Lisa Fenton is RE advisory teacher for the Diocese of Blackburn. She feels passionately about RE - as you will see from her article!
In the results-focused world of education, how do we ensure that we are teaching the whole child and truly preparing them for life?
Not so long ago, we used to be able to spend time talking with children, looking at things that they brought into school, and responding to their questions. Now we speak quickly, tell them to put things away and hurry to ensure we have an hour for literacy, an hour for numeracy, and time to teach them everything they need to know for their SATs.
When do we give time to unlock the creativity in children?
A person needs to be creative as well as intellectual in order to survive in life!
I strongly believe that RE offers the time and space to be spontaneous and creative.
In RE we can: paint, dance, act, make music, build models; write poems, letters, newspapers, diaries, and comic strips; look at artefacts, posters and pictures; ask questions, explore, empathise, research and analyse.
What would have more impact on a child: asking them to rewrite the story of the feeding of the 5000 and draw a nice picture, or asking them to write a letter in which the first word was 'Wow!', imagining that they were the little boy who gave Jesus his picnic?
Would a child remember the story of creation better if they were given the task of filling in the missing blanks on a worksheet, or if they were asked to create dance and music to tell this story?
In the schools I visit where a high priority is placed on the teaching of creative RE, there is a special buzz from both the children and the staff. There are RE displays in every classroom, models of Torah scrolls, giant 2D Goliaths fixed to the wall, incredibly profound poetry written in whole class big books, photographs of visits and visitors, hot seating of Biblical characters and worksheets that ask the children to think about the situations in the stories, the characters and their feelings.
I hope that this gives you some food for thought. What happens in the RE lessons in your school? Do you deliver the objective of knowledge and then move on, or do you unlock the creativity in yourselves and in the children in your care?