Writing Curriculum for Religious Literacy

Having only just commenced my new job as Head of Religion last week, one challenge I’ve been given is to raise the standard of academic rigour in Religious Education in school. In some ways, this has been made easier because of the implementation of a whole new curriculum, written by the archdiocese of Brisbane (which you can find here if you’re that way inclined). So, in many ways, it’s a blank canvas – but it’s also quite daunting. I also want to strike a balance between what I want taught in the department, and the department taking ownership of the content and teaching their own lessons. I don’t want to plan everything myself, as I’m aware that not everyone will want to teach how I teach, and they have their own gifts to bring to the table. However, as you may know if I’ve spoken to you, the peculiar way Australian teaching seems to work means that I have 15 people teaching in my department, the majority of whom have other primary specialisms (it also means that as Head of Religion I am teaching 4 lessons of music per week). So I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of religious literacy in relation to the planning of new curriculum.

I am very excited about injecting some life into the department, moving forward in line with the diocesan curriculum, but at the same time, I am not entirely sure how I’m going to proceed with this. At the minute, I’ve taken on planning year 7 and 8, with the intention of starting from the ground up. I’m also aware that curriculum at the top end is sparse, so year 11 and 12 planning will be my next challenge. All students will have their own laptop in the next year or so – years 7, 8 and 10 do at the minute – so the potential for using e-learning is great.

The curriculum from the diocese is extremely academically rigorous. It is split into four sections: sacred texts, beliefs, Church, and religious life (did I mention, I teach in a Catholic school?). The challenge is to teach all of the modules in the short amount of time (typically one unit in four lessons). This worries me, but I sense that each year builds on the previous years’ lessons once it is implemented. What I do like is the Venn diagram that the diocese use which, for me, represents the ‘learning about’ and ‘learning from’ religion that is outdated in the UK – but recognises that not every lesson needs to do both, and that sometimes it you might only do one or the other.

So, rather than reflecting, this is more of a future-looking post. Please let me know if you have any suggestions on planning or managing the department! I will try to keep reflecting here as I go along.

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