REfocusing RE?

Two days ago I struggled to read the powerpoint slides at the Words Beyond Words conference #REwords16…. I confess that I had wondered if my eyesight was deteriorating for a while… but when I asked colleagues if they could read the screen and found they could, I knew that I had to do something about it. By chance I had already booked an appointment at the opticians today, so I will soon be in possession of new glasses…

My colleague Jane Chipperton (@JChipperton) remarked to me this afternoon that perhaps this was ‘symbolic’ of the weekend… that perhaps we ‘all need new glasses’ for refocusing….

If Bob Bowie (@BobBowie) can use gloves as an analogy over the #REwords16 weekend, then I will use glasses…

The need for dialogue

I only realised that I needed new glasses when I had dialogue with my colleagues (thanks Gillian @RECofELincoln and Olivia @Ollyseymour for pointing this out!). I realised that I was not seeing as clearly as I should be; things were blurred. During the weekend it was great to engage in dialogue with colleagues to try and clarify what we mean by religious literacy. Many different perspectives were put forward, I won’t go into them all here. Many views presented a partial view, some I felt were even ‘blurred’. The dialogue showed me that engaging with others clarifies our own ideas and helps us to be clearer about our own positions. Dialogue, and most importantly the listening that takes place as part of this, sharpens our view. For me, what became clear was that the term religious literacy itself is complex and has many weaknesses.

We need to act

During the conference Dawn Cox (@MissDCox) tweeted:

I’m convinced that discussing it (religious literacy) is getting tiresome without doing something about it…

I agree.

Now I could have decided that I’d like to continue being unable to read powerpoint slides at conferences; this would not have been a wise decision. The wise decision was to go to the opticians and get my eyes tested!

Last year, I spent time with colleagues working through what we understood by the purpose of RE and a balanced RE curriculum. You can read our latest version of the paper here (, but in light of the weekend we will revise this! However, even with a revision, we are clear (I think, but don’t want to speak for my colleagues) that what we have come up with works with teachers, and it is teachers and the children/young people in our schools that really matter. We have already ‘tested’ out our ideas, and it is the refocusing of RE in terms of ‘balance’ that is now impacting on the effectiveness of RE in schools. So our revised paper will most likely be about clarifying language, not the principles themselves. Dawn is right, we need to do something. Myself and my colleagues are doing something!

So with our new glasses… we can then move forward… clearly….and with focus.
For those of you who are interested, I will post my part of the joint keynote from #REwords16 here as a blog later in the week.


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I’m an independent Religious Education Consultant. I work mainly in the Eastern Region for the Diocese of Norwich, and also for Culham St Gabriel’s Trust managing their TeachRE course. The views here are my own, and do not represent any of the organisations I work for.

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