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Birkdale School has a Christian foundation and so Christian theology and morality make up a significant part of the RE curriculum. These Christian ideas are always thoughtfully analysed and students are encouraged to find their own response to questions of belief.
Moral education is a major part our curriculum. We teach basic human values and help students to think through the moral consequences of their actions. We would explain the Christian beliefs behind these values but we would leave space for pupils to build their own rationale for following a basic human ethic. A significant aim of the department is to produce moral responsibility amongst our students.
Our students also explore the important worldviews of Judaism (S1/Y7) and Islam (S2/Y8) as well as Eastern concepts of religion (S3/Y9). It is important to us that students are ‘religiously literate’ and have had a chance to learn from these different perspectives.
RE is allocated 2 periods of 35 minutes a week in S1 (Y7) and S2 (Y8). In S3 (Y9) this increases to 3 periods. In S4 (Y10) ten periods of compulsory RE form a part of the General Studies curriculum. These lessons focus on moral and philosophical questions. There is an optional GCSE course comprising of: Religious, Philosophical and Ethical Studies; Christian beliefs and practices and Islamic beliefs and practices. We also have a successful A level course in Philosophy of Religion, Ethics and Christian Theology.
S1 (Year 7)
The first term is a chance to creatively explore some key biblical concepts – creation, redemption, sacrifice. In the second term we set out to question human nature. Can we find examples of people who could meet Plato’s challenge in the Ring of Gyges story? In other words, people who could find a ring of invisibility and yet avoid doing evil! In term 3, we explore a Jewish view of the world, empathising with a boy about to become Bar Mitzvah, for example.
S2 (Year 8)
This begins with Christian morality and the rationale for rejecting several kinds of prejudice, particularly racism. In term 2, we look at the person of Jesus and critically examine Christian claims about him. We creatively explore those concepts of Christian theology which underpin Jesus’ Messiahship. Students write poems to express their understanding of the crucifixion, for example. In term 3, we look at a Muslim view of the world, challenging the false perceptions of Islam we often find in the media, for example.
S3 (Year 9)
This begins with the concept of ‘authentic belief’. This is an attitude we encourage – one that balances a thinking, open approach to questions of belief with an acknowledgement of the importance of the belief commitments which shape the way we live. We look at what an authentic attitude to beliefs might be like by considering miracles and life after death. We continue the philosophical approach by looking at arguments for and against the existence of God. We then spend some time looking at several issues in ethics – Human Rights, War and Peace and Human Relationships. In the final term, we concentrate on some of the key concepts of Eastern Philosophy which underpin Hinduism and Buddhism.