Syllabus Overview

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 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.

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

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 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.

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.