In school, we learn History and, should we wish, we transfer to History A Level and perhaps a degree in History. If Geography is what really floats your boat, then a Geography degree could be in your future. Pick an element of Science – physics, biology or chemistry – and you can find numerous degrees focused on a particular strand of that science. If you enjoy RE at school however, what degree subjects are available to you? The majority of them include the word theology or even philosophy. RE is perhaps the only multidisciplinary subject striving to seek a balance between theology, sociology and philosophy.
The problem of defining RE and its purpose is one of the key factors that has contributed to the poor picture of RE in England and there does seem to be a broad agreement that RE is in crisis. Reports such as ‘Making a Difference’ (Church of England Archbishops’ Council Education Division, 2014), ‘Realising the potential’ (OFSTED, 2013), RE for REal (Dinham and Shaw, 2015) and ‘A new settlement: religion and belief in schools’ (Clarke and Woodhead, 2015) all highlight the confusion over the purpose of RE and the patchiness of provision, made greater by schools moving out of local authority control. The current commission on RE’s interim report ‘Religious Education for all’ (RE Council, 2017) insists that unless something is done to rectify the current situation, RE “faces a perilous future” (RE Council, 2017).
What all these reports do agree on is that enabling children to develop religious literacy is the foundation of good RE. So how does all of this information affect the school I work in and its learners? What can I do to improve teaching and learning in RE at my school? How can I ensure my colleagues understand what religious literacy is and empower the teachers to deliver clear, focused RE which develops religiously literate learners?