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The Development of Character

The overarching aim of formal education is to develop the character of young people and our society. Education looks to the future and implicitly asks, ‘What kind of person and community should we become?’  With the task of shaping this future it is necessary to take into account the complexity of modern society and also what it means to be a person. To aid us in this task are the resources and experiences of the past.

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Supporting the provision of religious education in school is the underlying conviction that religious traditions constitute a rich treasury of vision, practice and experience to assist the educational task. Tradition is literally the ‘handing on’ of what matters most if others and young people are to meet the challenges ahead. It does so by maintaining a clear focus on what is truly valued in life. Religious Education offers the opportunity in which the deepest values of human life are identified, shared and discussed.

The multiplicity of religions found in a great and dynamic city, such as Birmingham, offers very specific challenges and opportunities.  How should we shape the curriculum in which all can participate with enthusiasm? The experience of delivering the religious education syllabus in schools with the intention of cultivating 24 spiritual and moral dispositions brought the religions together in a common purpose and in this purpose they found mutual support in each other. The knowledge of, and understanding about, Christianity and other Faiths within the shared framework of inspiring children and young people to live well has made religious education truly engaging.

In this syllabus children and young people are seen as persons, seeking understanding, with deep feelings and emotions. They are also seen as persons who are eager to act.  Recognising that pupils are also part of a community, the syllabus aims to encourage them to contribute to schools, our society and our world and thus also to help them acquire the requisite skills to do so.

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In England and Wales religious education is a legal entitlement for all pupils in schools maintained from public funds. All Local Authorities (LA) which have the responsibility of overseeing maintained schools are also required by law to have a Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education, i.e. a SACRE. The origin of SACREs goes back to the Education Act of 1944, strengthened by the Education Reform Act 1988 and the Education Act 1996 found here.

 

 

The legally prescribed functions of SACREs are

  • To advise the Local Authority on matters connected with religious worship in all schools without a religious foundation;
  • To advise the Local Authority on matters relating to Religious Education which is to be taught in accordance with an Agreed Syllabus;
  • To consider, and decide upon, applications made by Headteachers for a ‘determination’. (A determination lifts the requirement for acts of school worship to be wholly or mainly of a Christian character);
  • To publish an annual report;
  • To require the LA to review its Agreed Syllabus; and
  • To advise the Local Authority on matters it sees fit.

As a generously-funded SACRE, Birmingham would like to share its teaching resources with other Local Authorities, their schools and teachers, as well as to make them available to the educational endeavours of Faith communities. Accordingly this website contains many useful resources some of which (e.g. schemes of work and lesson plans with their supporting material) are for purchase at a modest cost after you log in. You can also contact us to arrange to speak to, or meet with, our specialist RE adviser and to other people with relevant expertise.

If you wish to know more about the work of Birmingham SACRE you can access Birmingham SACRE's development plan, the current and past reports, meetings of minutes and a full list of SACRE members without charge. Simply Log in, select the Teaching resources section and select 'About the Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE)'

Birmingham SACRE is strongly supported by the Faith Leaders Group of Birmingham. They were formed in 2001 after 9/11 to promote good interfaith relations. There is a short film of their 10th anniversary pilgrimage (see the Faith Leaders section) in which they manifest the cohesion of faith communities in the City and a deep religious solidarity. In the film, ‘RE in Birmingham’, the City’s faith leaders speak forthrightly about the value of the 2007 Birmingham Agreed Syllabus with its focus on nurturing spiritual and moral dispositions.

Syllabus Overview

 

Aims:

The Birmingham Religious Education syllabus takes seriously the overarching aims set out in the 1988 Education Reform Act for education as a whole. These are as follows:

The curriculum for a maintained school satisfies the requirements of this section if it is a balanced and broadly based curriculum which:

  1. Promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society; and
  2. Prepares such pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities, and experiences of adult life.

In other words, the Religious Education syllabus primarily aims to develop (a) pupils and (b) society. Any study of religions must not lose sight of these stated aims.

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The requirement that the curriculum be ‘balanced and broadly based’ is addressed through the self-conscious use of faith and religious traditions to complement secular subjects in addressing the overarching educational aims of schooling. Religious Education does not claim an exclusive responsibility for any aspect of the overarching aims of the basic curriculum, i.e. Religious Education recognises that other subjects also have a responsibility for realising all of these aims. Nevertheless the underlying conviction of religious education is that religious life and traditions bring a dimension to the process of educating that is life enhancing for pupils and specifically contributes to their spiritual and moral development.

Pupils:
Pupils are viewed holistically and as being more than intellects or as receptacles of information. Five aspects of the human person are constantly kept in mind in teaching pupils. Their

  1. cognitive (thinking) capacities
  2. affective (feeling) capacities
  3. conative (willing) capacities
  4. skills and the
  5. social/communal dimension of their lives.

Society:
In the Syllabus a positive view is taken of society and hence responsibility for the quality of society’s communal life is to be encouraged in pupils. For religious education key social aspects are:

  1. the partnership with parents and
  2. the role of religious communities in reflecting and transmitting key social values
  3. the collective responsibility for cultivating social cohesion

Focus:
The delivery of the religious subject matter in the curriculum is designed to cultivate 24 dispositions taught by way of a spiral curriculum over two year cycles. These dispositions have been selected and defined by an Agreed Syllabus Conference over a period of two years with representatives from all the major religious traditions found in Birmingham.  

Teachers:
Teachers are encouraged to take professional responsibility and therefore, within certain statutory limits, are freed to select and use the material in this Syllabus from the various religious traditions. This means that whilst they must communicate the Christian tradition, they will select other material on the basis of certain prescribed principles, i.e. lesson material should take account of the family background of the children in the class, their ages, aptitudes and interests. Teachers will select lesson material and use whatever will deepen and broaden the spiritual and moral horizons of pupils, and whatever will contribute to social solidarity and cohesion in a religiously plural community.

Assessment:
The Agreed Syllabus document provides guidance on assessment but there is no statutory/legal requirement to assess pupils according to set levels. It must be remembered that some of the most important objectives in religious education are beyond the reach of any formal assessment. The reason for this is related to the nurturing of spiritual and moral dispositions which issue from the state of human inwardness. However, one must still aim to nurture these dispositions and one must still attempt to make some informed judgement about the effectiveness of teaching and pupils’ learning.

GCSE and A-Levels:
Schools may offer half or whole GCSEs or A-Level courses at the relevant key stages instead of the statutory syllabus, provided these reflect the spirit of the Birmingham Syllabus.

The 24 Dispositions

Children’s learning in this syllabus of religious education is guided by encouraging 24 dispositions, which all the major faiths saw as particularly important. Taken together, the dispositions constitute a person’s spiritual and moral character and help to depict a human ideal. The emphasis is firstly on ‘learning from faith’ because religious practices, sacred scriptures, ethics, institutions, art, music etc. were all originally devised to serve the human ideal. To benefit fully from the religious resource. Secondly, requires in-depth ‘learning about religious traditions’, which assists in the formation of pupils' judgement.

Being Imaginative and Explorative

This disposition requires lateral thinking, the capacity to see things differently, together with the capacity to see the promise and potential of the world about us in order to act well.

Religiously, it means giving due regard to, or seeking out, what is sacred and to explore, for example, what it may mean to be made in the image of the Creator or to investigate the idea of a promised land.

Appreciating Beauty

This disposition requires a deep sensitivity for the world about us, an awareness of the nature of human responses, and the capacity to make qualitative distinctions in one's actions.

Religiously, it is an awareness that in the world there is a qualitative dimension (which is thought to be given and which is indicative of transcendence i.e. it is not wholly subjective). This dimension normally evokes the human response of respect and reverence. The recognition of an aesthetic dimension in the world is made manifest by human beings through their own works of aesthetic creativity.

Expressing Joy

This disposition requires an awareness of human affective responses, in particular, that of happiness, and mastering certain expressive capacities, for example, in music, in language, in body language to share these affections with others.

Religiously, it is an acknowledgement of, and a response of life itself to, transcendence in which human beings find their fulfilment, employing music etc.

Being Thankful

This disposition requires an awareness in one's actions of relationships of dependence and of not being wholly self-sufficient and in control of our own well-being. It requires a willingness and expressive capacity to acknowledge that relationship of dependence and the good that flows from it.

Religiously, it is the awareness of being dependent on the transcendent and it is the response to the sense that, in the light of this relationship, all will be well no matter how things go.

Caring for Others, Animals and the Environment

This disposition requires an awareness of the needs of others (and other things), a feeling that these needs matter, and the will to do something about them.

Religiously, it is the sense that this is not a matter of self-interest but a divine duty laid upon human beings.

Sharing and Being Generous

This disposition arises out of an awareness that others may be dependent on us, the sense of wholeness that may come from our relationships with others, and the will to please others.

Religiously, it is the unity of creation in which the needs and joy of others are the needs and joy of the self. It is because the transcendent gives liberally that humans are impelled to do likewise. 

Being Regardful of Suffering

This disposition arises out of the affective capacity for pity, as well as out of an attention to the situation and condition of the other and the will to help or to maintain one's solidarity with the other.

Religiously, the sense of the unity of all things leads to an attention to pain and suffering so that what is endured by another is felt by the self. This unity is such that the pain and suffering touches the very core of the transcendent.

Being Merciful and Forgiving

This disposition presupposes the recognition that the unity and solidarity that exist between all people and all things are readily broken through aesthetic and moral offence. It also presupposes an acknowledgement of offence once committed and a desire for the re-establishment of unity, together with the will to bring it about despite the cost it may entail.

Religiously, there is the possibility of spiritual offence that goes beyond aesthetic and moral offence. The desire for re-union is often accompanied by an awareness of the powerlessness to bring it about. Restitution of the social and universal solidarity therefore rests on an initiating Divine mercy and a responsive human mercy and forgiveness.

Being Fair and Just

This disposition depends on a recognition of the claims of equity and of consistent reasoning, together with the will always to restore and to maintain the state of equity.

Religiously, equity is the beginning and end of a harmonious creation. Human beings are, therefore, bound to maintain and restore this original equity.

Living by Rules

This disposition presupposes that the world behaves in law-like ways and that the society on which we depend requires rules for its very functioning. Whilst it is acknowledged that the rules of nature are given (heteronomy), it is supposed that 1.the rules of society are collectively agreed and therefore binding, and 2. the rules of personal behaviour are self-imposed (autonomy). A law-abiding disposition depends on the will to live the ordered life.

Religiously, the rules that truly matter are neither heteronomous nor autonomous. They are the order and sense of our own nature and that of our world, being in effect 'God-given'.

Being Accountable and Living with Integrity

This disposition is the capacity and willingness to be answerable for one's actions, formally and informally, to others and to oneself. Integrity presupposes that one would always act in such a responsible way even if one could, or would, not be held publicly to account.

Religiously, the answerability of human beings is given a more radical turn since from the perspective of transcendence everything is transparent and no motives are hidden. The answerability to God is, therefore, deeper and more profound.

Being Temperate, Exercising Self-Discipline and Cultivating Serene Contentment

This disposition requires a good deal of self-knowledge and a mastery of the affections to ensure these affections in response to our world and the actions of others are proportionate and subject to reason.

Religiously, the unity of creation demands a deep sympathy for others and for other things, but before God, a selflessness permits an acceptance of all things no matter how things go. 

Being Modest and Listening to Others

This disposition presupposes self-knowledge and an understanding of others, together with a capacity to evaluate what each one can contribute to cultural (i.e. the world created by human beings) life. As such, it avoids false modesty on the one hand, and boastfulness on the other.

Religiously, by developing the skill of attentiveness and by de-centring from the self, it is possible to relate to the divine and to enter into a proper relationship with others.

Cultivating Inclusion, Identity and Belonging

This disposition recognises that human beings are never isolated selves but exist, and can thrive, only in relation to others, i.e. in community. This ranges from the intimate relation of two people to the relationships that constitute families, groups, civic communities, nations and world. Deliberate exclusion of another prevents the other (and, indeed, the self) from developing relationships through which they can thrive.

Religiously, a relationship to the transcendent prevents the creation of barriers since God is the God of all. Instead it promotes an 'ecological' vision of the interrelationship and interdependence of all people and all things.

Creating Unity and Harmony

This disposition recognises that different people/creatures have different interests, needs and capacities, and as such they can also frustrate one another and cause aesthetic, moral and religious offence. The disposition requires the desire and skill to restore relationships.

Religiously, the restoration is achieved through taking thought, and through processes of repentance, forgiveness and redemption.

Participating and Willing to Lead

This disposition presupposes a self-knowledge and an appreciation of what one can, and must, contribute to collective life, together with a willingness to be proactive in this.

Religiously, being a single individual before God, that is to say, being responsible to the Creator of all, implies a relationship and responsibility for the well-being of all.

Remembering Roots

This disposition recognises how the past, through its realities and promise, can shape the present and the future. It notes what the possibilities of human life have been, and hence what defines human life in the present and for the future, i.e. they define human duties, obligations and opportunities.

Religiously, from the perspective of eternity, all human beings become contemporaries and belong together to a single community.

Being Loyal and Steadfast

This disposition presupposes an understanding of the needs of others and a willingness to offer them support in the face of opposition and destructive powers.

Religiously, a confidence in the transcendent implies a resistance to the wickedness that subverts the unity of community and the world.

Being Hopeful and Visionary

This disposition might reasonably be linked to being imaginative and explorative. The attitudes of expectation and anticipation are fundamental to all major forms of religious life and contrast sharply with the mood of despair. The disposition of being hopeful should be distinguished from being fatalistic, in which everything is already determined, on the one hand, and be distinguished from a reliance on 'luck', in which people depend on chance, on the other hand.

Religiously, hope is based on the promise offered by transcendence and the power of providence to transform realities.

Being Courageous and Confident

This disposition should be contrasted with foolhardiness, on the one hand, and with cowardice, on the other. It requires a clear understanding of situations, coupled with selflessness and a commitment to the good and well-being of others.

Religiously, it is a confidence in the transcendent in which the good person understands that s/he can come to no harm no matter what happens to her/him.

Being Curious and Valuing Knowledge

This disposition arises out of a fundamental human interest, in which knowledge is valued for its own sake. Affectively, it involves a love for others and other things, just as they are, and in all their complexity. This should be linked to a determined will to discover this strange complexity.

Religiously, to love and come to understand creation is to love and understand the Creator. These are ends in themselves.

Being Open, Honest and Truthful

This disposition presupposes an understanding of others as ends in themselves and, therefore, not to be manipulated or used without their agreement. An affection for the truth and the well-being of others underwrites the desire for a clarity of meaning in any communication.

Religiously, one can relate to the transcendent only on the basis of being utterly truthful and transparent. Just as deception hides the truth from others, so deception obscures any sense of the transcendent.

Being Reflective and Self-Critical

This disposition presupposes a consciousness of the confusions of motives and the attractions and comforts of many fictions. It requires a will to eschew such comforts as false consolations and a determination to be clear about what is the case and to evaluate rightly.

Religiously, to exist before God is to anticipate the purity of understanding and the transparency of motives.

Being Silent and Attentive to, and Cultivating a Sense for, the Sacred and Transcendence

This disposition understands that through language and concepts human beings impose their own structures on the realities that confront them. This imposition secularises the realities and renders them amenable to human domination.

Attentive silence is enabling the realities to 'speak' for themselves.

Religiously, silence is a traditional method of allowing the transcendent and sacred to present itself.

What Teachers Think

The Birmingham Syllabus has been running since 2008. We visited a secondary school teacher, and an academic and primary headteacher designing the curriculum for a Sikh faith primary school, who all talk about how they use the syllabus.

Bethan Ruth, Frankley School

13 'There’s a big change with the way pupils engage with RE at Frankley now; pupils are a lot more switched on to what it means to have a faith and what it means to put that faith into practice. Because historically it was just about learning facts. Now it's about what they get out of it and what the benefits are and if any of those benefits could be applied within their own lives. So it’s a lot more about learning from religion as a result of looking at how faith has an impact in a believer’s life. I very rarely get them asking why they are learning this. It’s more about ‘this is really interesting and I want to learn more’ and ‘this is my view on it, what motivates someone to come from that view on this.'

For those teachers who aren’t specialists in RE this website will allow teachers to access easily the resources that they need. It could have any number of things that allow you to teach the lesson in a similar way to a specialist colleague. On the site you can put into it the faith, dispositions, year group that you want to target it at. If it then comes up with the resources to allow you to teach it makes it a lot easier. The range of resources available on the site are all inclusive, and any resources that are used are catalogued in your user history.

Having a site like this is going to help me prepare my lessons because I can easily access everything I need via the dispositions, the religion, the year group, I can click on and download the resources and I can get on with teaching it. And as a result I’ve noticed that pupils are interested, they are engaged, they are enlivened in what they are learning about and how they are learning about it as a result of accessing their work through the many different resources. This site will undoubtedly save me a lot of time, because a lot of time goes into planning as it does for all teachers. However, if there is somewhere I can go and I can access that information and I can print that off that is going to save me lots and lots of work.

I think the schemes of work are a good place to start for anybody coming to this new. To understand the work behind the lesson, the schemes of work are broken down, and from there teachers can begin to think how they can show how different religions look at similar themes and what they say looking at a specific issue. Those colleagues who are in schools teaching RE can see how children in Birmingham are now being taught. And see if they could adopt the practices we have of engaging pupils so that they understand what faith means.  


Gopinder Kaur and Ranjit Singh Dhanda, Nishkam Primary School

85 Gopinder, middle, and Ranjit, right, at Nishkam Primary School

Ranjit: "The happiness and fulfilment of children and their families lies at the heart of our work at the Nishkam Education Trust. We’re located in Handsworth, an inner city area of Birmingham with lots of social challenges. The Nishkam ‘campus’ began with the gurudwara, or Sikh place of worship, and now includes a community cooperative, a centre for local and global civic engagement, a nursery and new primary school. All the centres were built with tireless love and care and a huge volunteer effort. I like to think they’ve helped to bring some hope and optimism to a rundown part of the city, and can inspire similar projects in other contexts.

The golden thread which connects these centres is the practice of being ‘nishkam’, or selfless.  From this flow other values, which we can identify in our own Sikh heritage and see reflected in other traditions. So, we’re inspired by faith to make a difference to everyday life, and that means being self-reflective and engaging with others. I’ve always been passionate about education and bringing the best we can to children. It’s been wonderful to be involved in this very challenging and innovative work, particularly with the school developments."

Gopinder: "The revision of Birmingham’s Agreed Syllabus for RE was a chance for us as a grassroots organisation to play a role in shaping a shared educational agenda for the city. It was a long collaborative process, leading to the common framework of dispositions. For us it echoed an important legacy of the Sikh Gurus, who were active in interfaith engagement, respecting difference and drawing attention to shared values. So input into the new syllabus was much welcomed by Nishkam. It resonated with our efforts to look in fresh ways at our heritage, trying to draw on its core values to make a positive difference to the life we share in new and changing contexts. With the RE syllabus, it’s about making a difference to the experience of teaching and learning. It’s great to hear from teachers that it’s encouraged more conversation and engagement in the classroom. And if it helps to bring a greater sense of purpose and of shared ownership in RE, that will be a good thing."

Ranjit: "To have an officially-approved dispositions framework has really helped us in our curriculum development for the nursery and school. Alongside the Early Years Foundation Stage and National Curriculum, we took the RE dispositions as another facet, setting requirements for our curriculum as a whole (rather than limiting it to the study of RE). So, the dispositions are always on the table when we’re planning our curriculum. They extend into our teacher training and work with families. We’re also refining a framework rooted more ‘organically’ in Sikh faith heritage, to have alongside the commonly-agreed framework. Rather than preaching to children, the onus is on us as adults to create a value-rich environment around them to enable them to flourish. And that starts with the simple things, to provide love and good nourishment and, in the spirit of our school motto, to be both humble and wise – ‘man neeva, mat uchi’. It involves having faith that extraordinary things can be achieved in ordinary, mundane life."

Gopinder: "The dispositions aren’t something you can ‘teach’ as such. While you can name and discuss them, it helps to see them as part of what gets called the ‘hidden curriculum’. Funnily enough, some time ago a large framed poster of the 24 dispositions, which hangs in the nursery manager’s office, had been taken away for repair. I remember walking in and saying, ‘Oh, where have the dispositions gone?’ I liked his reply, as we looked at the blank space on the wall.  ‘The dispositions…? They’ve dissolved all around into the nursery!’"

Early Years

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Early years and foundation stage practitioners across Birmingham have embraced the 2007 syllabus enthusiastically. They found many areas in their programme where the dispositions could usefully lead the teaching and learning. At the Springfield Project, Angie King, the Head of Centre, which has an intake of mainly Muslim children, said:

“The Early Years and Foundation Stage focuses on the whole child. so it’s all about every area of a child’s life, and spirituality is a really important part of that”.

 Ranjit Singh Dhanda, Principal of The Nishkam Free School told us:

“It’s just as likely that our staff will plan from the dispositions as from the Early Years and Foundation Stage  documentation. We have copies [of the dispositions] in every classroom, the children like them. A parent visited recently and noticed that the master copy, framed on the office wall, was missing. She asked, ‘Where have the dispositions gone?’The practitioner’s answer was simple, “They are out there, in the children. They’ve dissolved all around into the nursery!’”

Early Years practitioners can use the website to map between the dispositions and the current Early Years and Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum. For example, the dispositions underpin ‘A Unique Child’ and ‘Positive Relationships’ and are central to ‘Learning and Development’.

There is an EYFS DVD film which is recorded in settings where work has started following the 2007 Agreed Syllabus. It introduces the aims and shows how the new approach to Religious Education is built into everyday practice. Whilst the provision of Religious Education is not a legal requirement in the early years as it is for 5-18 year olds in school, the film demonstrates how practitioners and leaders find the syllabus useful both during planning and in reflecting on children’s activities.

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Zahida Hussain, Headteacher  of the Al-Furqan primary school and a member of Birmingham SACRE summed up what these materials mean for many Early Years and Foundation Stage practitioners, when she said:

“It is very important for children in the foundation stage to begin to be exposed to faith. By ‘learning from faith’ they begin to understand who they are, and the community in which they live, both of which help their personal development.”

Primary

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Perhaps the greatest advantage to busy, non-specialist, teachers in primary schools is that the syllabus offers access to schemes of work and a wealth of tried and tested lesson plans with associated lesson resources. These resources include films, stories, on-line games and sheets to photocopy. For many lessons, there are alternative starting points that might appeal to teachers in schools where the majority of children are other than Christian. There is a planning tool that coordinators or teachers can use including a pre-determined route that will ensure that children cover the whole syllabus during their primary school phase.

Colette Arthur from Somerville Primary School, a school with an intake of mainly Muslim children, told us:

“Previously Religious Education was very factually based whereas now it has changed with children really exploring their own faith and other faiths”

Samreena Kamran, the RE Coordinator at the same school commented:

“The way we are planning, and using the Syllabus is very much more engaging for teachers; before it seemed it was just me saying to teachers this is what you are to do and how you will do it. Now, teachers understand why and how they can deliver their lessons more deeply in terms of religion.”

There is a Continuing Professional Development film in the website, which was recorded in two contrasting schools, one inner and one outer city. It introduces the aims of the syllabus and shows how Religious Education is built into everyday practice of schools.

Claire Finkel, the RE Coordinator at Glenmead Primary School believes that the dispositions have brought Religious Education into line with everything else that is happening in primary schools. She said:

“It’s about my life, our lives in a multicultural society. It makes Religious Education relevant and makes children understand it against what is happening now.”

Her headteacher, Maggie Jones, expanded:

“In the past [teaching about religion] caused us some problems. Most of our pupils are either of no faith or from a broadly Christian background, so the approach through the dispositions frees us to do more engaging work. We have found that parents welcome the [new] syllabus also”.

Secondary

The provided units of work will appeal to specialist teachers, as well as to the many others who teach Religious Education at KS3. Each unit has been prepared and tested by practising teachers. The half termly schemes of work unpack the relevant dispositions, religious traditions and religious content. The units have a series of detailed lesson plans and lesson resources. These include films specially produced to illustrate the dispositions as cultivated within the faith communities of Birmingham.

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Gurdeep Ubhie, a teacher at Queensbridge School told us:

“Religious Education using the syllabus as a starting point is a lot more active. I tend to plan in drama and discussion and encourage the students to debate… and put forward their opinions. Learning from faith means that you can start with the students and think about their experiences… rather than the starting point being a body of information”.

There is a Continuing Professional Development film which was recorded in two contrasting schools, one with a majority Muslim population and one from a school in Birmingham’s outer ring suburbs. It introduces the aims of the syllabus and gives a flavour of the lessons that are planned from the syllabus.

A Key Stage 3 student from Frankley School told us:

“When we’re going through the city, we have a good understanding of the different communities and we don’t judge them with what we see but what we learn about them and the way they live their lives. I think [the syllabus] will help you integrate into society and it will give you an understanding of what religion means."

His Religious Education teacher, Bethan Ruth, commented:

I would definitely say that the dispositions-based syllabus is working extremely well with pupils here; they are skills every human being should have in their life. I believe as an RE teacher I have the power to influence and challenge children… and hopefully develop them as whole human beings: spiritually, morally, socially, culturally”.

Parents, Governors & SACREs

This film is designed for parents and gives an overview of the Birmingham Syllabus and parents’ views and endorsements, as well as the endorsements from the Chief Education Officer and the Cabinet Member responsible for Education in this City.

Governors may find the overview useful as a starting point for devising their policies pertaining to Religious Education and Collective Worship in their school. Governors need to understand that Religious Education is required to be offered in school by law and together with the National Curriculum it is part of the Basic Curriculum which every school must deliver in England. The full statutory agreed syllabus, available on this site, gives formal directions for Religious Education for the City of Birmingham. It includes statements of purpose, policy, method, content and intended outcomes which could be adopted by other SACREs. A main purpose of the syllabus is to nurture and educate children. It seeks to help them to grow up to live a fulfilled life and to develop the values that will sustain them and the community in which they live.

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The emphasis of this syllabus is on what religious traditions have to offer children and young people in the process of learning to live well. By registering on the website there is access to a free route to exemplars that allows you to review planning documents, a lesson plan and the quality of the resources that this syllabus provides. Click on primary or secondary to follow this function. To understand more deeply the policies and principles informing this syllabus click on Parents, Governors & SACREs. Birmingham offers a service to help schools plan and deliver Religious Education. It offers a second service for collective worship in schools. Click contact for details of these services with an indication of possible charges. Finally, for parents and governors, if there are issues of conscience parents, guardians or carers may legally withdraw their child from the education envisaged here. This is a serious step and we would strongly urge that parents are given every opportunity to discuss their concerns in confidence with the headteacher. Again, additional information and advice is available by contacting  Birmingham SACRE.

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Councillor Les Lawrence, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and families on Birmingham City Council says, “My message to parents is to allow your youngster to engage with the syllabus. It will bring a body of knowledge, a body of understanding and an appreciation that I would argue no other curriculum subject can do.”

Faith Leaders & Politicians

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Faith leaders from across the UK and beyond have become interested in Birmingham’s disposition-led approach to Religious Education with its emphasis on ‘learning from faith’. Birmingham’s collective work on the Agreed Syllabus has been a catalyst in bringing together faith leaders and faith communities from across the city, in the common task of building the character of young people and of our society. As Bhai Sahib Bhai Dr. Mohinder Singh, www.ncauk.org , the Sikh representative on the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group, points out,

It’s wonderful that we’ve got a piece of work that brings out the commonalities of all faiths.”

Reflecting on the construction of the syllabus, Bishop David Urquhart, www.birmingham.anglican.org, told us,

“The changes in the syllabus have been brought about because we brought all the faiths together in a way that’s never been undertaken or achieved in the past and that shows you the amazing extent to which we have shared values”.

The Most Rev. Vincent Nichols, now the Archbishop of Westminster, www.rcdow.org.uk, added,

“One of the features of this RE syllabus is the need to learn about faiths as they are lived, and therefore the contribution that leaders of faiths can make is central to it”

In the film, RE in Birmingham, leaders of each of the faith communities endorse the syllabus. Faith leaders from beyond the city will get a glimpse of how the syllabus is delivered in schools and into how the dispositions are evident in everyday situations across faith communities.

Abdul Rashid, www.centralmosque.org.uk, a Muslim representative on the Faith Leaders Group says,

“Muslim scholars have contributed to the preparation of the syllabus. I have no doubt at all that all Muslim scholars and Muslim leaders will agree with it.”

REVD DR Toby Howarth, now Secretary for Inter Religious Affairs for the Church Of England, www.archbishopofcanterbury.org, emphasises,

“It’s very clear to me that if you don’t know about faiths in this day and age, you can’t understand the world we live in. It’s not just about … negative stuff, but also positive stuff. How can you understand Nelson Mandela or Mother Teresa or some of the other heroes of our age if you don’t understand faith? What drives these people is the dispositions and, if you understand that, you’re much better equipped to cope with the world.”

SACRE relies extensively on the Birmingham's Faith Leaders Group in building good interfaith relations and in supporting Religious Education. A manifestation of this religious co-operation may be found in their joint pilgrimage around the City as they celebrated 10 years' worth of work improving community cohesion in the city. See the Faith leaders walk film

Training

We provide services to support Initial Teacher Training and Continuing Professional Development. We’re committed to excellent classroom practice. This section of the website hosts films that will support initial teacher training (ITT) and continuing professional development (CPD). The films show how the Birmingham Syllabus looks in practice, to learners and their teachers. Each film features an entire lesson with little editing. In both films, you will see how children are totally engaged and motivated by this new approach.

 The films are free for all to use, but we’d encourage you to sign in and purchase the resources that are featured in the lessons to make best use of the experience.

There a second version of the film is provided where a discussion panel reviews the lesson, bringing out teaching and assessment points. A third version (to be released spring 2012) looks at the lesson from the point of view of initial teacher trainers, and a fourth (to be released spring 2012) will help faith leaders in communities connect with how RE is taught in Birmingham Schools.

The primary film features a year 3 class and the disposition ‘Participating and Willing to Lead’.  The secondary film features a year 9 class and looks at ‘Being Accountable and Living with Integrity’


Contact Us

For feedback, comments or questions, please contact the following people:

Barry Henley (Chair, SACRE & Agreed Syllabus Conference)
email: barry.henley@birmingham.gov.uk

Simone Whitehouse (Religious Education Adviser)
email: simone.whitehouse@servicesforeducation.co.uk

SACRE (Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education)
Learning and Assessment Service,
Warwick House,

10 Edward Street,
Birmingham,
B1 2RA
Telephone: 0121 3669910

Content of this web site:
Marius Felderhof (Drafting Secretary, Agreed Syllabus Conference)
email: m.c.felderhof@bham.ac.uk

Alternatively, please complete this form and click on 'Submit'.
Thank you.

News

  • In a recent letter (July 2014) to schools and academies Sir Michael Wilshaw (Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector) writes of the importance of a broad and balanced education to promote the development of pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) values through developing respect for people of other faiths, cultures and lifestyles.

     

    Our syllabus, teaching through 24 dispositions which the nine faiths groups in the city of Birmingham have agreed enables the nurturing of this balance and promotion of values.

     

  • Birmingham SACRE is keen to support schools and academies or groups of schools and academies in developing and enhancing Religious Education provision.

    If you or your colleagues have any ideas with how to support RE in this manner through the development of lesson materials, pupil projects,  activities or competitions, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

    For more information or to email you ideas get in touch with Simone Whitehouse: simone.whitehouse@servicesforeducation.co.uk

     

  • The Faith Encounter Programme, Birmingham, launches a new DVD this month 'VISITING FAITHS' . Six films visit the most inspiring places of worship in the West Midlands through the eyes of a faith guide. Designed for KS2-3, their lively presentation will inspire high quality learning and teaching, or form the backbone for collective worship. Equally, they are useful preparation for an actual visit.  The films visit Hockley Buddhist Vihara, C of E Cathedral, Progressive Synagogue, Balaji Temple, Central Mosque and Nishkam Gurudwara. Running time 10mins x 6 films.

  • Unfortunately as from 1st February 2014 we are no longer able to provide free of charge to Birmingham Schools the Faith Makes a Difference curriculum resources, films, lessons, games and additional material. With this in mind we would urge you to consider downloading the resources you need as soon as possible. With effect from 1st February standard costs will apply for all schools and Faith Makes a Difference users.

     

  • 20th November 2013

    To be held at NATRE headquarters, 1020 Bristol Road, Selly Oak, Birmingham, B29 6LB

    Topic: Discuss the recent OFSTED report for RE and the new subject review from the RE council.

    A chance to meet other teachers of RE, to share ideas and gain support

    Refreshments from 4:30

    Start from 4:45

    Finish by 6:00

  •  

    For more information on the Award please visit Accord’s website at http://accordcoalition.org.uk/accord-award-2014. The deadline for entries is Sunday December 8th, and prizes will be awarded in the New Year.

     

    The Award is open to all schools and is given to those that do most to advance these aims within their own particular setting (geographical, demographic and legal).

  • The Web gallery for the previous competitions is at: http://www.natre.org.uk/spiritedarts   We recommend pupils look at the gallery to see what inspires them – reviewing the gallery and choosing their own favourites is a great homework.

  • This is a new campaign initiated by the REC which aims to bring together all who are concerned about RE to speak with a united voice on a single aim: that every young person in every school should have access to good quality RE. The website has some straightforward key messages and a sign-up facility which is intended to demonstrate to politicians and others the breadth of support for RE as an essential part of every pupil's education.

  • The Young Ambassadors for RE scheme has now been launched as a pilot venture. An information leaflet for teachers and another for students, along with an application form, are available on the REC website http://www.religiouseducationcouncil.org/mailinglist/lt.php?id=ZU5QAlVXCAVEUQVJAFVf

     

  • You are invited to a FREE Religious Education professional development event. The event for primary and secondary teachers will take place on 11th March 2013 from 4pm to 6pm at King Edwards' High School for Girls, Edgbaston Park Road, Birmingham, B15 2UB.