1. Is our school already good at RE, or is the subject a low priority for our teachers?
Across the country, primary RE is a mixed bag. Good schools will allocate it a reasonable budget and set aside sufficient lesson time. All classes gain knowledge and understanding of different religions and beliefs, learn how to disagree respectfully and develop the ability to express their own beliefs and values with increasing clarity.
Bad RE teaching comes about when there’s little or no time, money or interest. Children continue to make Diwali cards and hear about the Good Samaritan, but make poor progress otherwise. Ask yourself where you are on the spectrum of provision – and consider how you would know. Is the teaching of RE something that’s discussed at governors and curriculum meetings? Is it examined during learning walks?
2. Are our teachers confident in handling different religions and beliefs?
Many primary teachers are anxious about teaching RE. They don’t want to cause offence (this is good!), and they feel they don’t know enough about either religion in general, or a particular religion that they’re expected to teach (this needs putting right). If you were to ask your teachers to rank the subjects they feel most confident about teaching, you’ll likely find that RE, music, languages, PE and ICT usually make up the bottom five.
Try this exercise at your school, and look at what you can do to address any lack of confidence on the part of your teachers. Why not plan a day of whole-school RE professional development? Chances are you already do this for other subjects – so include RE too.
3. Do we know what we’re doing in RE – and why?
Governors will be aware that RE has to be taught in all school types, but do they know why? Invite your RE subject leader to discuss the purpose of RE with them and share examples of pupils’ work.
It’s important to carry out a curriculum audit against your local syllabus or diocesan guidance, but it’s also worth looking at whether your school has ever run an RE day, entered an RE competition, sought the RE Quality Mark or demonstrated any other signs of lively practice.
Is RE linked to any particular strengths your school might have in other areas, such as forest education, performing arts or local history?
4. What do the teachers say about RE?
Are your class teachers excited about open-ended discussion of big issues? Can they link the subject to art, music, history and/or English? Is your RE provision led by Philosophy for Children (philosophy4children.co.uk)? Or does the conversation stop at ‘RE? *gulp* Don’t ask me!’ Ask your teachers what they need to make their teaching of RE (even) better.
5. What do the pupils say about RE?
A pupil voice survey of children’s perceptions regarding RE can be very revealing and will likely make governors sit up and take notice.
Get some older pupils to run the questionnaire, analyse the results and present their findings to the governing body. What do the school’s children enjoy in RE? What do they want to find out about? What have they learned?
Did you know?
NATRE members have access to over a thousand resources, just like this one. You can download the full version of ‘10 ways governors can help RE’, plus a complimentary copy of REtoday magazine, by visiting natre.org.uk/membership/primary-re-resources.
REtoday magazine is published three times a year and provides readers with all the latest RE news, developments and reviews along with classroom ideas and activities.
A regular subscription to the magazine is one of the benefits of NATRE membership, alongside curriculum books, discounts on courses, online seminars, access to RE Advisers and more.
To get your free copy of REtoday and the Governors resource please visit natre.org.uk.