As an RE Consultant, teacher, I have enjoyed developing and delivering creative approaches to RE teaching and learning in partnership with Primary schools and churches. 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 longstanding involvement in both these communities enabled this joint cross-curricular approach to globally-focussed RE to be effectively developed.
Developing theological and religious literacy
The vision for this collaborative approach to was to increase levels of engagement in RE teaching and learning for pupils and staff, in a cross cultural and multi-faith school and community and to harness the potential of the local church, its overseas networks, as well as the physical space it offered, as a long term resource. Exciting possibilities for sustainable collaborative learning emerged through school and church communities working together, sharing beliefs, ideas, experiences and reflections. Pupils theological and religious literacy was enriched through an enquiry approach to investigating key questions and participating in reflective activities and pupil-led 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 within the wider community.
Diocesan Companions Links overseas partnerships
St Georges’ church had an active relationship with Mozambique, via their ALMA partnership (Diocese of London Companion Link) Rev Christopher Ramsay, vicar of St Georges, 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 Companion Links in every Diocese could be, for extending creative RE teaching and 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 build direct connections and feel 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.
Extended learning in RE- values in action
The ‘Gifts of the Spirit’ banners were made for Lichinga church by sixty year 5 pupils, parents, teachers and church members, which enabled pupils to have a ‘live’ experience of what it can mean to ‘Love your neighbour. It also 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 Sunday celebration.
My hope is that these RE with Soul resources will inspire schools and churches across London and beyond to engage in shared learning partnerships that grow theological, religious, social and creative 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.
RE Consultant and Primary Teacher