Year 1 students recently visited a very unusual school to stimulate their thoughts about the purpose of education. The Maharishi Free School in Skelmersdale was formerly an independent school before transferring into the state sector to become a free school.
The school has a very distinctive educational philosophy – developed out of the teachings of the Maharishi Yogi – and centered upon the childrens’ fulfillment. The headteacher, Derek Cassells spoke about how their educational philosophy enabled children to achieve balance in their lives, which allowed them to then go on and be successful.
Two members of the production team from BBC Religion and Ethics, Nick Holden Sim and Charlotte Hindle, recently came and spoke to Undergraduate Secondary RE students at Edge Hill.
The BBC is making a series of 10 minute films for the Learning Zone for use in KS4 RE classes. The films will follow a group of six modern day pilgrims as they explore the 5 common RE themes of revelation, evil and suffering, life after death, marriage and divorce and human sexuality/sexual relationships through three perspectives – Christianity, Islam and non religious world views. This enables us to look in depth at the issues in a way that is most relevant to the syllabus and exam criteria.
The six students who will go on a voyage of enquiry on behalf of the audience. The group will be made up of two Christians two Muslims and two non believers who will witness a series of religious events, question the participants, and afterwards discuss the diversity of opinions held with in the group. Charlotte and Nic discussed the themes and talked to the students about the work of BBC Religion and Ethics generally. It might be that some of our students end up taking part in the films.
Term has started early at Edge Hill, with our annual Subject Knowledge Booster Course. This course was originally funded by the TDA to help those with non-Theology or Religious Studies degrees enter RE PGCE courses. We at Edge Hill found these courses to be so useful that we have continued them after the central funding has stopped – so that Edge Hill PGCE students can have an advantage at the start of their course. These free courses have proved so popular that even graduates with Theology degrees now attend and find them hugely beneficial. This year was another first as two students who will be joining our Undergraduate Secondary RE course via our fast-track route have taken the course to improve their subject qualifications.
This nine day course is jam-packed with a day focusing on each religion, beginning with a lead session in the morning led by academics from Edge Hill or other institutions such as Paul Walsh from Newman University College and Professor David Waines of Lancaster. The afternoons entail a period of paired research and a final plenary session. The highlight of the course is a field trip to Preston where students visit a Hindu Mandir and a Buddhist Centre in the morning and in the afternoon a Mosque and Muslim High School. The final assessment is a portfolio of research notes and a paired presentation on one of the six major world faiths.
We’re glad to say that everyone found the course fantastic fun, as well as a great way to Boost their subject Knowledge before starting their QTS courses!
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
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.
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.
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.
Year 1 Undergraduates had their first taste of school as they visited Lathom High School in Skelmersdale for an intensive morning’s introduction to school.
For the first part of the day students visited the Every Child Matters centre where Deputy Head, Jane Galbraith, explained the fantastic work that the centre does, in providing support for pupils’ needs. Around 20% of the school have some interaction with the centre, making use of either the Learning Mentors, TAs, Counsellors or a combination. Jane outlined the referral process so students were introduced to School Action, Action Plus and Statementing. The school’s EAL provision was also outlined; 10% of the year 7 entry in 2011 were identified as EAL learners! Students were particularly interested in the idea of ‘restorative justice’ where two parties who have a disagreement are brought together in an attempt to resolve the problem.
Trevor Hodson an Assistant Head in charge of teaching and learning in the school, and former Head of RE, spent an hour with trainees talking about observations, Ofsted, being outstanding and performance management. He showed how data was used in the school to monitor pupil progress and how RE needed to be academically rigorous, making use of AfL techniques and approaches to teaching including, Bloom, Kagan, Mindmapping, Thinking Hats and interactive technologies.
By observing an RE lesson, students were able to see some of these things in practice and realised that everything that happens in a lesson needs careful planning and work by the teacher. Pupils do not ‘just’ raise their hand, but this routine, like all such routines, needs to be purposely developed with the pupils. They saw the importance of planning a structured lesson, with all/most/some objectives and a range of learning styles employed. Praise and reward was a key factor in the teacher managing the behaviour of the class.
Finally the students spent time chatting to Jenny Clarke, an RE graduate from Edge Hill, who teaches RE at Lathom. She helped to ease students’ worries about surviving the course and gave them valuable tips. Jenny also stressed the importance of having high expectations, the value of pupil talk and group-work, the need for a variety of activities and the necessity of having behaviour management sorted!
The students had a most enjoyable and enlightening time and are eager to start their placements after the Christmas break. Back at University the students reflected on their experiences and considered how what they had seen might influence the way they teach RE.
Year 2 Undergraduates welcomed Emma McVittie to Edge Hill to lead a session on planning for Spiritual Development.
Emma is an independent RE Consultant and the Primary Leader for REonline. Her passion for improving educational standards led her to become a teacher educator, advisor and speaker where she enjoys having a larger influence in educating people about R.E.’s place in the 21st century. Her whole career has been spent within primary education and she has taught in a range of settings including: Pupil Referral Unit, special schools and small, rural, mixed key stage schools through to large urban schools with many hundreds of pupils. Emma has an international reputation and speaks, on all aspects of RE from school development to staff motivation using a variety of modern, innovative, and creative methods that will enthuse staff and children alike
Emma spoke about some of the theoretical background to Spirituality in Children before using some of the resources from her ME! resource to enable the students to learn experientially.
All the students reported that the session was superb and gave them an insight into spiritual development as well as practical ideas which they hope to use in their school placements after Christmas.
It was the largest Hindu temple in the Northwest of England, and it was surprising to see what their sacred building was considering there are so many Gods that they believe in, it was also surprising to find out that the murals on the ceiling which were absolutely stunning, took only 10 weeks to make. it was a good experience, and learnt a lot from visiting also the Guide was most useful, and answered all the questions with a good answers, granted they were sometimes a bit complex, but that is better than an answer being too simple.
Hannah also wrote on her blog:
It was really interesting going on this visit. Having never been to a Mandir before I didn’t really know what to expect. When I went in it was a large room with beautiful paintings, statues and pictures everywhere. The ceiling and walls have been painted with images of the Avatars, Deities and Vedas. People in the temple use this as something to focus on when they are praying.
First Year undergraduates have successfully enrolled on our newest teaching route – the BA (Hons) Secondary Religious Education with QTS – a unique 3 year undergraduate route to becoming a secondary RE teacher.
A dozen eager RE students together with around 150 from other subjects successfully enrolled over the weekend and were given a warm welcome from the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education, Secondary Undergraduate Programme Leader Gordon Laing and Year 1 Leader Shirley Hindley. The Freshers’ Week activities include a mix of academic and social activities before work on the modules begin.
The course includes modules on Teaching Skills, Professional Conduct and Research as well as 10 Religious Studies Modules and Teaching Practices in Each Year. Click on the Outline above to see how it fits together. It is hoped that all of the team will contribute to the delivery of the subject knowledge modules and Paul Smalley will lead the Course.