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Schools Blog

Beyond RE and assemblies: faith across the curriculum part 1


So you’re in ministry – either as a card-carrying member of the payroll or as an enthusiastic lay person with some spare time on your hands. You think children and young people are the most incredible people to speak to. You’re interested in education and would like to get more involved with the local school. What do you do now?

There are some obvious places where your services would be valued in an educational context. You don’t have to be Einstein to see what being a ‘real life Christian’ can offer to young people learning about faith in their RE lessons, or how as a vicar or full-time Christian schools worker you could pitch in on the assemblies rota. But is there scope for wider involvement in the school curriculum for you and your church?

Consider this quotation from The Education Act of 1988:

“The curriculum for a maintained school (must be) a balanced and broadly based curriculum which … promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society”

In other words, education in any given curriculum area should give students a sense of the wider world – the things people believe, the way they act, the values they hold – and, as always, invite students to reflect on their own response to these ideas. And the spiritual and moral development of young people is not the sole responsibility of RE teachers and assembly leaders: it’s everybody’s.

So here are a few ideas for how the local church can provide input into more places than just the odd RE lesson here and there. If you know any teachers of these subjects, why not run some of these thoughts by them and work something out together?

MUSIC

Music plays a prominent place in worship. Whether it’s traditional choral music, hymns or a free electric band, music has helped to usher people into the presence of God for thousands of years. Why not run a ‘church music through the ages’ lesson in the church itself? Allow students to enjoy the music and reflect on the experience for themselves, thinking about what makes many people describe music as a spiritual experience?

Alternatively, at important festival times such as Christmas, run a carol service in the church. You might like to find ways of reinventing them. However you do it, it’s a great opportunity to sing some popular songs and share the Christmas message at the same time!

ART

As with music, faith has inspired art for centuries. Many churches – including newer builds – incorporate stained glass windows. Some older churches have friezes on the walls or sculptures depicting Bible stories and parables. Not only are these interesting to study in themselves but they raise the question, why paint it when you can hear it? What do these interpretations suggest? Even the architecture of churches offers food for reflection. Why are some churches elaborately designed? Why are others more simple? What does this suggest about different worshippers’ perspectives on God? Which do you prefer and why?

Another opportunity can be found in looking at different depictions of Jesus. Lat Blaylock has produced some excellent resources to this end (Picturing Jesus published by Christian Education). The rejesus website (www.rejesus.co.uk) also offers images of Jesus from different cultures. Why are there so many different interpretations of him? Which images are particularly striking and why? How do the students themselves picture Jesus? Why? Why not set up an art tour of your local church asking any or all of these questions! You could even get out some paints and let it get a little messy…

ENGLISH

There are almost too many links here to do any adequate justice! But let’s have a go. The King James Bible of 1611 changed the face of the English language, giving us a whole load of phrases that have passed into proverbial lore, e.g. the straight and narrow, turn the other cheek, the cross I have to bear…

What’s more, Biblical imagery crops up time and again in key texts studied for exams. It was interesting to hear Andrew Motion, himself a non-believer, decry the fact that so few children know their Bible stories, without which they just won’t ‘get’ great writers. Why not put together a ‘Know your Bible’ session to offer A-level literature students? Look at some of the iconic narratives: Adam and Eve, sin and the fall of humankind; The Passion, death and resurrection of Jesus (and so humankind’s redemption!). If you’re brave enough, what about the end times?

Literature aside, the church has a great tradition of oratory. It's also got an inspirational track history of seeing great reforms and social change: the end of slavery, universal education, reform in working with the marginalised. Since speaking and listening skills play a major part in the English language curriculum, why not offer a public speaking masterclass and/or the use of an impressive pulpit in the church? Invite students to think about contemporary issues of justice that, perhaps, the church has played a role in promoting historically. Recent examples include the Stop the Traffik or Jubilee 2000 campaigns.


PSHE

There is a lot of opportunity to input into the PSHE curriculum, not least because so much of it revolves around relationships, values and personal well-being.

In terms of exploring different relationships and responsibilities within them, there is a lot of emphasis on learning about long-term relationships, sex and even parenting. Simply having somebody to share their experience, honestly and in a way that’s accessible, will speak volumes. Young people have got lots of questions they’d love to ask, but may not be in a position to ask their teacher or a parent. There may be some mums in your church who are currently on maternity leave who may be up for talking about their experience of any or all of the above…

And what about money? Young people are being encouraged to reflect on how they spend money and how to budget and save. Is there a place for charitable giving? The spending ethic promoted by the church is pretty counter-cultural – how about going in and talking about it?

This is part 1 - there's still so much more to be said. I'd love to collect a few tried and tested ideas for faith across the curriculum - please e-mail me at rachel.noyce@yfc.co.uk if you have something to share!

Submitted by Rachel Noyce at 7:14am, 26th January 2010