Religious Studies and Philosophy
“Socrates once said that “the life unexamined is not worth living”. In Religious Studies we aim to develop inquiring minds that are open to new ideas as well as being able to critically engage with them. Our aim is to take students on a journey through religion, ethics and Philosophy in order to help them develop a better understanding of the world around them and what motivates humans to constantly examine life and question the nature of their own existence.
Inside the classroom we are asking all of life’s big questions:
Is there life after death?
Do we have a soul?
Does life have a meaning?
How should we live?
Does God exist?
Is there such a thing as right and wrong, and how can we know which is which?
The discussions students have in RS lessons continue out into the corridor, into common rooms and continue over dinner. We therefore have the privilege of watching our students develop into original and insightful thinkers.
The co-curricular life of the department
The department incorporates a very successful Philosophy movement that is really establishing itself as part of the Wellington culture. This includes a well attended weekly Philosophy Club (25-30 students, and often a few staff), a half termly whole-school ‘Flash Philosophy’ competition and yearly entry into the South West Inter-Schools Philosothon (for which we won the title in 2016).
Students can also opt in to a sequence of 4 x Saturday morning Ethical Studies sessions. These operate between 9.30-12.00 and have produced discussions as far reaching as war, immigration, wealth and poverty, gender fluidity and gender equality, racism and homophobia.
High standards and academic rigour
The RS department is developing a strong academic record. In 2016, 75% of GCSE full course candidates achieved an A grade or better and at A Level 100% achieved grade B or above.
Key Stage 3 students are writing extended written pieces from Year 7 onwards and all age groups are constantly extended through independent work and choice of tasks.
The RS department has been repeatedly commended for its good practice in assessments, marking, teaching and support of students with additional needs.
Making learning fun, challenging and relevant
Students comment that every time they walk into the room the tables have changed position. This perhaps in some way captures the enormous variety of ways they are learning in RS.
A lesson might involve an ‘open pen’ session on the board on what causes poverty, or a group task comparing and contrasting different religions’ moral guidelines. One day, we might do no writing at all and spend our time just discussing the philosophical or ethical implications of some current global - or perhaps even local - event, using what we have been studying to make sense of it and find answers. Another day students might sit on the floor with different case studies of Islamophobia scattered around them, picking and choosing tasks that analyse those events, not talking at all but going into their own thinking ‘bubble’, filling their books with ideas, answers and – most likely – more questions than they began with.
Variety is not just for the younger students. Our current Year 12 class have been tasked with some outlandish learning experiences, such as living by Immanuel Kant’s ethical theory for a week and devising from scratch their own moral theories.
At times students have offered to take lessons, especially if they are particularly knowledgeable on a subject. For example, we have had a Year 8 student present to her class a fascinating evaluation of intensive versus non-intensive farming, referring to her personal experiences growing up on a local farm. More recently, a Year 9 student prepared a lesson on the Westboro Baptist Church, sourcing a range of thought provoking clips, preparing her own slide show and taking on a lively question and answer session. One of our outgoing A Level students will teach a Year 10 class Christian teachings on the apocalypse in the summer term, which will help her to revise and be enormously useful for the GCSE students.