Blair Peach Primary School and St George’s Church Southall

As an RE consultant, teacher and project coordinator, I have enjoyed developing and delivering creative approaches to RE teaching and learning in partnership with Primary schools and churches.  Some already established relationships between Blair Peach Primary School and St George’s C of E Church in Southall, West London, St George’s  and Lichinga a Mozambique (ALMA), as well as my own involvement in both these communities enabled this joint cross-curricular approach to RE to be effectively developed.

Developing theological and religious literacy

The vision for this collaborative approach to RE teaching and learning was to increase levels of engagement in the subject for pupils and staff and to harness the potential of the local church as a creative learning space and living resource. Exciting possibilities for collaborative learning emerged through school and church communities learning and working together, sharing beliefs,  ideas, experiences and reflections. It was encouraging to witness pupils developing theological and religious literacy through an enquiry approach to investigating key questions,  participating in reflective activities and shared creativity.  Church members and parents contributing their gifts in using drama for story-telling, visual arts and music as well as sharing in creative learning processes helped to bring learning to life as well as deepened relationships between church and school and between different religions. dramatising Bible stories using a parachute

Diocesan Companions overseas partnerships

St Georges’ church had an active relationship with Mozambique, via their ALMA partnership. Rev Christopher Ramsay invited me to shape a collaborative RE project around the request that had come from the ALMA partner in Lichinga, Mozambique, for eight banners to be made on the theme of the spiritual gifts. Inspired by my previous education work in Zambia, Africa,  I recognised the gift that these overseas partnerships could be for  extending creative RE learning through a live values and citizenship framework.

Each planning each stage of the first RE with Soul project enabled sixty pupils  and staff to encounter their overseas neighbour in different ways. For example exploring the geography, art and history of Mozambique was integral to the investigative process, and enabled pupils and teachers to feel direct connection and empathy with the overseas community.

Churches as creative learning spaces

Stretching out in the church space for drama, discussion and design work was inspiring for all of us. As pupils, parents and staff worked in teams to explore the theme of spiritual gifts it was thrilling to observe confidence growing and personal discoveries being made  as each pupil was encouraged to contribute their ideas and reflect on their designs. Diocese of Niassa receiving Southall banners

Applied RE values in action

The gifts of the spirit banners were being made for Lichinga church which enabled pupils to have  a ‘live’ experience of what it can mean to ‘Love your neighbour, and demonstrated the potential for the RE with Soul approach to catalyse action for positive change in the school community and beyond. The outcome of this project hasn’t just been a beautiful set of eight banners. Relationships have grown locally and globally. Knowledge, skills, understanding and confidence of pupils, parents and  teachers have been enriched.

Having now safely arrived at their destination in Lichinga,  these banners prior to departure, were hung from the whispering gallery in St Paul’s Cathedral , as one of several  Mozambican inspired artworks displayed for the  annual ALMA celebration.

My hope is that these RE with Soul resources will inspire schools and churches to engage in shared learning partnerships that grow theological, religious literacy in a vibrant relational way and will continue to narrow distances and transforms lives, enabling neighbours across the world to grow together in love.

Rachel Woods

RE Consultant and Primary Teacher