In our next ‘In Conversation with…’ articles, we hear from Adam Robertson, our Curriculum CPD RE lead. Here he shares his thoughts, observations and tips on his passion, Religious Education.
What drives you to keep going and advocate Religious Education?
I am fascinated by the wisdom and treasures of the world’s religions and worldviews. I think that understanding these opens up our ability to be human, to understand others and to consider how different cultures have answered life’s big questions. There is always more to learn as religions are so dynamic!
What are some of the key issues you think we are currently facing in RE?
RE is at an exciting moment! The work undertaken by many in the RE community to focus on the idea of worldviews gives us an opportunity to engage and enthuse all pupils. Showing worldviews as living breathing traditions – that are inherently diverse I think speaks to the world as it is today. I think the work on ‘ways of knowing’ – seeing the different academic disciplines that underpin RE – enables us to show pupils that RE is such a relevant subject in the globalised world we live in.
In your experience, what are the challenges faced by teachers with RE?
Many people worry in RE that they are going to say the wrong thing, or make mistakes and upset other people in the classroom. This is not helped by the fact that teachers receive very little RE in their initial teacher training.
You cannot know everything about RE – so it is fine to say ‘I am not sure,’ or ‘Let’s find out more together.’ Secondly, remember every pupil will have their experience of their worldview, but it may not be the same as others. If you are teaching about something – and you know it is from a reliable source – and a pupil says they do something different – use this as an opportunity for exploring what is similar or different in their family.
What would be your three Top Tips?
- Use quality resources in RE to make it come to life – your subject association NATRE , RE Online, Birmingham Faith Visits all offer excellent resources that are well researched.
- Try to bring RE to life by welcoming visitors or going to a place of worship. Allow pupils to interview visitors to see how their lifestyle and beliefs compare to what they have learnt. In what ways are they similar? In what ways are they different?
- Show diversity as normal. Allow pupils to investigate how religions are inherently diverse – mosques may have been converted from chapels or churches in the UK, not all Christians worship in a church on a Sunday. Some people are strongly drawn to churches and mosques, others may go occasionally. Try to show this diversity as part of normal life and not as exceptions.
If you could encourage all Primary school teachers to consistently do ONE thing in RE, what would it be?
Use your local area to support you! What do religions and worldviews look like there? How is it similar or different from the wider area or the UK?
Seek out diverse representations of artwork, buildings and people. Challenge misconceptions that Jews, Christians, Muslims etc all look a certain way or come from certain countries. Allow pupils to see how religion is a worldwide phenomenon.
Adam leads the Gateway Alliance Curriculum CPD – Religious Education events with the most recent receiving fantastic feedback:
‘Lots of useful ideas that can be applied to the classroom and adapted for different year groups.’
‘Again, love Adam’s provision of hands-on ideas that can actually be applied within the classroom.’
‘Everything was useful. Adam was clear and concise and put a big focus on EYFS and KS1 which was helpful.’
‘A great insight into religions that I don’t know a great deal about with super lesson ideas and good consideration of assessment in RE.’
Adam Robertson works as Subject Lead for RE at Oak National Academy. Previous to this he was a National Adviser for RE Today. Until June 2021, he was a primary teacher for 14 years, much of it spent as a subject leader for RE. In addition, he worked as a schools’ adviser for the Diocese of Bristol for four years – helping schools improve their understanding of RE.
Adam has been a member of the NATRE Executive since 2018, served as an adviser to SACRE, and led RE Hub groups in Bristol and South Gloucestershire. He has a passion for the teaching of high quality RE that utilises pupil’s creativity and questioning.
You can find Adam on X (Twitter) @Ad_Robertson
If you would like to benefit from Adam’s expertise to support your RE in school, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Click here to find out more about our other Curriculum CPD events this year at Gateway Alliance.