1.1. The Nature and Purpose of the Agreed Syllabus
The Agreed Syllabus is the statutory long-term planning document for Religious Education in Buckinghamshire maintained schools, including Voluntary Controlled schools. It provides the overall rationale, aims, objectives and broadly what must be taught whilst allowing for the subject leader’s professional judgement to determine the detail, order and methods used. It also specifies the principles of assessment to provide a coherent structure for planning, progression, and reporting. This forms the basis for the school to develop its curriculum intent, implementation, and impact as appropriate to the whole school curriculum and the context of the pupils.
It is not, and nor can it be, a detailed scheme of work to be delivered by teachers to pupils. This should be used by the subject leader to develop a school curriculum.
Support materials for teachers will be made available in a separate document.
The syllabus provides a learning process in which pupils explore the themes and issues raised by religion and worldviews through key stage enquiries and concepts in the light of the pupils’ own experience and questions.
1.2. The Statutory Place of RE in Education in England
RE is part of the basic curriculum and is statutory for all state-funded schools.
The national requirements for Religious Education are set out in the 1944, 1988 Education Acts and section 375(3) of the 1996 Education Act:
‘Every Agreed Syllabus shall reflect the fact that the religious traditions in Great Britain are in the main Christian, whilst taking account of the teachings and practices of the other principal religions represented in Great Britain’.
This is further explained in DfE circular 1/94 from which the following paragraphs are taken:
‘Religious Education is required to be included, alongside the National Curriculum, in the basic curriculum which all maintained schools must provide for their registered pupils; this includes those in reception classes and sixth forms and is not confined to pupils of compulsory school age’. (Paragraph 20.)
The DfE has clearly stated that: ‘All state schools… must teach religious education… All schools must publish their curriculum by subject and academic year online.’ (National Curriculum in England: Framework Document, DfE, September 2013, page 4).
‘If the parent asks that a child should be wholly or partly excused from Religious Education at the school, then the school must comply’. (Paragraph 44.)
‘As a whole and at each Key Stage, the relative content devoted to Christianity in the syllabus should predominate.” (Paragraph 35.) After Buckinghamshire County Council consulted with Queens Council in 2006, this was interpreted as meaning that ‘Christianity should have more time devoted to it than the other religions taken together’.
The Agreed Syllabus, appropriately implemented, provides a coherent, progressive experience of RE for pupils from Reception to post-16, enabling schools to meet statutory requirements and provide educational value. It is expected, except in EYFS and post-16, or relating to an external examination course, that a minimum of 5% of curriculum time across each Key Stage (approximately one hour per week) is provided to enable quality learning to take place. It is up to the school to decide how this is planned and provided, but it must ensure that the RE curriculum as a whole develops knowledge and is sequential and ambitious with clear end points.
R.E. in Academies and Free Schools:
The requirement to teach Religious Education is part of the funding agreement for Free Schools and Academies and Multi-Academy Trusts, which must provide RE in accordance with the same requirements as for an Agreed Syllabus Conference. Free Schools and Academies can adopt the locally Agreed Syllabus if they so choose, by agreement of the board of directors, and SACRE encourages those in Buckinghamshire to do so in the interests of continuity, coherence, and opportunities to share best practice across all schools.
Buckinghamshire SACRE has also taken some account of the Commission on Religious Education (CoRE) report (2018) in its use of ‘worldview’ as central to the provision of high-quality RE. We have adapted the CoRE report’s understanding of ‘worldview’ to be a person’s way of experiencing, responding to and understanding the world and that RE includes personal as well as institutional worldviews. Worldviews can be fluid, with people often drawing on aspects of a number of institutional worldviews.
“A worldview is a person’s way of understanding, experiencing, and responding to the world. It can be described as a philosophy of life or an approach to life. This includes how a person understands the nature of reality and their own place in the world. A person’s worldview is likely to influence and be influenced by their beliefs, values, behaviours, experiences, identities and commitments.” (page 4).
We believe that this has always been implicit in ‘Challenging RE’, not least in its learning process (see page 16), the centrality of lived experience and its focus on enabling pupils to reflect on their own worldview as they explore other religions and worldviews.