The Buckinghamshire Agreed Syllabus is the RE entitlement of all pupils in maintained schools and therefore supports the principles of inclusion as set out in the National Curriculum:
- Setting suitable learning challenges.
- Responding to pupils’ diverse learning needs.
- Overcoming potential barriers to learning and assessment for individuals and groups of pupils.
As the subject-matter of RE sometimes raises sensitive issues, it is important that teachers are aware of, and sensitive to, the background and personal circumstances of their pupils.
It is expected that teachers of pupils with special educational needs will modify the RE provision to meet the needs of the children. This includes meeting the challenges of the most able pupils.
The guidance that follows for Special Schools may also prove helpful to teachers of pupils with special educational needs in mainstream schooling.
6.1 RE in Special Schools.
Pupils in special schools are referred to in the Education Act 1993, which states:
‘Every pupil attending a special school will, so far as is practicable.…receive religious education unless the child’s parents have expressed a wish to the contrary. It is for schools to decide what is practicable but, in general terms, the Secretary of State would expect the question of practicability to relate to the special educational needs of the pupils and not to problems of staffing or premises.’
Teachers of children with special educational needs will broadly need to follow the three core principles outlined below:
- Be sensitive to and meet the needs of the individual child.
- Set challenging tasks but have realistic expectations of what she/he can do and celebrate this.
- Make the pupils’ experience of RE meaningful taking account of their special educational need.
Some pupils will be able to work factually but not relate to feelings and meanings.
Others will find factual detail confusing and will need a more sensory and experiential approach in their RE lessons.
For some, using ‘stilling’ activities for quiet reflection and to deepen imagination may be appropriate.
Some will require low-stimulus and others a multi-sensory approach will be helpful, using music, art, costume, or persona dolls.
For many, the use of story and narrative expressed in a range of contexts will be helpful.
Wherever possible, engagement with people and places will enhance their learning experience.
It is up to the teacher’s professional judgement and personal knowledge of the child to decide how best to meet the needs of individual pupils. For example, pupils with educational and behavioural difficulties will have short concentration spans and so will not cope with extensive reading, research, and writing. The school may well decide it is more fitting to have short sessions more frequently during the week – the ‘little and often’ approach. A more active and varied lesson will help these pupils gain from their experience of RE.
It is suggested that teachers use resources that best meet the needs of the child. Where pupils have difficulties with factual knowledge, books should be used sparingly. Artefacts that stimulate the senses, role-play, social stories, and careful use of visits and visitors will prove more effective.
The teacher should choose appropriate content from the units of the Syllabus. For example, in Rites of Passage (KS2), birth and marriage may be nearer the pupils’ own experience than initiation rites. Again, the teacher’s professional judgement and personal knowledge of the pupils will come into play.
Similarly, studying more than one additional religion may overload some pupils with facts, so if appropriate, only one religion may be studied. (NB care must then be taken to ensure that the school meets the statutory requirement that Christianity should predominate, but that other religions are studied.)