The enquiry-based approach to Religious Education for 4-11 year olds
What is Discovery RE?
Discovery RE is a scheme of work for Religious Education which helps develop critical thinking and enhance children’s spiritual development. It is medium term planning for Key Stages 1 and 2, with full short term planning for the Foundation Stage. The 4-part planning model is presented as a 6 lesson enquiry-based plan, which takes children on a learning journey from their own world to the world of religion and belief, learning about aspects of that religion in order to answer a big question, and then closes with an opportunity to express their own opinions and learning.
What we offer:
Discovery RE contains enquiry-based modules which cover the six principle religions.
Christianity is taught in every year group alongside one other religion, with some flexibility over the choice of the other religion studied so that schools can select the most appropriate to their children.
Other religions covered are Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism, with relevant links to Humanism.
Additional optional enquiries are also included (For example, three Key Stage 2 units on Christianity to ensure that Church of England schools can meet the needs of their additionality.)
Foundation Stage 1 and 2 have full week by week planning with ideas for child and adult-led activities, both inside the setting and in the outside environment. It also includes suggestions for home learning and displays, and is fully mapped to Development Matters and the Early Learning Goals.
Critical thinking is developed throughout.
Assessment is ready-made with exemplars, assessment activity sheets and attainment descriptors for a “beyond levels” approach, all colour coded to assist busy teachers.
Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) development is mapped throughout the scheme of work, as is the contribution that each module makes to British Values.
The Owl Crew: As a tool to help children further engage with the process of enquiry, we are delighted to introduce the Discovery RE Owls. These allow the teacher to ask the big questions through the owl and the children to ask the owl questions which can be answered in successive lessons, allowing the teachers time to think through the answers and build it into the next segment of learning.
Are you sure Discovery RE can really help our teachers and our pupils?
Yes! We have recently conducted a research project to independently quality assess Discovery RE. We analysed the inspection reports of 200 Church of England schools who are using Discovery RE to discover what inspectors were writing about the impact of this resource on teachers and learners. The quotations cited below are from this research, verbatim from SIAMS Reports.
Will our children enjoy their learning?
Yes! Anecdotal comments from teachers consistently show that children love the challenge of the open-ended enquiry format and the creative activities that are suggested as well as written tasks. The inspections showed the same result:
Pupils say they enjoy discussing ‘Big Questions’ such as ‘Is the Christmas story true?’ and ‘Is it good to fast on special occasions?’ and ‘Is Christianity still a strong religion 2000 years after Jesus was on earth?”
“Without exception they [the children] say they love RE. RE lessons are lively and challenging and pupils achieve the same high standards as those in other subjects.”
Will it help our children’s critical thinking?
Yes! All enquiries are based around answering a “big” question with no wrong or right answers. The children investigate, guided by the teacher, and come to their own conclusion, justifying it with the knowledge they have gained about that religion.
“The enquiry-based ‘Discovery [RE]’ system is used throughout the school and enables all learners to make good progress in the subject. Each topic is underpinned by ‘big questions’ that provide a good level of challenge for all pupils. Children are encouraged to develop their critical thinking skills and have empathy with and understanding of people’s beliefs, religious or otherwise.”
“Children are outstanding at thinking through issues and expressing their viewpoints. They show a mature approach to discussions and can express themselves freely and effectively.”
Experience has shown that this can have a far wider impact than the RE lessons, with learners utilising these skills in other areas of the curriculum.
Will it help our children’s progress with SMSC?
Yes! SMSC is mapped throughout the scheme of work, and those areas most pertinent to the enquiry are highlighted. Time for reflective and expressive work is included in every 6 week module, giving children time to consider their own personal responses to what they have learnt.
“Children…explain they are ‘reflective learners’ because they are challenged by RE and ‘it really makes us think’. This endorses the significant contribution of RE to children’s spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and successfully supports the Christian character of the school.”
“Using Discovery RE has provided a more structured approach to teaching in this subject. Within RE there is now a recognised progression of skills and attitudes relating to spirituality and moral understanding.”
Can our youngest children access such higher order critical thinking?
Yes! Our EYFS enquiries have been written by early years’ practitioners and fully integrate Development Matters.
“RE in Nursery and Reception gets pupils off to a flying start. It is totally in tune with the investigative nature of RE across the school but equally mirrors the characteristics of good early years practice.”
“These young children have a good level of theological literacy and show good knowledge of Christianity and other faiths such as Judaism.”
Can it support our school in embedding our school ethos, morals and values?
Yes! Themes which the children can relate to their own lives such as commitment, forgiveness and belonging, are embedded throughout Discovery RE.
“Classwork, which covered the events of Holy Week, helped pupils to understand how Jesus felt lonely and sad, but finally forgiving of those who opposed him. There was much evidence to demonstrate that work on ‘forgiveness’ had impacted on the children.”
“Pupils enjoy RE and the high quality of pupils’ work and displays around the school show how the values are embedded in learning. Pupils showed empathy for the Muslim month of Ramadan …..Several groups, during discussion work, related their school values to the requirements of fasting. This showed a deep and meaningful understanding of how members of other world religions can show values such as perseverance, courage and respect in their lives.”
What about British Values? Can Discovery RE identify and support these too?
Yes! British Values have been mapped to each enquiry so that coverage can be easily seen.
“Pupils are challenged to think widely and deeply.....Pupils know that they are part of a multi-faith world and are able to talk with enthusiasm about their learning of other faiths including their awareness of the many faiths practiced in Britain.”
“Children thoroughly enjoy religious education (RE). They say this is because it helps them understand people from other faiths. The children’s open and positive attitude towards peoples of other faiths and cultures, including those living in this country, is a result of the very effective way that religious education is taught.”
We need to consider the Prevent Strategy too. Can Discovery RE help us with this?
Yes! It has been suggested that young people who do not have a secure sense of their own identity are most at risk. The expressive nature of Discovery RE is enabling our pupils to recognise their own beliefs and attitudes:
“The mechanisms in place to explore significant issues have led pupils to a greater understanding of their personal worth and developed their confidence in knowing who they are and the importance of their own identity.”
“RE is related to pupils’ own life experiences; for instance teachers make Biblical stories relevant to life in the twenty first century. Children are encouraged and motivated by RE, and therefore demonstrate a desire to find out more about themselves and their own feelings and beliefs."
What about assessment? Will it help us track and show progression in RE?
Yes it will! Discovery RE comes with colour-coded assessment activities for every enquiry module, attainment descriptors for children working towards, achieving and working beyond that target attainment and exemplars of what answers at that descriptor may actually look like.
“"Assessment is thorough, and follows the methodology of the ‘Discovery RE’ scheme of work”
“Assessment is in place which enables pupils to be tracked with half termly and termly assessments and end of year data is enabling the school to build a much clearer picture of progress and attainment.”
“Embed the exciting new Discovery RE (religious education) programme which will promote monitoring and assessment that matches that in other core subjects.”
Some of my colleagues are really nervous about teaching RE. Can Discovery RE support them too?
Yes! Because Discovery RE is progressive and structured it short-cuts the planning process by providing the key learning needed to answer each enquiry question. There is still scope for teachers to take ownership of how they deliver each lesson and whatlearning activities they choose. Our website is also packed with ideas and articles to support professionals in the classroom.
“The significant changes made since the last inspection have had a very positive influence on teaching and learning. Teachers are well-supported and resourced. As a result their confidence and subject knowledge has increased.”
“A new scheme of work for RE is giving teachers greater confidence to deliver the subject.”
We are delighted that Discovery RE has supported these schools to achieve high quality Religious Education.
Discovery RE is now being used in over 1400 schools. Call, email or visit our website for more information.