In Philosophy and Religious Studies (PRS) we explore and discuss a variety of beliefs, our own personal journeys and, the big ideas about the world. The subject offers a fascinating insight into a range of both ethical and philosophical beliefs and practices - discussing issues such as; How should we treat the environment? Is religion outdated? Does God exist? What are the similarities and differences between the world's religions? and, how should we behave? PRS allows us to investigate the fundamental nature of reality and, through PRS we can move closer to the truth and understand the world (including ourselves) more accurately.
PRS provides a platform for students to understand the world we live in, the issues that people face across the world, the philosophical and ethical viewpoints of a number of religions, cultures and societies whilst promoting British Values in every topic covered. In addition, this subject teaches tolerance and empathy – making this subject unique and massively important in making students well rounded citizens. Our students have the opportunity to discuss, explore and value different opinions and views in a safe and respectful environment.
Finally, PRS is a subject which gives students the opportunity to discuss, explore and value different opinions and views in a safe and respectful environment and, due to the wide range of topics covered and issues discussed, this subject is brilliant for cross curricular links with History, Geography, Art, Science, English and Maths to name a few.
PRS is a team of 5 subject specialists with a wealth of experience between us. PRS is a core subject studied by all Key Stage 3 and 4 students, as well as being an option at A Level. We were delighted to have been awarded the Gold RE Quality mark for a second time in 2019 and aim to achieve this again soon.
We are really looking forward to teaching your children this fascinating subject and hope that you too, also get involved with the subject over those dinner table conversations!
If you are interested in learning more about where PRS can take you, why don't you click here, here and here. If you are interested in finding out more about how PRS has been useful for people in the workplace, please click here.
What is the PRS Intent?
Key Stage 3
‘The Big Picture’
The PRS curriculum is exciting and engaging and inspires students from the off. It is taught 1 hour a week in Year 7 & 8, 3 hours a fortnight for Year 9, 4 hours a fortnight at Year 10, 3 hours a fortnight for Year 11 and 8 hours across the fortnight Year 12 & 13.
PRS Curriculum Map
Our Year 7 provision starts off with a unit called ‘comparative religion’. The reason for this is that students come from a variety of feeder primary schools and so knowledge is not consistent from KS2. This unit aims to get all students on the same page with knowledge and skills so that they can progress swiftly and confidently through the rest of KS3 and beyond. We then move onto a unit studying Islam. Islam is currently the world’s second largest religion and it is therefore important that students can explain and interpret the connections between Islam and other world religions and worldviews that impact on the beliefs and practices of individuals and communities. We then move onto a scheme of work (SOW) called ‘ultimate questions’. This is a knowledge rich approach to philosophy where students grapple with concepts such as: Is there a God? What is Truth? What makes us Human? Why do people suffer? What is a world-view? and What is my world-view? This provides students with the ability to critically evaluate a variety of views and to compare and contrast ideas whilst providing the foundational knowledge for GCSE study, as all of the listed topics above are part, in some way, of the GCSE syllabus but also part of the required SACRE. We then move onto a SOW focusing on Understanding Christianity – to allow for exposure to one of the six major faiths, as well as providing cultural capital to broaden the minds of all students. Understanding Christianity is a SOW which is taught in over 6500 schools across the UK and the key purpose of this project is to help all teachers support pupils in developing their own thinking and their understanding of Christianity, as a contribution to their understanding of the world and their own experience within it. It does this by integrating pupils’ developing understanding of significant theological concepts in Christianity e.g. incarnation, with their own self-understanding of the world, as part of their wider religious literacy. This SOW is also central to our identity as a CofE school and is bought into as a SOW by students. From here, our final SOW is called ‘belief into action’ which explores the lives of key historical and theological figures, e.g Chico Mendez, Oscar Romero and Martin Luther King (to name a few!) and how their Christian beliefs have inspired large actions to effect positive change. Again, this is a really awe-inspiring SOW and one which students really engage with. The 2 latter SOW really help to support students' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development (SMSC) and support British Values too.
Year 8 starts off with the SOW focusing on non-religious world views. This scheme of learning is based on questions such as: Has religion passed its sell-by date? Why did Marx compare religion to a drug? What are humanists? Are the New Atheists right about religion? And, is sports like a religion? This scheme of work really gets students thinking, analysing and evaluating and provides lots of opportunities for debates and discussion and allows for students to access a variety of world views, as outlined in the Hertfordshire SACRE. We then move onto a SOW focusing on Old Testament foundations - really looking at the connection between these stories and the practices associated with them for Judaism, Christianity and Islam. We also focus on how all these aforementioned religions (and denominations) share similarities but also, recognising the differences for how each practises their religion based on differing interpretations of Old Testament stories. From here, students move on to study the problem of evil and suffering - looking at how evil might pose a challenge for those who believe in God and the traditional quality of him being omnibenevolent (all-loving). As part of this topic, students will look into the Holocaust to learn and appreciate the tragedy and to understand the widescale devastation this event had. This topic will blend in elements of history and literature, to give students a chance to understand this tragedy in-depth, and also look at the ethical issues behind it, leading to analyses of the actions, motivations and results of The Holocaust. There is potentially an opportunity to visit The Imperial War Museum during this time of study, but this is dependent on a number of factors and will be considered closer to the time. This unit shares several cross-curricular links here with Drama, English and History - really supporting students' knowledge and understanding. From this SOW, students move onto an extended learning opportunity where students will be directed to complete a project based on the Holocaust. The projects will have a variety of themes for students to look into and choose one to base their work on. Themes could include: Did the Holocaust lessen or strengthen people’s faith in God? Can the Holocaust ever happen again? How should we best remember the Holocaust? - all using the Holocaust Educational trust as a leading resource. Students will also have the opportunity to use the library through this project to tap into the wealth of resources we have there. The final scheme of work for students to study across Yr 8 is Buddhism, the world's 4th largest religion. This SOW has been created and inputted here to support core GCSE knowledge, as Buddhism is one of 2 faiths which we study specifically at GCSE. This SOW will delve into the history and core beliefs and practices of Buddhists and will demonstrate how Buddhists today live their lives as closely as possible to the teachings of the Buddha. We will also be exploring key activities and practices which Buddhists do, such as meditation, and will be providing students an opportunity to try meditation for themselves guided by their teachers should they wish to take part - providing plenty of awe and wonder opportunities.
In Year 9, more foundational work starts to support the GCSE course – yet we do not study pure GCSE content at this stage! GCSE content will be specifically studied towards the end of Yr 9. Students cover a range of topics which again link to the GCSE specification whilst allowing students to explore each unit of work in depth. We start off with an exploration into religion and science - looking if the two can ever be fully compatible. We compare religious teachings to those of science and see if there are links between the two. We focus on ‘The Cosmological Argument’, ‘The Teleological Argument’, ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and ‘Evolution’ to name a few. This topic allows for students to evaluate and analyse beliefs and theories and decide upon the most suitable answer for how life began and how the earth has been created. This is a really interesting SOW and students really buy into the course. As part of this course, there is an opportunity to go to the Natural History Museum in Oxford alongside the Pitt Rivers museum to learn about and visit the very place that Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, and Thomas Huxley, a biologist from London went head-to-head in a debate about one of the most controversial ideas of the 19th century - Charles Darwin’s theory of Evolution by natural selection. We then move on to a scheme of learning called ‘Who is Jesus?’ . This scheme of learning focuses on the many miracles Jesus performed and what this shows about the nature of Jesus. We also delve into the idea of Jesus being a rebel - something which students really find interesting. This SOW in particular (although all SOW recall knowledge in some capacity), allows for students to recall knowledge from Understanding Christianity which strengthens and deepens knowledge. We then move on to focus on ‘ethical decision making and values and ethics.’ This scheme of work allows students to put themselves into moral dilemmas and justify how they would behave. It then looks at how people believe we should behave in certain situations. We further this by looking at ethics with animals - looking at the use of animals for testing and food and develop this even further by looking at the impact on the environment. We additionally look at ethics within humanity and the concept of the sanctity of life. This is a brilliant scheme of work which links real world issues into students' learning - and these real life issues will be presented in lessons by using as many current affairs and news links as possible. The penultimate SOW focuses specifically on ‘Human Rights and Social Justice’, a topic that is in the news at all times, and especially in 2020/21/22 with various examples of human rights violations. This is a chance for students to learn the rights they possess as human beings, analyse how these rights are used and at times abused, as well as delve deeper into cases of human rights violations, for example Guantanamo Bay and slavery - to name just a few. To supplement their learning, there is an exciting opportunity for students to hear from A21, a renowned non-profit organization that tackles human trafficking and human rights issues - but this again is something we will look at close to the time and is dependent on a number of factors. . After this, students will deepen their knowledge and understanding of Buddhism which is a central religion to the GCSE specification. It is at this point that students will start covering specific GCSE content and skills. For information, the GCSE for PRS is the AQA Specification with the code of 8062BAOverall rationale for KS3 – all topics and subjects are interleaved together and there is a lot of knowledge recall, making the subjects knowledge rich. All lessons across KS3 now also use exam style questioning (work in progress) to further promote good GCSE outcomes. Furthermore, the topics chosen at KS3 allow students to work on the thinking skills needed to achieve well at GCSE and A-Level – allowing students to focus on the depth and exam requirements whilst really remaining engaged and passionate about the provision. The topics listed also link well to the Hertfodshire SACRE (2022 version is extending into the 2023 academic year due to Covid complications).
Key Stage 4
At KS4, students follow the AQA A (8062BA) route studying Christianity and Buddhism as the main religions, and 4 themes: religion and life, peace and conflict, crime and punishment and relationship and families (from academic year 2023/24 students will be studying the unit called Existence of God and Revelation rather than relationships and families).
It has been designed to specifically build upon the knowledge taught at KS3 so that students have a familiar schema to return to and develop further. The GCSE units and religions have been selected because they provide the breadth of study whilst also focusing on current affairs and ethical issues that will always be debated e.g. abortion, euthanasia, pollution, death penalty, diverse relationships and families… Students have a keen interest in these areas and are excited to find out more about global and national responses to the issues covered.
Christianity and Buddhism were chosen to be the core religions of study as they provide clear and interesting contrasts and similarities between faiths and allow for students to really understand both an Abrahamic faith and an eastern religion. In addition, there is a large Christian demographic at Tring School (in comparison to any other faiths), meaning that students are more invested in their learning and can confidently contribute to lesson discussion – allowing students to learn from one another. Christianity has also been selected to support the school’s Christian ethos.
The GCSE curriculum enables students to see the ‘bigger picture’ and make links between different religions and ethical dilemmas which makes for interesting and topical learning.
PRS CURRICULUM MAP
ENRICHMENT AND EXTRA-CURRICULAR
- St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Tring
- Year 7 ‘Diversity’ Extended Learning Day event
- Spirited Arts - NATRE national competition
- 'World views' art
- Possible trips to: a buddhist temple, mosque, synagogue.
- Possible Buddhist speaker (possible)
- Possible Islamic and Jewish speakers (possible)
- Visit to a synagogue and mosque (possible)
- Buddhist temple trip (possible)
- St Paul's Cathedral (possible)
- Talks from the army (possible) to support knowledge of religion, peace and justice scheme of work.
- Talks from the police / magistrate (possible) to support knowledge of religion, crime and punishment scheme of work.
Philosophy & Religious Studies Department