Session 251: R.E. Subject Special

Thursday 7th May 2015

Just prior to the election polls closing in the UK, #UKEdChat continued the series of Subject Specials, as @NMckain & @NATREupdate co-hosted a Religious Education focus exploring challenges, resources and activities to teach the subject in all areas of education.

Six Questions released during the session:

  1. Recently RE has been described as a subject that is ‘Beyond the Ordinary’. What makes RE beyond the ordinary to/for you?
  2. What are the key qualities you need to be a teacher of RE?
  3. What would you say to someone considering a career as a teacher of RE?
  4. What are you most proud of in your teaching of RE?
  5. From all that you teach what do you hope the pupils will remember?
  6. How can we ensure that teachers who are not on twitter engage with online debates about RE?


The session began exploring how Religious Education (RE) can be viewed as ‘Beyond the Ordinary’, with Neil McKain sharing a YouTube video (see below) which explains the concept.

But RSTeacher kicked off the responses by claiming, “The chance to discuss questions and issues that are out of the ordinary, miracles, what makes us human, supernatural etc“, and similar responses which resonated with this acknowledging how the subject can really allow pupils to ask deep-seated questions about our existence and place in the world. People agreed that RE is an extraordinary subject, which opens doors for lots of questions and wider learning (Andrew Agar).

We raised the question of correlation between strands of p4c (Philosophy for Children) and Religious Studies, with Neil McKain confirming, “Seems to be lots about #P4C on my TL recently @NickChandley doing a lot. Many RE teachers use it“, yet Kieron Middleton observed, “Most subjects rely on critical analysis. RE hallows us to seek beyond that into faith? Hence beyond the ordinary.Corrine Guntrip added,”RE is investigative, can shape and change opinions and lives, can shape culture and define society- it’s essential

The second question asked, what are the key qualities you need to be a teacher of RE? Catherine Hughes offered, “You need to be open minded and passionate about faith and religion whether you believe or not. Being quirky too!” With Corrine Guntrip adding, “..many things! Sensitivity, respect, questioning, a sense of what you want to achieve, knowing when to seek advice and experience..RSTeacher agreed that RE teachers need, “resilience – we discuss challenging topics, manage diverse individuals dealing with sensitive issues“, with other contributions listing being fearless, resilient, inspiring, adaptable, inquisitive and humble as other key qualities required. Interestingly, BGSTeachBetter also mentioned, “You have to be able to guide a discussion effectively in order to engage as many pupils as possible“, which is also valid across many other different subjects, but this is most important in RE if deep-rooted questions and issues are being explored. “I think you have to love enquiry yourself in order to I still this in your pupils.” (BGSTeachBetter). If you were speaking to someone considering becoming an RE teacher, the next question explored what would you say to someone considering a career with RE? Again, Neil McKain shared the following video.


Amjad Ali contributed, “Know how to engage young minds in areas that they have no links to at all.” whereas Aidan Gillespie asserted, “DO IT. RE poses questions that can never be answered but must always be considered. Teachers are companions of kids’ learning“. Kieron Middleton advised, “Find a religion / Philosophical idea that you are least comfortable with and learn about it. RE is about embracing diversity.” With regards to the status of RE within various schools, BGSTeachBetter suggested, “You need resilience, RE is considered by many as a subsidiary subject, you need to be able to counter this with good teaching“. Lucia Silva-Clark added, “Go for it ! But it needs a lot of dedication, patience, resilience“. The fourth question asked; What are you most proud of in your teaching of RE? A question aimed at celebrating moments and achievements within the subject. Some responses:  



  • The discussion about what would happen if we took a tardis to Gethsemane. (Jo).
  •  Most proud when I see some of my pupils share my passion for the subject and become #reteachers themselves (and one MP) – (Deborah Weston).
  • helping a few particular students over time experience academic success when they struggled to do so in other subjects (RSTeacher).
  • looking at the bigger picture and not just ‘love thy neighbour’ making x-curriculum links. Eg) humanising the Holocaust (Emma Le Neve Foster).
  • Getting Y9 students to carry their friends over croc infested waters to show meaning of selflessness *no real crocs* (Kieron Middleton).
  • Children exploring their thoughts without being apprehensive or equating talk about religion with converting to that religion (Ezzy Moon).
  • Students wanting to study RE post-A Level as I’ve ‘infected’ them with a love for rigorous academic study of religion (Andy Lewis).
  • Watching a student who has been told he was incapable of even GCSE due to SEN open A-level RE result to see grade C (RSTeacher).
  • Finishing a class knowing that my students have been engaged, challenged, made to think and they had fun doing it to (BGSTeachBetter).
  • Teaching existential questions, introducing them to great thinkers, impacting in their lives forever! (Lucia Silva-Clark).


The session progressed to ask from all that you teach what do you hope the pupils will remember? Aidan Gillespie hoped, “That the world and the people in it are are beautiful in their diversity and that they have the opportunity to experience all of it” and RSTeacher adding, “How to disagree respectfully, question mindfully and that they are valued as an individual“. Respect and to always be thinking were continued responses, but Aidan Gillespie continued, “Not to be afraid to get things ‘wrong’and that learning about others carries minor risks and amazing rewards“. Cecilia added, “I wish for my RS students to be steeped in their own convictions, but humble and tolerant of the views of others”

We had earlier spotted this tweet…

…and wondered how it could be done within an RE context. Neil McKain commented, “I’ve seen facebook profiles of Jesus and Sikh gurus #ukedchat learning can be superficial as a result sometimes“, whereas Laura Pope shared, “I have used it with A2 but made them think about which other philosophers would post on their wall.

The final question asked, “How can we ensure that teachers who are not on twitter engage with online debates about RE?Emma Davies suggested, “share own experience with colleagues and encourage to see how it informs practice; model as cpd“. Gary Henderson asked, “online is excellent however key thing is debate and discussion whether online or offline. So how do we get Ts engaged?” However, Joanne Harris concluded, “Got to also respect that some people just want to go home at the end of the day and be with their families



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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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