School Linking through tackling big questions in RE

29/04/2018

Why is there so much suffering? How do we understand peace and conflict? What do different world views and faiths tell us about free will and suffering? These are just some of the questions that students linking and meeting one another to collaborate and develop their thinking at our student RE conference had to reflect and discuss with one another through a full morning of creative group activities. 

Year 10 pupils from Bradford Girls Grammar School and Bradford Academy came together to spend a whole morning working on demanding GCSE style questions but there wasn’t a notebook in sight. Instead pupils were encouraged to reflect on deeper questions through activities promoting structured dialogue. At TLN we are very interested in finding ways to support student links that are rooted in social contact theory in which it is key that interaction between students is meaningful incorporating shared goals, collaborative activity and sense of equal status. We rooted this event in a challenging element of the RE curriculum so learning about this was a shared goal and a common challenge for both groups, we planned collaborative activity that needed everyone’s contribution throughout including icebreakers , shared tasks and presentations that needed everyone in each team of 4 to play their part and the finale of creating film clips with Ipads. It was noticeable that the Ipads brought everyone together.

The students benefitted from valuable contributions from the chaplaincy team who work in Bradford’s hospitals. Joe Fielder, Christian Chaplain and Maryam Riaz, Muslim Chaplain shared their experiences of listening to and working with patients and their families through very difficult times and how they are motivated by their faith to help others of all faith and no faith. The chaplain’s perspectives on suffering and how through the darkest moments of human existence we can always find hope deepened the RE learning. The encounter with people willing to spend their working day seeking to bring some comfort in suffering  modelled the power of meeting with and learning from others and the value of meaningful interaction.

By the end of the morning; pupils felt a lot more confident about GCSE questions which require detailed evaluation and analysis. At the same time, it was a great opportunity to link pupils from two different schools together and an absolute pleasure to watch them work so well together and hear from one another’s experience and thoughts.  By placing the link firmly within a specific area of the curriculum, on this occasion Religious Education, students had the opportunity to meet others they would otherwise not meet, step out of their own bubble to learn from and with one another

Shabnam Khalique who is an RE specialist and middle leader at Bradford Academy had the following to say about the linking event:                                                       “We managed to meet with our learners to debrief and everyone was extremely positive about the session.  Many commented on feeling RE had been given a purpose, the session being pitched perfect (not too hard or too easy), mixing with other students and having the chance to look at RE without feeling exam pressures. From a teaching point of view, I definitely feel inspired and loved linking with another school.  It was a brilliant session”.

If any other schools would like to their students to link and meet others while deepening their curriculum RE learning at the same time please do email azam.ali@thelinkingnetwork.org.uk