Demand soars for inspiring RE lessons as children discover church isn’t scary


Berkshire-based schools project REinspired has seen demand for its work with schools and young people soar.

“REinspired exists to help groups of Christians from different backgrounds work with their local schools to support the Christian elements of the Religious Education curriculum (RE),” reports project director, Julia Jones. REinspired started in 2003 with one primary school asking churches if they could help improve RE lessons.

Since then the project has grown to deliver Christian RE lessons to every child, in every school in the Earley and East Reading areas. “We have other REinspired projects up and running in Reading in Woodley, Caversham, West and South Reading, Southcote, and in other areas, in Guernsey, Headington, Bristol, Houghton Regis and Chinnor. Every year more and more schools are looking for the sort of support REinspired can deliver. This year demand has quite literally soared. It’s been fabulous to work with churches in West and South Reading where four new schools have recently asked REinspired to come into their schools. And there are requests from Bracknell, Wokingham, Theale, Pangbourne, Aylesbury and more. Interesting that our most recent requests have come from school teachers themselves as they value what we offer and how we can enhance and enrich their current RE work. Most have learnt about us via internet searches and by word of mouth.”

So, what lies behind this Religious Education success story? Last year Tim Burdon reported in Inews that 26 per cent of secondary schools were failing to deliver even a basic level of RE lessons. Added to this is the view among many that young people are simply not interested in religion. Yet when it comes to Christianity it appears that young people are far more interested than might have first been thought. And it appears that a visit to a local church can really ignite that initial interest.

“Many of our sessions take place in schools but we also invite the children to come and visit us in our churches,” says Julia. “The excitement of time away from the classroom makes such visits a memorable day. Yet there’s also a distinct spiritual element as children, their teachers and adult helpers enter together into our Christian holy and sacred spaces.”

Vicar of St Nicolas’, Earley, the Revd Neil Warwick, said: “Each church visit is quite unique. We love to see the children enter in and enjoy learning about beliefs and practices that are so special to us. The conversations that occur during a visit are incredible and these continue as the children go to school and then home, sharing what they have learnt with their families.”

Writing in The Telegraph Olivia Rudgard reported that more than one in five young people between the ages of 11 and 18 would describe themselves as active followers of Jesus. Many others want to explore those big questions of life that RE lessons provide an ideal opportunity to investigate.

What happens when we die? Where have we come from? Is there more to life than material possessions? How should we treat our world?

“Big Questions demand that Christians seize this opportunity to add their voice to the debate,” says Julia. “At REinspired we work with children from primary schools all the way through to the sixth form. Our sessions use volunteers from local churches to provide engaging, interactive and creative approaches to the big issues schools and their young people want to explore. Schools love our approach – as do the pupils. The result has been soaring demand.”

The Revd Keith Wilson, Chair of Trustees, said: “The REinspired model is about sharing what we believe in supporting the Christian enquiry on the RE syllabus, enabling young people not only to ‘learn about’ but also to ‘learn from’ this belief. As with every line of enquiry, there comes a moment when inevitably one asks, what does this mean for me?”

“We would love to see the REinspired model replicated elsewhere,” explained Keith. “All you need is a group of churches who have a passion to serve their local schools through RE. It’s then a case of building relationships and getting ready to host a session. At REinspired we’re passionate about meeting this demand and provide training, mentoring and other resources to get new groups off to a brilliant start.”

Reading, writing, arithmetic and Religious Education


RELIGIOUS Education is regularly in the news. National reports have highlighted the difficulties with RE and religious literacy in wider society writes ANNE ANDREWS.

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Bishop Steven answers pupils Reinspired Big Questions


BISHOP Steven was given a place in the Mastermind chair at a recent REinspired session for primary school children at Lower Early Baptist Church in Reading.

“We have been working with the Year 6 children of Hawkedon Primary School since they were in Foundation,” says Julia Jones, Project Director of REinspired.  “All of our sessions meet the needs of the RE syllabus. But this session is different as it is the children who set the questions and we then design the session and activities accordingly.”

Some of the pupil’s asked questions about when we die. Leaders introduced the topic using the story of Water bugs and Dragonflies by Doris Stickney which led to deeper discussions in their small groups.  The pupils were given an opportunity to respond by using art and craft.

Pupils gathered together as one group and Bishop Steven settled himself down into the big ‘Mastermind’ chair.  With two minutes on the clock, how many questions did the bishop answer?  He managed to answer 11 fully and successfully before the bell went.  Some of the questions included:

“What do you do when you wake up?”

With a smile he answered, “I get out of bed, have a coffee and I pray.”

“Will Jesus always be with you?”

The Bishop firmly said, “Yes, including in death and beyond death.”

“If God is real why is He not helping people in need?”

Thoughtfully, the Bishop answered, “I think God is helping people in need a lot.  God calls us to help these people and has given all we need to do so.”

The pupils then had the opportunity of questioning the Bishop directly.  They eagerly put their hands up.  One of the questions was:

“If you could change anything in the world what would it be?”

Bishop Steven answered, “It would be war and conflict.  It’s terrible when it happens to people but when its caused by other people I think it’s the worst.”

As always, our teachers are invited to feedback their comments on every session.  Today the Hawkedon teachers reflected, “REinspired have organised this session well with a good pace.  We were happy with the delivery, setup and safety of the session.  It covered useful aspects of PSMSC (Personal, Spiritual, Moral, Social, Cultural). The children were engaged and thoroughly enjoyed questioning the Bishop.”

REinspired based at St Nicolas Church, Earley, is an ecumenical group of Christians in Earley and East Reading delivering RE sessions to schools. We started 15 years ago when one of our primary schools asked a local minister for help with their RE.  The Churches Together in Earley and East Reading team embraced the opportunity and REinspired was born.  Our aim is to meet the need of the locally agreed RE syllabus and bring RE to life. Having started with one class in one school, REinspired now supports every class in all 11 primary schools as well as two secondary schools.  When we started we had dreams of meeting and working with ‘every child, every year, every school’.  15 years later that dream is a reality.


Big Questions at Chesterton

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CHIDamascusLDREN faced big questions during investigative RE lessons at Chesterton CE Primary School.

Diocesan RE Adviser, Jo Fageant, met teachers to formulate a new, cross curricular project, exploring in Key Stage 1 whether Jesus has the power to change people’s lives, using biblical texts including the Road to Damascus. In Key Stage 2, they explored the burning bush and were given a commission from God: “Looking down on the world I feel dispirited to see so much sadness in the world that I created. It was not meant to be like this. I see my people suffering at the hands of nature but also at the hands of man.” God asked the children to report back to him their findings.

Years Three and Four explored religion in Britain in the time of the Tudors and then through investigation of the conflict in Northern Ireland. Years 5 and 6 found out about religion in the Holy Land learning about the Crusades and the modern Arab/Israeli conflict.

The children came up with thoughtful responses. Adam said: “This has been one of the best topics we’ve worked on because it was exploring a big question that linked together subjects I like, history, geography and RE. We learned about Greek gods when we were in Year 3 but this project has helped me to understand more about Greek history and conflicts in the Holy Land involving Romans and Jews. We also learned about the Crusades and compared all this history with the modern situation in Syria.”

Emma said: “I most enjoyed learning about the Arab/Israeli conflict. I’ve seen things about it on the news but never really knew what it was about. Finding out about it was so interesting and how people’s different religious beliefs were not making them behave well towards one another.”

Lottie in Year 4 said: “‘Protestants’ and ‘Catholics’ are just labels. The charities that try to help want people to know that Jesus didn’t want that, he said faith was important.”



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