“In a world deluged by irrelevant information, clarity is power” Yuval Noah Harari
Our primary aim is to equip our students with the ability to form an opinion, support it with reasons and evidence, show that they have considered an alternative point of view and evaluate: state which side of the argument is stronger and why. These critical thinking skills are essential to a young person’s development in the twenty first century and the means by which they may navigate an era of ‘fake news’, ‘alternative facts’ and an ever-changing job market.
The Philosophy and Ethics curriculum is delivered by a dedicated and passionate team, it brings together the subjects previously taught separately as RE, Citizenship and PSHEE. There is now one coherent programme of study, with more time allocated to enable breadth and depth of topics. There will be an unbiased approach to cover a range of different topics; at no point will students be told this is the best or worst political party, the right or wrong religious view, the right or wrong thing to do.
Topics covered in Years 7-8 include:
Students will use a wide range of resources including videos, ICT, newspaper articles, research articles, outside agencies and practical exploration of the world around them. There will be lots of different activities throughout the course, which have been designed to be thought provoking, create discussion, and build upon and enhance functional and critical skills. The schemes of work take on an AFL (assessment for learning) approach. For example students will often assess their own and each other’s work and use this active discussion to improve their own abilities.
Throughout the schemes of work there are formative assessment opportunities. These are often small pieces of work or reflection but help the teacher and learner to build up a picture of their own ability. It often involves the learners deciding upon the criteria for success.
In essence all work is designed to enable learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go and how best to get there. This will be a constant dialogue with teachers and learners.
There are also summative assessments where teachers will assess pieces of work and use this data. The aim is that these assessments are reliable and valid –each assessment will be discussed by learners and staff and clear, written feedback will be given on what went well, areas for development as well as next steps for how to improve.
In years 9, 10 and 11 the majority of students follow the Eduqas Religious Studies (Philosophy and applied Ethics) full course. This course looks at topics that we know will engage all including war and peace, equality, abortion, euthanasia, religion and science, wealth and poverty, relationships, crime and punishment, censorship, human rights as well as reflection on the question of the existence of God in light of human suffering. This full course contributes towards the 8 GCSE’s and is recognised by employers as a demonstration of analytical thinking, emotional intelligence, problem solving ability and social awareness.
Some students may find the Edexcel Citizenship exam more accessible in which case the Edexcel Citizenship course is provided for selected students. Topics include diversity, human rights, civil and criminal law, parliamentary democracy and actions citizens take to influence decisions locally, nationally and globally.
The department has also organised Soul Space in association with the Lighthouse, Yesu and St Peter’s Church. This is where the drama studio is transformed into a space for prayer and reflection. Colourful fabric, lighting and cushions, fill the space with different interactive activities and zones available. Students are encouraged to use the space in a way that best suits their own needs– from being creative artistically to having a time of quiet and thoughtful reflection.
Over the five days, the Soul Space offers all students the chance to access aspects of prayer in an experiential way that a classroom couldn’t provide and encourages them to think and reflect on their own lives and wider world issues and take an active role in social responsibility and stewardship of the Earth. In the last two years our students have taken part in environmental petitions (fighting unsustainable palm oil and pollution) which student representatives then presented to our local MP Norman Lamb.
The department plays a prominent role in SMSC days.
In Year 7 all students get the opportunity to visit one of the local churches. They become the ‘expert’ in that denomination and return to school to share their experience with the other members off their group in order to create a church of the future.
In Year 8 Sheringham high School offer a trip to London to visit the Parliament. Here students get a tour of Parliament, participate in an educational workshop and sit in on the House of Lords or the House of Commons debate. This is trips helps to consolidate the year 8 Philosophy and Ethics curriculum in which students identify and research local social issues, create their own manifestoes, plan campaign pledges for mock elections and discuss key issues in Parliament style debates.
Towards the end of Year 10 a futures day is organised. the structure of the day provides students with the chance to consider everything that may affect their future including applying for colleges, revision techniques and exam stress busting strategies and keeping yourself sexually healthy.
In Philosophy and Ethics, students will never be told what to think, but will be taught how to think critically, and to draw on knowledge and skills from every subject area and apply them to the realities of the twenty first century in a way that instills a firm grounding from which to explore the exciting spiritual, moral, social and cultural challenges of adult life.