This is something that we will endeavour to arrange; we have had RE students placed at the school for the last couple of years who have had a wonderful experience with fantastic outcomes and gone on to secure employment quickly at the end of their course.




Mayer Visits Edge Hill Again

Once again this year we were delighted to Welcome Holocaust Survivor Mayer to speak to our Final Year Undergraduate and Postgraduate students and invited pupils from a number of Partnership schools.


Mayer’s story beginning with the outbreak of war on his 13th birthday is both harrowing and moving.  Mayer seems to get more frail each year, but the strength of his conviction to tell the tale is as strong as ever. This epic story of survival against the odds, including slave labour, Auschwitz, death trains and marches had all listeners on the edge of their seats – as it has done for many years.  Mayer was awarded an honourary Doctorate in 2012 by Edge Hill and received an MBE in the following New Year’s Honours list in recognition of his work.

Following a lunch break 6th Form and KS4 pupils from a number of partner schools were helped to reflect on Mayer’s story by working with Edge Hill RE and History students.  Their responses and their questions were as deep and insightful as always.  We all hope that Mayer will once again return to Edge Hill next year.


Best CPD Ever

The NATRE North West Network saw over 50 trainee teachers from Edge Hill, Hope and MMU and around a dozen serving RE teachers from our Partnership had an excellent day’s CPD with Stephen Pett from NATRE.  It was the last day at University for our Final Year Undergraduates and PGCE students at Edge Hill came out of school for the day.  It was free for all to attend thanks to the support of the Jerusalem Trust and Edge Hill University.

The day was as always focussed on classroom practice, and totally interactive, with sessions on happiness, assessment, ultimate questions and planning an enquiry based Scheme of Work.  Feedback from students and serving teachers was totally positive.

“In 12 years of teaching this is the best CPD I have had” – Rachel, Head of RE

Next Year’s event is destined to be earlier in the year – so keep Monday 15th December 2014 in mind, and school based partners can begin to mention this date to their line managers.  You can read about 2013’s event here. Lots more photos from the day are on Flickr and below!


Post 16 Preparation

Final Year Undergraduates spent a morning at Deanery Church of England High School Sixth Form College to learn about the teaching of RE Post 16, and specifically A level RE.


Sarah Daley, Assistant Head of RE at the school told us about the Art of teaching A Level, using some recent examples from her teaching, such as a lesson comparing the Judeo-Christian Creation stories at AS level and the Augustinian Theodicy at A2.  we were reminded that at A-level, teaching does not radically change and that structuring a lesson is still important to encourage student engagement.


Sarah spoke to us about the procedures at Deanery for assessment of student work and the tracking of progress which goes on, before finishing with some thoughts about the upcoming changes to the way A Levels will be assessed in the near future.


After a brief chat with the Head Boy, about the challenges of A level from a student point of view we were able to go and observe former Edge Hill student Taco Michiels teaching a very small Upper VI RE lesson on business ethics.  We were able to recognise the influence of Edge Hill as Taco started the lesson by outlining the Key Question behind the enquiry, “what if all businesses behaved ethically?”.  He went on to use some active learning techniques with the class – a silent discussion and some creative Diamond 9 sorting.


A brew in the staffroom at breaktime was followed by a chance to observe Sarah teaching her Lower VI class on the problem of evil, and again we could see that good teaching at A level looks very similar to good teaching at all ages: an odd-one-out activity, images as thought-provoking stimuli, picture sorting, a market place activity and high-quality teacher input were all squeezed into the hour long lesson, which had pace and challenge without ever seeming rushed.

“Thanks to Taco and Sarah for today – I now feel much better prepared (and less scared!) to teach A level RE in my next placement” – Katie



“The Trainee teachers were wonderful to work with”- Stretford High pupils teach the teachers

School based partnerships are at the core of what we do in the RE ITT team and we are always looking for ways to develop and enrich trainee experience. As a national priority behaviour for learning is right at the fore of the DfE’s agenda for ITT, but as everyone who has been a trainee or a new teacher knows getting those relationships right in the classroom can be a big concern. This year we were warmly welcomed not only by our outstanding Stretford High school colleagues, Layla, Faisal and Mez, but the most important people of all- the pupils!

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We visited Stretford High school on 11th November and received some characteristically effective training and development on how the school’s successful systems work.  In the first session Layla showed how restorative justice and a really coherent pastoral house system work to support everyone achieve the best outcomes.

There’s nothing like hearing what the pupils have to say about what they think makes a good teacher and that’s exactly what we got in the second session. Mez and Faisal (Head of Humanities) took us over to the Humanities are where year 9 pupils worked with RE trainees on the question, ‘What makes a good teacher?’ Trainees and pupils created some great posters and talked together about what really works. We were all unanimous that we wanted creative, fun classrooms but a disciplined and safe space to learn and teach in.

Here are a few examples of what trainees thought:

Dani said, “I think restorative justice is a great idea and I have used it in my own lessons to great effect. I find verbal praise works just as well and rewarding pupils with the chance to write on the interactive whiteboard seems to be a great incentive at getting pupils to behave within the classroom.”

Abbi said, “I enjoyed our trip to Stretford. I particularly liked the progressive C system that was in place and having it in the classroom is a great idea so that the pupils can visualise what ‘stage’ they are at and what the consequences will be.”

Jenni said, “I also enjoyed the trip to Stretford High, I thought the input from the students was very interesting and it was great to hear their opinions on what makes a good teacher!”

Jenny said, “I thought it was really interesting to see how another school tackles behaviour, and to see a system that allows restorative justice to have a huge impact on how children are managed.”

It was great to hear pupils views on the training too. They are clearly very reflective young people and it’s positive to get feedback from Junaid, an aspirational teacher,

“When we were working with the trainee teachers, I felt quite nervous at the beginning however, later on I became more confident and I was the one doing most of the talking”- Wafa

“I felt it was great experience for me, because if I decide to become a teacher, I can dwell upon this meeting with trainee teachers” – Junaid

“I enjoyed working with the trainee teachers as it has been a wonderful experience to express my ideas regarding what makes a good lesson/teacher. The trainee teachers were wonderful to work with as I have learnt a lot from this experience. I felt engaged and proud to work with them as a group and I hope them success for the future”-Kaoutar

An Inclusive Education

Year One Undergraduates were able to spend a morning in one of our Partnership High schools to begin to see how the school makes sure that all pupils make progress.

The morning at Lathom High School began with Trevor Hodson, Assistant Headteacher for teaching and learning, describing how RE had moved away from its former identity as the ‘Cinderella Subject’ and was now as rigorous and challenging as any other subject.  He showed how serving teachers are expected to make sure that all pupils are making progress throughout the lesson, by using an example year 8 RE lesson that he had recently taught.

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Following Trevor, was Jenny Clarke, a Graduate of Edge Hill’s Undergraduate RE teaching course, who in four years has progressed to be leading the teaching of RE in the school as well as fulfilling a challenging pastoral role as the head of Year 10.  She encouraged students to put all of their efforts into being successful, overcoming the hardships of the course and going on to be Outstanding teachers of RE.

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Finally students were able to explore the Every Child Matters Centre in order to gain a better understanding of the support structures which a high school can put in place to care for every child.  Through   the support and guidance of Mentors, Counsellors and SEN specialists conflicts can be resolved, relationships restored and progress made.

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These sort of visits to school based practitioners are essential in challenging the preconceptions of students and enabling them to reflect on their experiences in order to go on and be outstanding practitioners themselves.

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