RE PGCE and UG students travelled to Salford to visit Stenecourt Shul with their tutors Sjay Patterson-Craven and David Arnold as part of the SKE course. The day gave students the opportunity to develop their understanding of Jewish belief, enjoy some challah, visit the shul, ask questions and ended with a very enjoyable Israeli-Kosher meal!
To finish the year we were pleased to welcome Lat Blaylock of NATRE/RE Today to Edge Hill’s Woodlands Conference Centre for our Annual NATRE North West Conference for final year undergraduate and PGCE Secondary RE students. As well as Edge Hill students we were joined by MMU and Cumbria School Direct trainees.
The day began with a look at some of the best Spirited Art entries and an encouragement to run the competition in placement schools. Lat then turned our attention to how we might reach about modern socio-political RE. We thought about the Charlie Hebdo Murders of 2014 and who might be blamed by using the idea of a ‘responsibility pie’. We saw that this activity raised questions about Fundamental British Values and Lat showed how this study could lead to an extended written task. Finally we wondered about other contexts that a responsibility pie could be used and discussed how RE can objectively challenge prejudices
“My gospel text for today is hard concept, simple activity” – Lat.
Before a coffee break we considered teaching the enquiry question ‘what does it mean for a building to reflect the glory of God?’ by looking at the Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, King’s College Cambridge and the Milton Keynes Tree Cathedral. Lat had demonstrated in this first session that RE can be creative, engaged with current socio-political issues and having a solid, conceptual base.
PIn the second session we considered RE as global. We considered some religious growth and decline statistics, including learning that worship of Ganesh is growing in popularity with Hindu devotees. We then were able to play a game about Evil and saw how this could help young people produce writing that shows ethical reasoning. Once we evaluated the resource we looked at Islam, and how the rituals of the Hajj have transformed as the numbers engaging in the pilgrimage have increased. We considered ways that the ritual of moral ambition can help pupils learn about the concept of forgiveness. Our final example of global RE was about global Christianity, starting with Keith Haring’s art, and the questions that his life story raises.
After lunch we thought about wholistic RE, using one of the BBC ‘A Question of Faith’ clips about revelation in a charismatic Christian Healing service which was compared with Derren Brown. By looking at these two stimuli, pupils are able to analyse the competing truth claims. We then thought about the statistics involved in Global religion, which we didn’t have time for in the morning! Lat then talked briefly about different pedagogies of RE before adopting a Human Spiritual Development approach to consider whether the inner voice is real. To finish we had a brief look at how you might teach religious texts, with an example from Revelation.
Thanks to Lat, for an engaging and inspiring day, and to St Luke’s Trust and the Jerusalem Trust for their generous support of these regional RE conferences.
For Inter-faith week, the University’s Chaplaincy team organised a trip to visit the three Abrahamic faiths’ places of worship in Liverpool. Thre years of Undergraduate students and the PGCE students came together for this fantastic trip.
First year Undergraduate Hailey wrote this about the day:
Arriving at the Cathedral I thought that we had turned up at the wrong place. I had never been to a Cathedral before but this wasn’t the picture that I had in my head as to what it was meant to look like. In my head it was meant to look exactly like a church with an old brown building just much much bigger. I was in for a shock with a white building which resembled that of a large tent. Everything about this Cathedral is very modern. Going inside I was in awe.
The whole place was lit blue and I really couldn’t understand why until our very nice tour guide explained to us that this was due to the architect of the building and that the stain glass windows make the whole place change colour throughout the day symbolising that Jesus is the light. The next thing to catch my eye was a large silver sculpture just hanging from the ceiling, usually going into a church you would never see anything like this which just made this Cathedral much more interesting. This actually symbolises Jesus’ crown he wore when he was crucified. Our guide talked to us a lot about the different roles you can take within the Roman Catholic Church and also about the difference in the different types of Christians explaining why and how they were all so different.
Arriving at the synagogue I was surprised. Walking into the little hallway for some reason I imagined that when he opened the door it would look very similar to inside a Church. How naïve of me. As soon as the two men opened the doors everyone in our group all made a very similar ‘wow’ noise.
It was a lot bigger than I thought it would be and I was completely surprised at how grand the whole place was, also how different it was to a church. Straight away the man started to tell us all of the different things that a Jew would believe in and do within his/her life.
He explained the whole synagogue to us, even down to explaining how the Torah was made and telling us about a fire they had in the late ‘60s. During our trip to the synagogue the university rabbi joined us and he didn’t shy away from telling us everything from marriage in Judaism to the decline that has faced its followers following World War 2. I would personally say that the synagogue was the building I was most in awe at during the trip.
Finally we arrived at the mosque (the first university group that has been allowed in to view it), this being the shortest of the three but they didn’t lack to tell us any information. While they didn’t go into depth with the beliefs involved in Islam they told us all about the building we were in and the founder of the whole thing.
Abdullah Qwilliam was the founder of this mosque, more interestingly this was the first mosque in England. Abdullah Qwilliam was an English convert who wanted to spread his faith among other people within his culture at home. The mosque was closed for a while after Abdullah’s death and Liverpool council opened it as a registry office but more recently has been reopened and they are now working on making it a fully working mosque again and replacing the old traditional things that were there at the beginning such as the organ which Abdullah used to play.
After being there a short while we were asked to move to a different room as it was time to do the call for prayer, I had never heard this before and thought that it was amazing. I would to go back again soon when they have finished restoring it back to the way it used to be.
You can read the rest of Hailey’s blogs here: https://haileyhill14.wordpress.com/
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.
Hollie wrote this about the recent visit of Sue Phillips to Edge Hill, where she worked with Undergraduate and Postgraduate students:
My biggest fear in the classroom is having a class full of pupils and they do not listen to me. I fear they will not be engaged in the lesson I am teaching them, that it will not be interesting enough for them.
When I think back on my Religious Education lessons at school, my teacher made the lessons interesting- but it was only ever using videos or conversations in the classroom. Her personality was amazing and she was meant to be a teacher- she was my inspiration. However, from what I can remember about my lessons, we never did anything crazy, fun, whacky or out of the ordinary.
This year of University has taught me how to be a better teacher, using different ways of teaching the students to keep them engaged and interested in the lesson.
Sue Phillips came to University last week and told us ways on how to make an RE lesson more interactive, keeping the students involved in the lesson, making them feel apart of it.
Most of the things she taught was about using stories, keeping them involved. You make a story, tell it to the class, keeping them engaged and guessing as to what is going to happen next- and I have to say I love this idea! You can use it in so many different ways, and you adapt it to RE topics.
For example, you could a story about a young girl making decisions that people around do not necessarily agree with, linking to the idea of morals and morals in religion, with another connection to rules in religion and why religions have rules they follow. This links to their central beliefs in the religion.
Sue really helped me with ways to help the older students in the school by giving ideas on how to keep essay writing creative and fun too! It was more to do with the layout of the structure creating more discussion rather than a template on a piece of paper.
She not only gave me a lot of ideas that I can use for teaching when I start my placement in April, but I have recently created a Scheme of Work in a group for Judaism to teach a class of Year 8 pupils next week. With these different ways of teaching, making the classroom more interactive, I have incoroporated some of these ideas into one of the lessons to make it more fun and interesting for the students.
Every week, with books I read and visits to places or people to university, it makes me more confident about becoming a teacher. I cannot wait to start my placement next month!
The new academic year has begun in earnest at Edge Hill University’s RE department. We have once again been able to attract students keen to join us en route to becoming qualified RE teachers; we have a record number of Secondary Undergraduates with 12 year 1 students, 16 year 2s and 14 year 3s. Added to this are our 15 PGCE students. With over 50 full time students training to become Secondary RE teachers, this means that we are still the largest provider of RE Initial Teacher Education in the country. In addition to this we have a growing number of Primary trainees who choose RE as one of their specialism, currently over 50 students.
We have also re-opened our Flexible PGCE RE course. This flexibility means that students can take up to 3 years to complete the PGCE, using a blended (online and face-to-face) approach to the academic modules combined with the usual placements in school. On the other hand, teachers who have been working with an unqualified status who can show evidence of them meeting the teaching standards can gain QTS and qualify in a term. It is great that bursaries are available for suitably qualified students. Applications for Flexible PGCE remain open all year round.
This follows a hugely successful 2014-15: Postgraduates had a record breaking year with 100% gaining grade 1 on their final placement. Undergraduate QTS students had excellent results too, with half achieving a first class degree and the remainder a 2:1. Once again our QTS students all secured employment as teachers.
Beyond the Ordinary is a new campaign to find extraordinary individuals who have what it takes to train to become RE teachers.
If you’re interested in training to teach RE you can look forward to healthy job prospects and as well as a bursary to help cover living costs while you train. Contact us at Edge Hill or see http://www.teachre.co.uk/beyondtheordinary/
Having spent two days with us last year, an old friend of Edge Hill, Sue Phillips, spent three days with us to showcase her approach to experiential learning: one day with secondary Undergraduates, one day with PGCE and one day with Primary students.
Sue has developed the ‘Theatre of Learning’ pedagogy. This began with an understanding of religion neutral exercises, the most well known being the Island. Sue then encouraged us to apply that thinking to a number of different religions, including stories as diverse as cosmology and homelessness. Many of the activities were participatory and the students from all three cohorts were able to engage and relate to the pedagogy in a visceral way.
Feedback from the students was stunning and they are eager to implement some of these ideas on their Professional Placements in the near future. Photos from Sue’s visit can be seen here.
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.
On Thursday the 18th of September we had the privilege to visit the “Great and New Stenecourt” synagogue in Manchester, built in 1960. We were being educated on the insider’s version of what it is like to live the orthodox Jewish lifestyle by a member who regularly attends that particular synagogue.
Upon arrival we were introduced to our faith tutor, David Arnold who kindly had kosher refreshments prepared for us. At this point we were advised that any non-kosher food was to be left outside and not taken into the Shul. After refreshments we were taken into the Shul and shown around. We were told men and women have different seating arrangements in the room and women were to be covered by partitions. Seats are bought on rent in the Shul and each person can have a designated seating spot. Further we were shown where the Torah is kept and where the service takes place. The Torah is kept in the back and protected very carefully. David also explained the all the different locations in the Shul from the Pew to the Bimah (Platform).
David explained that Judaism is not seen as a religion but rather as a way of life. He explained the role of a man and women and how they differ in Judaism. He explained how the Jewish people are the ‘chosen people’ in a special covenant with God due to Abraham and renewed with Moses. He explained that not only do they pay a respect to God but also to the law of the land and in this case it would be the United Kingdom. This was very promising to see as it explains the way of life for a Jew especially in the light of the legacy of history.
David explained the Torah as the five books of Moses. He advised it can take years to compile. It is written by hand with a quill in Hebrew and on parchment. Further the cycle of reciting the Torah takes exactly a year and once finished the cycle starts again. To purchase a Torah would cost at an average of 20 – 30,000 pounds. The Torah is written on a scroll with wooden holders which symbolically mean ‘the tree of life.’
After visiting inside the Shul we took our seats in the meeting area where we had the opportunity to discuss the most important day in the Jewish week, Shabbat. We discussed the preparation for Shabbat and the religious meanings to why this day is known as the day of rest. David explained the importance of preparing the meals and drinking the special wine. He explained that once a week there is a special service at the Shul to commemorate the beginning of the holy day. We were told the lady of the house lights the candles to bring the light of Shabbat in to the house. We also had the opportunity to taste the special bread which is prepared for the meal. In all it was very clear that Shabbat is a family occasion and a day to thank God.
Moving on from Shabbat we discussed kosher food and the importance of it in the Jewish household. Separation of meat and dairy is very important to the extent dishes should be kept completely separate. No dairy and meat should be eaten together. David gave us examples of what is considered to be Kosher. Following on nicely from this we went for lunch at a kosher restaurant which was a great insight and first-hand experience.
Some RE reflections
Our visit to the Shul was definitely a first-hand insight to the thinking and reasoning of a Jewish tradition. It was interesting to find that their truth claim is still very much at the heart of their lives. We all may not agree with certain aspects of what may have been discussed but it is important to take away that every person, be it secular or religious is committed to and identifies with their truth claim and as civilised fellow humans we need to learn to accept and respect differing opinions. Speaking for myself this visit truly opened my eyes to the challenging of managing conflicting truth claims and beliefs which I may face as an RE teacher. I am looking forward to this challenge and resolving the issues this brings in my classroom by developing excellent RE for community cohesion.
Aisha Butt- RE PGCE Trainee 2014