*NEW* Alternative A Level Proposal

UPDATE: We sent this to the DfE and just received a reply confirming that they are reviewing the alternative proposal and MAY wish to discuss it further in the coming days.  Fingers crossed!  Well done everybody, the RS community is indomitable! [7pm, 11th December 2014]


 

 

Following on from discussions with colleagues up and down the country, particularly with the many who gave up their Christmas shopping time to come to Croydon on Saturday, we have produced this alternative proposal for AS and A Level Religious Studies.

The alternative proposal addresses many of the concerns which have been voiced about the existing proposals, and ensures…

  • Real academic rigour, opportunities for stretch and challenge – which existing proposal lacks!
  •  Clear relevance to the academic study of religion today, taking into account the content of a wide range of leading TRS degree courses and popular related courses chosen by students with RS A Level – current A Level often lacks this and existing proposal only considers narrow range of TRS courses.
  •  Less potential overlap with content and skills provided by AS and A Level Philosophy, without stripping RS of its conceptual content and core skills in critical analysis, evaluation and argument – current A Level has large degree of overlap with Philosophy and existing proposal has relatively little conceptual challenge & opportunity to build skills in critical analysis & evaluation.
  •  Progression from GCSE studies and to undergraduate courses in Religious Studies, in terms of knowledge, understanding and skills. A Level course builds on knowledge and understanding of the history, beliefs and practices of two religious traditions at GCSE Level, and does not effectively insist that students study the same aspects of one of these religions again at AS Level.  Current GCSE and A Level often overlap, as will existing proposals – we need breadth, not narrowness of any character.
  •  Sensible rationale for topics specified at AS and at A Level enabling teachers to draw out synoptic links effectively – existing proposal ill-thought-out.
  •  Breadth of study, reflective of the distinctive multifaceted nature of the subject in universities; much less duplication of content than in DfE proposals or in current specifications.
  •  Real opportunity for boards and schools to offer distinctive specifications and courses – taking advantage of particular interests and expertise, facilitating inspirational, passionate teaching and offering a foretaste of university – without multiplying options and routes through the subject and causing difficulties for standardization.  Existing proposal overly prescriptive and denies boards and schools such opportunities.
  •  That the requirement to study more than one religion at GCSE level is built on, making it much less likely that schools will only explore a single religious perspective at A Level than in DfE proposals or existing specifications.
  •  Appeal for students, including those of differing academic abilities, religious or non-religious backgrounds, other A Level choices and ambitions. Numbers are necessary to make RS AS and A Level options sustainable in many schools and colleges and colleagues feel that specifications based on this alternative proposal would be much easier to market than those based on DfE proposal… though admittedly not as marketable as existing specifications.
  •  The ability for most existing teachers of A Level to teach the new A Level within their areas of subject expertise (either in terms of degree content or previous A Level teaching experience), ensuring a good learning experience for most students. The Sutton Trust recently confirmed that teacher expertise is THE factor influencing learning outcomes, so it would be a pity if reforms led to fewer students having a teacher who had studied the subject-matter at degree level, or even A Level for that matter, as existing proposals surely would. 

Importantly, the alternative proposal addresses the DfE’s priorities in terms of

  • adding rigour, stretch and challenge
  • ensuring that students are well prepared for TRS at university,
  • making the qualification distinctive from Philosophy, reducing overlap in terms of content and ensuring that all topics are fully relevant to the study of religion.
  • simplifying the number of options and routes through the subject, making it easier to standardize and resist grade inflation

To be clear, maintaining the status quo is simply not an option going forward; we have to make some tough choices or they will be made for us in a way which does not consider the unique character of our subject, the practicalities we face or the needs of the full range of students.  Surely it is better to focus on what is popular and marketable, what students really value, what is academically rigorous and packed with HOT skills, rather than leading on what only a few are going to want to study or be equipped to teach, imparting an arbitrary body of knowledge according to a largely discredited ideological approach when doing so will not even fulfill the stated aims of doing so? Surely it is better to build on areas in which most teachers have solid expertise, real enthusiasm and tried-and-tested resources than to push the vast majority into open water and watch students’ learning outcomes suffer for years as we play catch up?

 

 


 

50 senior teachers of A Level Religious Studies have already signed their names to this alternative proposal, since it was launched on 8th December.  We are hoping to add to their number before presenting this to the DfE before their deadline of 29th December.

If, after reading the details below, you would like to join us please e-mail bespoke@candleconferences.com, as soon as possible…

Please give your full name, job-title, school and address and any other relevant details (e.g. examiner, author, years of experience) if you would like to become a signatory and consider referring to this proposal in your individual response to the DfE.  (It will be clearly stated on the proposal that signatories are signing as individuals and not on behalf of their employers)

Scroll down for the details…


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WHAT ARE WE PROPOSING?

Outline

  Philosophy of Religion (40% of AS, 30% of A) Religious Ethics (40% of AS, 30% of A) Focussed Textual Studies (20% of AS, 10% of A) Investigation(20% of A Level)
AS Level Issues in Philosophy of Religion(40% AS, 20% A)

  • Faith & Reason
  • Arguments for the Existence of God
  • Contemporary Challenges to Belief

At least 1 religious and 1 non religious perspective – could be ANY major religion

Religious Ethics in the Modern World(40% AS, 20% A)

  • God & Good
  • Religious Decision Making
  • Ethics in the Modern World

At least 1 religious and 1 non religious perspective – could be any major religion

Focused Textual Study [specified OT/NT text](20% AS, 10% A)

  • Origins
  • Development

Biblical text only (critical study of other texts too problematic) but exploring Jewish and/or Christian responses.

A Level Further Studies in the Philosophy of Religion, Religious Ethics and Textual Studies (A Level, 30% – 10, 10 and 10) Investigation (A Level, 20%)EITHERInvestigation of the ideas of one specified scholar related to Philosophy of Religion, Ethics or Textual Studies (could represent any religion or a non-religious perspective)

 

OR

Investigation of Religion in the Modern World (focusing on 2 different religions)

Nature of God

  • Perspectives
  • Implications
  • Religious Language and relevance for beliefs about God, faith, ethics and textual authority

At least 1 religious and 1 non religious perspective – could be ANY major religion

Meta-ethics

  • The rise of Relativism
  • Responses from religion & Human Rights
  • Detailed Exploration of major meta-ethical issue such as freedom or conscience & relevance for beliefs about God, faith and textual authority

At least 1 religious and 1 non religious perspective – could be any major religion

Interpretation

  • 3 theological themes
  • Different uses and interpretations of text
  • Issue of truth in texts & relevance for beliefs about God, faith, ethics and textual authority

Biblical text only (critical study of other texts too problematic) but exploring Jewish and/or Christian responses and Islamic uses for Biblical texts.

 

To be clear, this proposal is predicated on students having studied two religions phenomenologically at GCSE level, as the DfE is currently proposing, though we would like to see the study of how religions respond to contemporary challenges, how they use texts and other sources of authority to guide decision making, properly integrated into the study of religions at GCSE level, as it is not at present.

 


 

In detail…

 

ALTERNATIVE GCE AS and A level subject content for Religious Studies

 

Introduction

  1. AS and A level subject content sets out the knowledge and understanding common to all AS and A level specifications in a given subject.
  2. It provides the framework within which the awarding organisation creates the detail of the specification.

 

Aims and objectives

  1. AS and A level specifications in religious studies must encourage students to:
  • foster their interest in the rigorous study of religion and belief and relate it to the wider world
  • acquire knowledge, understanding and skills appropriate to the specialist study of religion
  • develop an appreciation of religious thought and its contribution to the individual, communities and society
  • adopt an enquiring, critical, and reflective approach to the study of religion
  • reflect on and develop their own values, opinions and attitudes in the light of their study

 

Subject content

  1. This section sets out the minimum range of content for AS and A level specifications in religious studies.
  2. AS and A level specifications in religious studies should build on the requirements for religious studies in earlier key stages including the knowledge and understanding established at key stage 4 through GCSE qualifications and at key stage 2 and key stage 3 through statutory Religious Education. It is expected that schools will build on student knowledge and understanding of the origins, beliefs and practices of two religions studied in depth at GCSE level as well as the more general appreciation students have gained of other major religious traditions through RE through their choice of religions to explore in the AS and A Level course.
  3. Where different knowledge, understanding and/or skills are required to ensure students studying at A level go into greater depth and/or breadth than AS, this is specified.
  4. Where the focus of this area of study is a particular group or denomination within a religion rather than the religion more generally, specifications must place this study in the context of the broader religious tradition to which it belongs.

 

Knowledge, understanding and skills

  1. Religious studies specifications at AS and A level must require students to demonstrate knowledge, understanding and skills through the following strands of teaching:

At AS and A level this includes the study of:

  • Issues in the Philosophy of Religion (40% AS, 20% A)
  • Religious Ethics in the Modern World (40% AS, 20% A)
  • Focussed Textual Studies (20% AS, 10% A )

In addition at A level this includes:

  • Further studies in the Philosophy of Religion, Religious Ethics and Textual Study (30%)
  • Investigation (20%)

 

Issues in the Philosophy of Religion

9. At AS and A level this includes the study of:

  • Faith and Reason: Evaluation of at least three different perspectives on the relationship between faith and reason including at least one Propositional approach and one Non-Propositional or Fideist approach, which may be drawn from within one religious tradition or two different traditions. Students should also evaluate a non-religious perspective on the nature of faith and its relationship with reason.
  • Arguments for God’s Existence: At least three distinct arguments should be evaluated, each in relation to at least two scholars, and all from within a single religious tradition. For each argument three distinct criticisms relating to three different scholars, religious or non-religious, should be considered. In addition, students should consider the extent to which different forms of religious experience might constitute an argument for or pointer to God’s existence.
  • Contemporary challenges to belief: At least two substantial challenges to religious belief and at least one philosophical and one theological response to each should be explored and evaluated.  Responses may be drawn from within one tradition or from two different traditions. Examples of suitable challenges include evil & suffering and science.

10. Issues in the Philosophy of Religion may be studied from the perspective(s) of one or more than one religious and one non-religious perspective.

 

Religion and Ethics in the Modern World

11. At AS and A Level this includes study of:

  • God & Good. Divine Command Ethics. The Euthyphro Dilemma.  Students should consider the implications of seeing God as the source of morality for believers’ concept of God and beliefs about, for examples, the existence of evil & suffering and evolution.
  • Religious decision making. Advantages and disadvantages of rooting religious ethics in texts, including problems of selection, interpretation and/or translation. An detailed evaluation of a philosophical approach to moral decision making developed within a religious tradition, such as Natural Law. An evaluation of how both texts and the philosophical approach to decision making have been used to guide decision making about one major contemporary issue, including consideration of similarities as well as differences in the guidance offered.  The extent to which groups within the tradition studied have adopted a more textual or more philosophical approach and if and how this might explain diversity within the tradition.
  • Ethics in the Modern World: Exploration of three different non-religious philosophical approaches to making moral decisions representing the range of deontological, consequentialist and virtue approaches; focussing on and evaluating the work of one scholar in depth in each case. Consideration of the extent to which the non-religious approaches studied uphold the existence of a common human nature and how they account for this if they do.  An evaluation of how the three secular approaches would respond to three different and distinct contemporary issues, such as war, the environment and genetic engineering or business, assisted dying and animal testing, in each case compared and contrasted with the approach of the religious tradition studied above, both in terms of the textual approach and the philosophical approach.

12. Religion and Ethics in the Modern World must be studied from the perspective of one appropriate religious perspective and a non-religious perspective.

 

Focused Textual Studies

13. Specifications should prescribe the study of clearly referenced texts from either the New Testament or the Old Testament / Hebrew Scriptures in an appropriate English translation. A whole text or an extended extract from a text may be specified, not an anthology of short extracts. Taken as a whole, the specified text must be sufficient and appropriate for the following topics, and topics specified later at A Level only, to be studied effectively.

14. Decisions about the quantity of text required for study must take account of the level of challenge posed by the comprehension of the text.

15. At AS and A Levels textual study must include:

  • Origins: a selected text or substantial passage in translation from either the Old Testament / Hebrew Scriptures or the New Testament, examining the origin, social and historical context of the text or passage, theories about its authorship, intended audience, dating, development and transmission, including issues arising from translation.
  • Development: How the selected text has been used to shape Jewish and/or Christian moral decision making and how it has influenced beliefs about either the nature and existence of God or the nature of faith and its relationship with reason. Modern Critical Scholarship, including scientific and historical-critical challenges to the authority of the text and insights from at least two different forms of textual criticism such as Form Criticism, Redaction Criticism or Narrative Criticism as to the historicity of the text and how it should be interpretated. How Jewish and/or Christian groups have responded to the development of Modern Critical Scholarship and how their use and interpretation of texts has or has not been affected by it.

 

16. At A Level students must also engage in:

Further studies in the Philosophy of Religion, Religion and Ethics in the Modern World and Textual Studies…

The Nature of God:

  • At least three different religious perspectives on the nature of God, which could come from within one tradition or from different traditions and should encompass perspectives grounded in revelation, sacred texts and philosophy.
  • Exploration of implications following from these different perspectives for beliefs about at least two areas, for examples textual authority, miracles, life after death or prayer.
  • Consideration of how religious language might or might not be used to describe and/or understand God’s nature, how this relates to different perspectives on the nature of God, implications of holding different views about religious language for the meaning, interpretation and use of religious texts and using texts as a guide to moral decision making.

Meta-Ethics:

  • Consideration of verificationism, falsificationism and “language games” theory. The challenges of moral and cultural relativism to the meaningfulness of moral statements and the extent to which practices such as FGM or sexual promiscuity can be said to be wrong.
  • Exploration and evaluation of how one religion has responded to the challenges of relativism and postmodernism, including consideration of diversity within the religion, the extent to which groups now engage with philosophy and/or science and the existence of different ideas about the nature and reality of God and the truth of religious beliefs.  The development of Human Rights as a remedy for relativism, consideration of the possible foundations of human rights and evaluation of the extent to which they can succeed in combating relativism and its consequences.
  • An exploration of major meta-ethical issue of real relevance to religious believers, such as freedom or conscience, considering religious and non-religious perspectives, scholarly insights, textual insights and how the issue relates to the lives of believers and non-believers today, particularly in relation to beliefs about the nature of God, religious authorities, textual authority and national laws.

Interpretation:

  • Exploration of at least three major theological themes in the text studied above and how they relate to religious beliefs and practices today.
  • Consideration of how the text has been interpreted and used by Jewish or Christian groups over time and today, including the existence of other interpretations and uses of the text from another religious tradition, such as Islam.
  • The nature of truth in relation to the study of religious texts. The extent to which and how texts reveal truth about God and morality.

 

17. Further studies in the Philosophy of Religion, Religion and Ethics in the Modern World and Textual Studies can be undertaken from the perspective of one or more than one religious tradition.

 

Investigation

18. At A level students must also conduct a detailed, directed investigation into…

EITHER

The thought of one major scholar.  Students should investigate the way in which the ideas of the scholar have contributed to understanding of a specified issue in the Philosophy of Religion, Religious Ethics or Textual Study.

  • Specifications should prescribe a list of acceptable scholars to investigate and indicate for each, clearly referenced primary texts (in translation, if appropriate) that would be an appropriate starting point for students’ investigations.For examples of some appropriate scholars, the thought of Al Ghazali contributed substantially to the understanding of the relationship between Faith and Reason, Simone Weil contributed substantially to the understanding of the problem of suffering, Dietrich Bonhoeffer contributed substantially to the understanding of Christian Ethics and Rudolph Bultmann contributed substantially to our understanding of New Testament texts.
  • Students should receive appropriate teaching, should be directed towards specified primary reading (including that specified by the examination board) and guided in beginning their independent research, though their research must be entirely independent after questions are released and teachers should not mark any drafts or plans.
  • Each student should keep a file of notes and other suitable evidence of teaching and research, including any and all marked course assignments and/or essays, which should be held, securely by the school, until results are announced.
  • Examination Boards will release questions no earlier than 1st May in the year in which the qualification is to be sat. Questions should be unstructured, appropriate for an extended essay and designed to promote analysis, critical evaluation and reflection on what has been learned throughout the course as well as during the independent investigation. Students will be required to answer the set question under full examination conditions, without access to notes or other preparation documents. Scripts will be assessed by the Examination Board in accordance with the relevant attainment objectives.

OR

Religion in the Modern World. Students should investigate the role and nature of Religion in the modern world, focusing on any two major traditions.

  • Specifications should prescribe a list of scholars and a range of appropriate primary texts that should provide a starting-point for the investigation into Religion in the Modern World from the perspective of each of the major world religions and from non-religious perspectives.
  • With the teacher, students should explore the challenge of diversity within the religious traditions, where and how this diversity arose and responses to diversity, building on knowledge and understanding gained through other parts of the A Level course. The growth of extremism, literalism and/or fundamentalism within each tradition (and responses) should be a particular focus. They should also consider at least one recent or current inter-faith conflict involving one or both of the traditions and at least two instances of inter-faith dialogue.  Attention should also be given to the extent to which religions contribute to the development of a sense of personal and social responsibility and purpose, to the development of values and a sense of personal and social identity.  Students should be directed towards appropriate primary reading, including that specified by the examination board, and guided in beginning their independent research, though their research must be entirely independent after questions are released and teachers should not mark any drafts or plans.
  • Each student should keep a file of notes and other suitable evidence of teaching and research, including any and all marked course assignments and/or essays, which should be held, securely by the school, until results are announced.
  • Examination Boards should specify an appropriate, related issue and question to focus a period of entirely independent investigation no earlier than 1st May in the year of assessment.  Appropriate issues could include such as how the religions studied have responded to the changing role of women or globalization.  Questions should be unstructured, appropriate for an extended essay and designed to promote analysis, critical evaluation and reflection on what has been learned throughout the course as well as during the independent investigation. Students will be required to answer the set question under full examination conditions, without access to notes or other preparation documents. Scripts will be assessed by the Examination Board in accordance with the relevant attainment objectives.

 

19. Examination boards should not produce, commission or endorse the production of, anthologies or textbooks designed to facilitate students’ investigations, as this would negate the purpose of the investigation and reduce its possible effectiveness in developing skills appropriate to the specialized study of Religion at undergraduate level. Thought should, however, be given to the availability of appropriate resources when choosing scholars to specify.

 

20. All AS and A level specifications in religious studies must require students to acquire and develop knowledge and a critical understanding of:

  • the nature of faith and its relationship with reason
  • the different reasons people have for faith
  • major challenges to faith and different ways in which believers have responded to them
  • ways in which religious beliefs are expressed in the lives of individuals, communities and societies, including through moral decision making and veneration of sacred texts.
  • how religious texts and other sources of authority may be interpreted and applied in different ways
  • the cause, nature and significance of similarities and differences in religious thought, belief and practice within and/or between religion(s)

21. In addition A level specifications in religious studies must require students to demonstrate critical awareness of:

  • connections between all the areas of study, as set out above
  • different theories of language, the extent to which and how it can communicate meaningfully about God and Morality and the significance of this for religious beliefs, including beliefs about the authority of texts
  • the challenges of relativism and postmodernism, how they have arisen, their significance for religious and non-religious people today, religious and non-religious attempts to address these challenges, including Human Rights.

 

22. GCE AS and A level specifications in religious studies must require students to:

  • demonstrate their ability to: reflect on, select and apply specified knowledge
  • engage in debate in a way that is respectful of the right of others to hold a different view
  • construct well informed and reasoned arguments substantiated by relevant evidence
  • identify, investigate and critically analyse concepts, questions, arguments, ideas and issues arising from all areas of study
  • understand, interpret and evaluate critically religious concepts, beliefs and arguments, texts and other sources
  • present responses to questions which are clear and coherent
  • use specialist language and terminology appropriately

23. In addition, A level specifications in religious studies will require students to demonstrate their ability to:

  • critically analyse and evaluate the views, ideas and arguments of EITHER a specified scholar in significant depth, whose work relates to issues studied and will extend knowledge, understanding and appreciation of connections between areas of study OR the views, ideas and arguments of a range of scholar in relation to the in-depth investigation of a broad topic which relates all areas of study.
  • reflect on the significance of scholarly views, ideas and arguments in relation to the lives of believers, for the development of religious communities and for the students’ own understanding of the subject.
  • engage with religious texts and scholarly writings directly, becoming familiar with different written styles and being able to understand ideas, arguments and concepts being presented in this way
  • conduct independent research, using a range of different resources to acquire detailed knowledge and understanding of a focused topic, synthesise and apply knowledge and understanding to a given question.
  • appreciate the nature of connections between the various elements of their course of study and develop breadth and depth in their understanding of the connections between the knowledge, understanding and skills set out in the specification as a whole.

 


 

 

50 senior teachers of A Level Relgious Studies have already signed their names to this alternative proposal.  We are hoping to add to their number before presenting this to the DfE before their deadline of 29th December.

Please e-mail bespoke@candleconferences.com, as soon as possible…

Please give your full name, job-title, school and address and any other relevant details (e.g. examiner, author, years of experience) if you would like to become a signatory and consider referring to this proposal in your individual response to the DfE.  (It will be clearly stated on the proposal that signatories are signing as individuals and not on behalf of their employers)

 

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26 Comments
  • Ms Melanie Allen
    Posted at 13:23h, 10 December

    Ms Melanie Allen

    Head of Theology

    Notre Dame Senior School, Cobham, Surrey, KT111HA

    Please would you add me as a signatory with reference to the above A level proposals.

    Regards

    M Allen

  • Stuart Blackburn
    Posted at 14:05h, 10 December

    The current proposals are lacking in so many ways.

    This proposal addresses those weaknesses and has my whole-hearted support.

    Stuart Blackburn

    Head of Religious Studies

    Canon Slade School

    Bolton

    BL2 3 BP

  • Nuala Power
    Posted at 14:07h, 10 December

    Is the presumption that students will study the AS material before progressing to A2? At present our institution is not planning on entering students for AS when the exam goes linear. I hope that there will be the opportunity to do so. I was wondering what implications this would have on the final A(2) level?

    I think this is a great step forward, was wondering why only a biblical text?

    Thanks to all for the hard work and time spent on this!

    • Candle Conferences
      Posted at 16:10h, 10 December

      Good points both Nuala. There is no expectation that students would do AS material first, although it would make sense to do the Investigation at the end of the course. It does, however facilitate the co-teaching of AS and A Level courses when institutions choose to offer both, or when students applying for Russell Group Universities have to take AS as an indicator of progress, as it seems they might have to. In terms of the non-Biblical text, we felt that this addresses the concern that many TRS departments have about students being unprepared for the compulsory NT or OT papers that remain part of many courses, also it does provide a good grounding for understanding the Judaeao-Christian tradition, which is still dominant in the UK and which has played an important part in our history etc. Further, specifying non-Biblical texts might present practical problems for boards, not least the demand, examiner expertise, lack of resources etc.

  • Gill Swain
    Posted at 14:39h, 10 December

    As a teacher of A-level RS for 20 years, I am dreading the changes in the specifications and not without good reason. The suggested alternative proposal goes a long way to restoring my faith in the future of RS.

  • richard wood
    Posted at 15:09h, 10 December

    I support the prposals. Following discussion during Philosophy conference in London, I have written to Nicky Morgan and The Times

  • Steve Harrow
    Posted at 15:49h, 10 December

    Hi,

    I am subject leader of RE at the Blandford School, Blandford Forum , Dorset. I have been a teacher for 19 years at secondary level and would be happy to become a signatory. I am very worried about the impact of the DFE proposals on this subject at A level.

  • Sarah Noble
    Posted at 16:02h, 10 December

    I think that this is a much more suitable proposal for the new A level.

  • Juliette Makepeace
    Posted at 16:43h, 10 December

    Please would you add me as a signatory to the A level proposals as set out above?

  • Maggie Gee
    Posted at 16:47h, 10 December

    Head of RS & Citizenship

    St. Aidan’s CoE High School

    Harrogate

    Teacher of RS for 17 years

    Please add me as a signatory. These are excellent proposals, thank you.

  • Caroline Thurgood
    Posted at 16:54h, 10 December

    Please add me as a signatory. These are excellent proposals, thank you.

  • Fran Aldcroft
    Posted at 17:04h, 10 December

    Thank God for the RS community – you have restored my faith in humanity and my commitment to teaching. Sign me up!

  • Judy Grill
    Posted at 18:44h, 10 December

    Your proposed changes are excellent

  • Chris Giles
    Posted at 21:19h, 10 December

    Chris Giles (SLE in RE – South Bromsgrove High School)

    Charford Road, Bromsgrove, B60 3NL

    As an RS teacher with 20 years experience this alternative proposal appears far more inclusive and balanced with its subject content and is able to prepare students so much better for University life with the skill set necessary to excel. This proposal still has the development from GCSE with the textual studies and whilst some people may not agree with the percentage of philosophy and ethics v textual studies, I absolutely love the idea of an Investigations study. This allows students to have more responsibility for their own research, areas of interest and ultimately choice . The current A level RS proposal appears to limits choice for both teachers and students. I think we could go further than this new proposal and offer more choice and a higher percentage in the Investigations module to promote further creativity within the curriculum.

    If you asked our RS students currently at GCSE and A level which proposal they would want, I suspect the vast majority would vote for this alternative one at A level hands down over the current proposal. Do we want to take a step backwards as an RE community with the current proposals? I am no prophet, but our numbers will decline drastically at A level RS if we go with the current proposals. We have to offer an alternative for the students sake. These proposals are restoring my faith back into the RE community. Why haven’t more people signed this?

    • Candle Conferences
      Posted at 21:24h, 10 December

      Thanks Chris! Actually, my original proposal had the investigations unit as 25%, 50% of the A Level only material. Colleagues felt this would be too challenging, hence it was scaled back. We all have different takes on the subject, the important think is to think about the bigger picture and come up with a workable compromise, as I am sure you agree. Thanks again for your support.

  • Emma Walker
    Posted at 08:03h, 11 December

    I think these are excellent alternative proposals and would give students a real breadth and depth (as well as keeping their interest) that the current proposals lack. I would certainly support these and would like my signature added.

    Emma Walker

    John Taylor High School, Barton-under-Needwood, Staffordshire.

    Head of RS and teacher of RS for 8 years.

  • Candle Conferences
    Posted at 19:43h, 11 December

    Here are a few of the comments I have received by e-mail since yesterday evening…

    “I was appalled by the suggestions proposed as reform which would exclude so many students from receiving the benefits of Religious Education. This proposal is much more appropriate and has my approval, please add me as a signatory” KH Newcastle

    “Your proposed changes are excellent” JG Hampshire

    “Please count me as signatory to your proposals for RS A level reform. I wholeheartedly support them.” LB Taunton

    “Please add my details in supporting your alternative A-level proposal, I had already responded to the DFE in line with what you are suggesting.” BB Bracknell

    “Thank-you for putting the effort into producing a well thought out alternative. I would certainly support it. I was not certain the old system was broken, but if they are determined to change it then your suggestion seems the best option…” EH Reigate

    “We remain very unhappy about the proposed changes to AS/A2 RS. We believe that the current breadth of choice allows schools to select their papers according to teachers’ particular expertise and allows students the flexibility to extend their first years’ study into a two year A2, improving their first year grade by retake if necessary. We also believe that the academic demands of AS/A2 at present are quite rigorous enough. Where has the assumption that it is anything but very demanding come from we wonder??… We feel that RS as an academic discipline whose main focus is and should be the religions of humanity in all their richness and diversity, is in danger of being lost. … We are very concerned” RS Staff of large 6th Form College

    “Completely support your ideas, Charlotte. Thank you for taking the time to save the subject!!!” CM Liverpool

    “Just to let you know that I’ve signed up to your alternative proposal for A level RS… I’d just thought I’d also add that I found last Saturday really useful and great to have a united front! I went in to school on Monday, explained all to our head teacher and although I teach in a state school, I’ve been given the day off to attend the consultation at Westminster tomorrow. Might see you there, thank you to you and Peter for all you are doing” LB Berkshire

  • Vicki Donoghue
    Posted at 08:28h, 12 December

    A fanastic proposal, I support this althernative and would like my signature added.

    Vicki Donoghue

    Head of Religious Studies

    Handsworth Grammar School, Birmingham

    Teaching RS for 20 years,

  • Pam Deacon
    Posted at 09:27h, 12 December

    I would certainly wish to add my support to the alternative proposals as they address many of the concerns which I have with the changes proposed by the Government.

  • Candle Conferences
    Posted at 09:28h, 12 December

    “I’m currently a trainee teacher… This prospective a level course is very similar to the experience I had and the reason why I did theology and religious studies at university. The possibility of teaching this eventually fills me with hope.” CN Liverpool

  • Candle Conferences
    Posted at 09:49h, 12 December

    “Please add my name to the list of support for your proposal. It is important to consider how young minds work. If you are too prescriptive (as in the current DFE proposals) then you will meet resistance to be open minded about the subject. Many thanks for all your efforts and congratulations on getting the recent correspondence.” CB, York

  • J Harrison
    Posted at 10:22h, 12 December

    I am happy to support this proposal. Let’s keep the study of R.S. relevant, rigorous- but not arduous and arbitrary, and engaging for pupils. JH Birmingham. Teacher of Religious Studies.

  • Natalie Davis
    Posted at 11:53h, 15 December

    I think these alternative proposals are far better! I am worried about what might happen if we end up being forced into the original reforms. We need to keep our numbers up and interest alive. Please add my name to the list signatories

  • Ann Edwards
    Posted at 12:08h, 15 December

    I think your proposals are very good and a definite improvement but am concerned that there may be two serious omissions. The first is the concept of God that is being advocated [perhaps unconsciously] and the second is the absence of a hermeneutical framework that students are provided with for their study of sacred texts.

    My professional qualifications are a BSc in Anthropology, a PGCE in Chemistry, an MA in RE. I have taught for over 20 years in schools at both primary and secondary level and am also the author of ‘How to nurture spiritual development’ 2010. I support the view that ‘a God up there’ is incompatible with a scientific understanding of the universe and agree with Jonathan Sacks who recently said: ‘We need science to tell us how the world is and we need religion to tell us how it ought to be.’ I consider Science and Religion to be complementary subject disciplines – the strengths of one compensating for the weaknesses of the other – and think that the development and nurture of both faith and reason is required if young people are to have any chance of realizing their full human potential.

    Having spent several months reading laboriously through many of the current SACRE syllabi for RE, I found only a handful which included the concept of God as a topic. I also discovered that no students of RE would appear to be being taught a traditional framework for the interpretation of Scripture.

    There are many different concepts of God, as I am sure you are aware and although I personally believe that God is within every human being as their conscience and their spiritual intelligence I also believe that it is in spirituality [God] ‘that we live and move and have our being.’ [Acts 17:28] Whilst there may be many people who disagree with me, I do think that a fairly wide spectrum of concepts should be considered and explored. So many arguments for the existence of God tend to be based on the concept of ‘a God up there’. Research suggests that young children begin to be aware of their conscience from the age of about 3 years.

    The fourfold hermeneutical framework which is outlined in How to nurture was advocated by the author of The Cloud of Unknowing, St. Bonaventure, Dante Alighieri, Richard of St. Victor as well as other theologians. St. Augustine recognized three levels. Do you introduce any hermeneutical framework? The four levels of meaning are:

    1. The literal: a simple record of fact or instruction; the outer level or face value.

    2. The allegorical: each element in the text is understood as standing for something else.

    3. Moral: the meaning is understood as being relevant in a direct way that can be practised.

    4. Anagogical: the kernal or essence; its mystical and quintessential meaning.

    In the NT, the parables where Jesus provides the allegorical meaning for his disciples clarifies the importance of knowing the second level – and although this has not been made explicit [to my knowledge] in any other sacred text, scholars of other religious traditions also recognize that many sacred texts have qualitatively distinct levels of meaning. A classic example from the OT is the story of Exodus. Egypt represents the world in which there is spiritual bondage, suffering and tyranny and the Promised Land represents heaven on earth – a spiritual realm of freedom, peace and happiness.

    I hope you don’t mind my mentioning my concerns and look forward to hearing from you.

    Sincerely,

    Ann Edwards

    • Candle Conferences
      Posted at 12:30h, 15 December

      Dear Ann,

      Thanks for this. I think you and I are in sympathy – seeing an exploration of the nature of truth, what can be known about God and how as central to RS – both at A Level and throughout.

      I am not sure why you think that the concept of God is not specified in the alternative proposal. It is specified in the “Further Studies in the Philosophy of Religion, Ethics and Textual Studies” element, which all A Level students would have to take. The content of this whole element is designed to encourage students to make connections across the subject, drawing together their studies in Philosophy of Religion, Religious Ethics and Texts to explore the nature of truth and the different ways it can be accessed; hence, it will build on material covered in the first three elements to highlight just the point that you are making. If you imagine teaching this content…

      * At least three different religious perspectives on the nature of God, which could come from within one tradition or from different traditions and should encompass perspectives grounded in revelation, sacred texts and philosophy.
      * Exploration of implications following from these different perspectives for beliefs about at least two areas, for examples textual authority, miracles, life after death or prayer.
      * Consideration of how religious language might or might not be used to describe and/or understand God’s nature, how this relates to different perspectives on the nature of God, implications of holding different views about religious language for the meaning, interpretation and use of religious texts and using texts as a guide to moral decision making.
      * Consideration of verificationism, falsificationism and “language games” theory; the challenges of moral and cultural relativism to the meaningfulness of moral statements and the extent to which practices such as FGM or sexual promiscuity can be said to be wrong.
      * Exploration and evaluation of how one religion has responded to the challenges of relativism and postmodernism, including consideration of diversity within the religion, the extent to which groups now engage with philosophy and/or science and the existence of different ideas about the nature and reality of God and the truth of religious beliefs. The development of Human Rights as a remedy for relativism, consideration of the possible foundations of human rights and evaluation of the extent to which they can succeed in combating relativism and its consequences.
      * An exploration of major meta-ethical issue of real relevance to religious believers, such as freedom or conscience, considering religious and non-religious perspectives, scholarly insights, textual insights and how the issue relates to the lives of believers and non-believers today, particularly in relation to beliefs about the nature of God, religious authorities, textual authority and national laws.
      * Exploration of at least three major theological themes in the text studied above and how they relate to religious beliefs and practices today.
      * Consideration of how the text has been interpreted and used by Jewish or Christian groups over time and today, including the existence of other interpretations and uses of the text from another religious tradition, such as Islam.
      * The nature of truth in relation to the study of religious texts. The extent to which and how texts reveal truth about God and morality.

      I am not sure how students could miss the points that there are different concepts of God and that texts can be interpreted in different ways while studying this content? I didn’t use the phrase “hermeneutical framework” because criteria try to avoid complex technical language so that they can be understood by all stakeholders, including prospective students and parents.

      The points you raise are almost entirely missing from the DfE’s existing proposal though!

      With best wishes,
      Charlotte Vardy

  • Jane Gatley
    Posted at 18:25h, 15 December

    I support these proposals. A great improvement on the current proposal.

    Head of Religious Studies, Worksop College.