As a department we aim to enable students to think clearly, honestly and accurately in the field of experience often referred to as religion and belief, and to promote understanding and tolerance among peoples of a variety of faiths and those who have none. The Department aims to:
- Encourage students to develop the skills required for rigorous thought and critical analysis
- Encourage students to recognise that world views (be they religious or not) form a fundamental part of human experience
- Enable each student to develop a deeper understanding of themselves as well as an empathy with others and appreciation of diversity
- Help each pupil to understand the demands and consequences of committing to a world view or belief system
- Allow the pupils the opportunity to encounter ideas, views, and beliefs different to their own
- Enable the pupil to be critically aware of the religious, spiritual and moral dimensions of human experience
- Create an environment where the pupil is confident and comfortable communicating their own ideas
- Enable each student to develop their use of language to articulate their own ideas and beliefs with more clarity
- Strive to create an atmosphere of enjoyment and understanding
- Allow each pupil to engage with ethical issues of global significance, including ecological and medical ethics
- Allow each pupil to become more aware of contemporary issues in society, such as the developing world, prejudice, crime and punishment, sexuality, as well as the religious and non-religious responses to these issues
- Develop a philosophical approach to existence, recognising the value of challenging ideas and raising questions
WHY IS RELIGION PHILOSOPHY AND ETHICS EXCITING AT CLSG?
RPE is the only subject in the curriculum which allows students to consider what it means to be human and to explore and challenge the established norms of society. Students are challenged to develop a deeper understanding of some of the controversial religious and secular issues faced by the modern world; it is a vital and relevant discipline. We aim to pursue academic rigour while instilling a love of learning and fascination with the variety of belief and non-belief in all our students. We believe that Religion, Philosophy and Ethics is an essential part of all students' education because:
- It seeks to ask the fundamental questions of life which impact upon humanity
- It prepares students to develop their own beliefs and values
- It exposes students to the ideas of the greatest thinkers our world has known and encourages a critical view of them
- It demands an intellectual curiosity and academic rigour
- It promotes a respectful and critical tolerance of our differences
- It develops invaluable transferable skills which are demanded for many professions and are necessary for many areas of life
- It provides students with the tools to begin to understand the profound influence religion has had, and continues to have, on our history and culture
The Department makes effective use of a wide range of resources and is keen to use innovative teaching techniques to help to communicate complex ideas. We emphasise the importance of developing a broad knowledge of the history of ideas and religion which has wide reaching significance across the curriculum. Our syllabus offers students a wide range of introductory subjects from Year 7 upwards, each developing new skills and contributing to broad general knowledge. We are proud of our impressive examination results, high uptake in the Sixth Form and the growing interest in Theology, Philosophy and Religious Studies at degree. We also have a good record of sending students to Oxbridge to study the subject.
Years 7 - 9
RPE in Year 7 focuses on enquiry questions centred around the Abrahamic faiths. Students will also build up an understanding of a range of ideas, concepts and skills, including argument and evaluation. There are opportunities for pupils to examine and reflect on the nature of God, the nature of belief and the characteristics of religion. Our study of Judaism focuses on Abraham and Moses, as well as the how Judaism contributes to our understanding of ‘community’. In our Christianity unit pupils investigate the person of Jesus, including some Trinitarian theology and a focus on morality. Students engage in a critical evaluation of the death of Jesus, considering the social, political and religious context that surrounded the crucifixion. Finally, our unit on Islam gives pupils the opportunity to explore common misconceptions and focus on the contributions that Islam has made in the UK and beyond. Throughout, pupils are asked to consider the practices, beliefs and rituals within Islam.
Year 8 RPE builds upon the skills that have been established in Year 7 and begins to build their skills of critical analysis and evaluation. In Year 8 students have their first introduction to philosophy with an analysis of some ultimate questions such as ‘Does God exist?’ and ‘Why do we suffer?’ They are encouraged to consider philosophical, ethical and religious perspectives on these questions. We continue our philosophical journey with an exploration of Hinduism and Buddhism. Not only will they explore the practices and rituals associated with both, but they will also investigate the ethical and philosophical foundations of both religions too. We undertake a debate about the concept of ahimsa (non-violence) in the context of social protest and investigate different philosophical positions on the concept of anatta (no self).
RPE in Year 9 serves as an introduction to work that can be continued further in the GCSE papers in Years 10 and 11. Students are encouraged to develop their analytical skills further and to think critically about established philosophical and ethical concepts and ideas. Our first unit gives students the opportunity to study key ideas from some of the world's most renowned philosophers, such as Aristotle, Plato, Kant, Nietszche and Marx. Pupils evaluate philosophical and ethical ideas to establish a personal response and foster a sense of curiosity. Their investigations will revolve around three central questions: ‘What is, and how do we gain, knowledge?’, ‘What is a good action?’ and ‘What is justice?’ Building upon this philosophical foundation, we look at the Jewish Holocaust and the way in which Jewish theological thinking has changed in the light of this event. We also reflect on the nature of discrimination and prejudice in the world in which we live, including a focus on the Rwandan genocide, the power of language in the media, Islamophobia and Holocaust denial. Students will also create their own response to our studies in the form of a creative project at the end of the year.
YEARS 10 and 11
At GCSE we study two papers. The first addresses Christianity and Islam – exploring theological, philosophical and ethical issues within these belief systems including the nature of God, logos, post-mortem existence, sacrament, poverty, religion and community, jihad and Sunni and Shi’a distinctions. The second paper addresses four themes: religion and life, peace and conflict, crime and punishment, and human rights and social justice. Our GCSE syllabus delivers an exciting exploration of how and why religion has had such a massive impact on our world and our behaviour. Students have the unique opportunity to consider and reflect upon how belief has shaped people's position on issues such as abortion, euthanasia and relationships. They will have the chance to get involved in ethical conversations taking place in modern medicine, for example, as well as human rights, war and peace, environmental ethics, crime and punishment and the role of personal conscience in these matters. Our skills-based approach encourages pupils to develop a whole range of skills which are wholly transferable: persuasive skills, for example, as students are required to defend and discredit ethical views which may not reflect their own views; debating skills, as much of our work is discussion-based, encouraging pupils to become more articulate and provide evidence for their views or even argue for an opposing view; and finally logic skills, as pupils need to think through some complex and challenging philosophical ideas and arguments.
Assessment: Students are asked to take two examination papers with no coursework component.
This A Level course offers a hugely exciting and challenging specification which provides a critical approach to the consideration of moral, philosophical and theological issues. Students study the theories of philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Anscombe, Aquinas, Moore, Ayer, Freud, Calvin, Marx, Boff, Barth and Rahner. Students are encouraged to present arguments with precision allowing them to think clearly and to argue convincingly about deeply interesting questions.
We aim to enable students to think rationally, lucidly, independently and critically, to discuss intelligently, and to argue cogently. As important as the questions are, so is the process of learning to answer them. Philosophy, Ethics and Theology is the ultimate ‘transferable work skill.’ We are often asked what philosophy can be used for, and the answer is ‘absolutely anything’! A Philosophy or Theology degree immediately demonstrates that a person can ‘think outside the box’ and weigh up wide-ranging arguments with precision and detail. In a world where a creative approach is increasingly necessary, a grasp of philosophical, theological and ethical ideas and skills is a real benefit.
A Level: OCR
RECENT TRIPS/LEARNING ACTIVITIES
- Residential trip to Rome (Year 10, 11, 12 and 13)
- Question and answer session with a Rabbi (Year 7)
- Visit to St Paul's Cathedral (Year 7)
- Visit to Bevis Marks Synagogue (Year 7)
- Visit to Jewish Museum (Year 9)
- Enrichment conference (Year 10/11)
- A Level Conference
- Discussion between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Board of Deputies of British Jews (A Level students)
“I love discussing big questions in such an open way where there is no wrong answer. It is really interesting to learn about and understand people’s different views and perspectives about the same topics. It has never been more important to have curriculum time to have (sometimes difficult) conversations, listen to others and to think and be more curious, to question things more” – Amber, Year 11
“Our RPE lessons are very special. I’ve just been set A Level homework – at my new school – on Kierkegaard and, not for the first time, have found exactly what I needed in my RPE notes! The GCSE course was an absolute joy, in the process contributing to what is now an almost obsessive love of ‘scholarly detail’ (I have a quote for nearly every situation!) and helping me go from being unhelpfully dogmatic to being able to nearly always see both sides of the argument, a skill which I really value. We did RPE in a way that gave us loads of room to debate and think things over, but insisting on forming opinions and learning to defend them. I doubt the Year 9s know how much they have to look forward to!” Martha, former CLSG GCSE student
“Studying RPE A-level has been fascinating and enlightening; from the ancient Greek philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, to the 20th century works of Wittgenstein, RPE at City presents a wide range of complex ideas in an accessible and engaging way. The combination of group research, class discussion and individual work has not only developed my evaluative skills but has also fuelled my curiosity to go beyond the syllabus. I particularly enjoyed studying ethical theories such as utilitarianism and Kantian ethics, then applying them to modern issues, including medical ethics and the ethics of business; in this way the teaching demonstrates how the topics we cover in RPE shape our society, illustrating the relevance of the subject to all of our lives!” – Tabby, Year 13
Head of Department: Mrs K Bullard