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Help! I’m down to teach the new A Level Religious Studies!

Ashburnham Place, East Sussex, 27th-29th May 2016

Update and expand your subject-knowledge – explore the new specifications and assessment criteria – build a new stock of relevant resources and innovative teaching ideas—make useful professional contacts – spend a few days in a gorgeous country house with like-minded people— fall in love with RS again…

Following on from our two popular “Help! I’m down to teach the Philosophy of Religion” weekend events which sold out quickly last year, this unique all-new intensive three day training event is designed to support teachers in preparing to deliver the new A Level in Religious Studies which begins in September 2016, exploring new content and recent developments in topics specified as part of the Philosophy of Religion, Religious Ethics and Christianity options and on the core content and assessment objectives, specified by the DfE, that are now common to all examination boards.  Some resources will also be provided to support those considering teaching texts for the first time, and sessions will, in any case, support teaching about the Christian concept of God, Christology and the use, authority and interpretation of the Bible.

Being honest, most departments will have to make their choices about which boards and papers to offer at A Level from September 2016 in the next few weeks; Sixth Form choices booklets are usually published before Christmas after all!  Rather than wasting time and precious INSET budgets on college dinners, keynote speakers who have no real idea of what teaching A Level involves or giving out basic information about the specifications in a dry and administrative way, this intensely practical Professional Development course will focus on SUBJECT KNOWLEDGE relating to the prescribed A Level content (common to all boards) and on strategies to support students in becoming more ANALYTICAL and able to write more effective, EVALUATIVE essays for the new A02.

“The Sutton Trust confirmed in October 2014 what most of us already knew, that teacher subject knowledge is the single biggest factor affecting student attainment – and that most other common CPD targets (e.g. learning-styles etc) have very little effect at all.”

To support sessions delivered by Dr Peter Vardy and Charlotte Vardy, each delegate will be provided with an extremely generous package of high-quality teaching resources (worth over £200) as well as exciting, effective ideas to support planning and classroom-delivery. Our exclusive printed course booklet is packed with detailed MA level notes on all topics covered – so no need to copy down reams of notes during the sessions— and we give you each copies of “Ethics Matters” (2012), “God Matters” (2013) and “Bible Matters” (2015) to extend and support subject knowledge across the specifications. We will also provide copies of the PowerPoints and all the relevant specifications as well as a model, fully editable A Level scheme of work for the new A Level.


Dr Peter Vardy has been credited with kick-starting the exponential growth in Religious Studies A Level which we saw during the 1990s and 2000s.  His “Puzzle” books and legendary student conferences inspired many of today’s RE teachers to enter the profession!

Charlotte Vardy is an experienced teacher of Religious Studies, textbook author and teacher trainer who has worked with examination boards in developing and reviewing specifications. Her blogs and campaign related to the public consultations on the future of RS A Level were popular and influential.

“I liked how Charlotte related the content to how it can be effectively delivered in class…  Peter gave me inspiration on how to convey passion for the study of Philosophy!”

RS Teacher, “Help! I have to teach Philosophy of Religion” October 2014

Provisional Course Outline…

(still subject to change as the A Level specifications remain in draft, timings and order of sessions approximate)

Friday 27th May
  • 4pm Arrival / Registration
  • 4.30pm TEA / Welcome
  • 5pm Session One: The Concept of God, Faith and Reason (considering Christianity & Islam as well as the Philosophy of Religion)
  • 7pm Session Two: Religious Experience
  • 8pm  Discussion: Choosing and Planning a new A Level Course.
  • c.8.30pm DRINKS
Saturday 28th May
  • 9am  Session Three & Session Four – The Problem of Evil & Religious Language
  • 11.30am  Session Five – Teaching Ethical Theory for the new specifications
  • 2pm Session Six – Teaching Religious Ethics really well.
  • 3pm-5.30pm Free Time (inc. opportunity for networking / individual meetings with course leaders, TEA)
  • 5.30pm Session Seven – Tackling Meta-Ethics
  • 7pm Session Eight – Jesus, the Bible, Wisdom & Authority
  • 8.30pm  DRINKS, Film (optional)
Sunday 29th May
  • 9.30am  Session Nine & Session Ten – Teaching Developments in Christian Thought (inc. Feminism, Liberation Theology)
  • 11.50am Session Eleven – Clever planning for the New A Level Religious Studies
  • 2pm  Session Twelve – Plenary, Resources, Networks, Ideas…
  • 3.30pm TEA / DEPART



The venue: Ashburnham Place, East Sussex

The price of £399 includes a generous pack of resources worth over £200, editable schemes of work to support the new specifications and two nights full-board accommodation in a single room with shared bathroom (within an area of the building set-aside for our group’s exclusive use)

En-suite, shared and/or family rooms may be available on request (this may affect the price), and it may be possible to book just food and lodging for partners and children who might wish to accompany you and take advantage of a weekend away during half-term in a beautiful setting with plenty of things to do and places to visit locally.

In view of the state of budgets, Candle is happy to reserve places with a deposit of £120 and defer payment of the balance until the financial year 2016-17 begins: just ask Sally Anne about payment options…

To book, just e-mail or telephone Sally Anne Roberts on 0208 133 2241.



These comments are from previous Ashburnham residential CPD events in 2014 and 2015…

  • “I wish this course had been available in my first year of teaching A Level: it is a must for all teachers” Head of RS
  • “Your subject knowledge and enthusiasm shone through in every lecture… I now feel inspired to look up the original sources, develop my subject knowledge and formulate my own opinions… I am also delighted with the lecture notes, books and CDs that came with the course… it will take me weeks to go through everything in detail. The weekend really was a triumph, thank you.” NQT
  • “FUN – it’s a degree topup”… “Location is great and has everything you could need… thank-you for all the food, snacks and nibbles… the food here is SO MUCH nicer than at school” RS Teacher
  • “I liked how Charlotte related the content to how it can be effectively delivered in class. Peter gave me inspiration on how to convey passion for the subject!” RS Teacher

@puzzlevardy thank you for an amazing weekend! I’ve learnt so much!

— Lauren Smillie (@mrssmilllie) October 19, 2014

More feedback from comparable events can be found here and here.


What makes great teaching?

The Sutton Trust confirmed in October 2014 (“What makes great teaching?”)what most of us already knew, that teacher subject knowledge is the single biggest factor affecting student attainment – and that most other common CPD targets (e.g. learning-styles etc) have very little effect at all.

  • The school census for 2012 confirmed that only 33.3% of RE teachers have a degree in either Religious Studies or Philosophy – and it is probably fair to say that those who have a relevant degree have often not studied all the content of the new A Level themselves at university.
  • In 2013 OfSTED reported that “The high proportion of non-specialist teaching of RE in secondary schools remains a problem. In around a third of the schools visited, a lack of subject expertise limited the effectiveness of the teaching of RE”
  • Also in 2013 the All Party Parliamentary Group on RE, noting that at least 40% of RE teachers had no access to CPD of any sort, called for regular subject training for all non-specialist teachers, focusing on the development of subject knowledge, as well as further regular subject training for specialists.
  • Despite all this, few schools have implemented training, let alone subject-knowledge training… and the rushed implementation of new GCSE and A Level courses makes the need far more acute, given that most teachers will be forced to teach outside their comfort zone at both KS4 and KS5 in the same year.

Teacher Training

The content and style of Help! I’m down to teach the new A Level Religious Studies, an intensive three day training event for all teachers of A Level Religious Studies, draws on Dr Peter Vardy’s acclaimed BA and MA courses – which he taught at Heythrop College, University of London between 1998 and 2011 –as well as on the extensive academic and practical classroom experience of all the contributors.

  • Sessions aim to provide teachers with a sound level of subject knowledge and understanding – as well as a stock of detailed notes and teaching resources – to get lesson planning and delivery off to a flying start.
  • In all cases the primary focus will be on teacher knowledge and understanding of new topics and the latest research, the secondary focus will be on pedagogy and how to ensure effective delivery of the highest quality knowledge and understanding in the classroom.


Further Details / FAQ

ashburnham-placeVENUE: For more than 50 years the Ashburnham Christian Trust has run Ashburnham Place as a Christian conference and retreat centre. Set in glorious East Sussex countryside but within easy reach of London and major transport links, this is an ideal venue for residential conferences. Details of the venue, including directions, catering arrangements and further information about the facilities may be found here.

FACILITIES: The price of £399 is based on basic single accommodation with shared bathroom (within an area of the building set-aside for our group’s exclusive use).

  • All meals and refreshments are included, including unlimited tea/coffee, afternoon teas, evening drinks and nibbles, cocoa… and even a glass or two of wine in the evenings, should you want one.
  • In the small amount of free time available Ashburnham Place has extensive grounds and gardens, including three lakes.  There are sports’ facilities as well as nature-walks and other things to do on-site, including an excellent cafe serving wicked home-made cakes, in the Orangery.
  • Twin rooms or en-suite rooms may be available on request at an additional charge and it is possible to arrange accommodation and catering for partners or families who wish to accompany delegates but not attend sessions.  Please contact us as early as possible to discuss this though.

RESOURCES: Our generous package of conferences resources is worth over £200…

  • We provide an exclusive  printed booklet containing full notes to accompany each session at MA Level and give you access to the text of the presenters’ slides as well, so no need to copy down reams of notes during the sessions.
  • In addition, delegates will be given their own copies of “God Matters” by Dr Peter and Charlotte Vardy (SCM Press, 2013 rrp £9.99) “Ethics Matters” (SCM Press, 2012 rrp £10.99) and “Bible Matters” (SCM Press, 2015 rrp. £9.99) plus the contents of our teaching DVDs to support teaching of key topics in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics (rrp £99) as well as a range of other printed and digital resources.
  • To top up your CPD, delegates who have booked and paid in full for their place before 31st December 2015 may book a FREE place on our John Stuart Mill Study Day on 16th January 2016, or may attend a student conference of their choice as an unaccompanied teacher for FREE.

A bookstall, selling a range of other reduced-price books and resources, will operate on 29th May.