Having Faith in the Curriculum

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Catholic Education Commission

Having Faith in the Curriculum

guidance on curriculum planning in Catholic primary and secondary schools

published by the Scottish Catholic Education Service

Having Faith in the Curriculum

Guidance on curriculum planning


As President of the Catholic Education Commission, I am most grateful to those who have contributed to the development of this document and to the accompanying exemplar materials. On behalf of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, I commend it to the Head Teachers of all Catholic primary and secondary schools in Scotland, and I urge you to follow it faithfully as you implement your own plans for providing a Catholic curriculum which is truly excellent. Only in this way can you ensure that your Catholic school is, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “first and foremost . . . a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth.”1 On this Feast of Pentecost which marks the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples, I pray that the God’s Spirit will inspire you in your efforts to ensure that the life of faith is the “driving force”2 behind every activity in your Catholic school. With every good wish and blessing, Bishop Joseph Devine President Catholic Education Commission Feast of Pentecost, 12th June 2011


The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, Congregation for Catholic Education, 1988, n22



Pope Benedict XVI, Address to teaches and religious, Twickenham, 17 September 2010

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Having Faith in the Curriculum

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This guidance has been developed to support Head Teachers and teachers in Catholic schools to plan effectively for excellent learning and teaching in religious education and stimulating experiences of religious observance for young people in Catholic schools. While this guidance respects the role of the Head Teacher as the leader of a learning community, it also highlights some key messages which carry significant implications for his/her role as the school’s “chief catechist” who has been entrusted by the Church to ensure that the school carries out its faith mission. This document offers planning advice which will help schools to ensure that the Catholic school curriculum is truly “faith full” and that Catholic religious education is challenging and enjoyable, relevant and coherent, broad, deep and progressive. It has been deliberately constructed so as to be relevant to teachers in primary and secondary schools, recognising the need for coherent planning and shared understanding of the issues affecting the provision of religious education in Catholic primary and secondary schools. The document will be supplemented on the SCES website by: 

exemplar planning tools designed to suggest how teachers can organise learning which is “faith‐full” in its delivery of outcomes and experiences in religious education and other curriculum areas.

case studies featuring secondary school curriculum plans which demonstrate how appropriate structures have been developed to develop religious education within Curriculum for Excellence

other case studies which illustrate good working practices.

It is intended that additional exemplar materials will be added to the SCES website in time. Schools are invited to offer appropriate materials for sharing with others.

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Having Faith in the Curriculum

Guidance on curriculum planning

Key messages about having faith in the curriculum

Every Catholic school should: 1. articulate the Christian vision which it is offering to young people, when mapping out its plan for its curriculum and overall educational provision 2. identify the Gospel values which it intends to proclaim across various curriculum areas and demonstrate how these values can help young people, not only to develop the capacities of Curriculum for Excellence, but to become ‘faithful disciples’ of Jesus 3. recognise the centrality of religious education to the formation of young people’s lives ‐ sustaining their relationship with God and with others and guiding their search for meaning, purpose and truth in life 4. place the Liturgical Calendar at the centre of its planning process, by using appropriate themes and topics to organise teaching and other school activities 5. meet the Scottish Hierarchy’s minimum time requirement for formal religious education of 2.5 hours per week in primary school (P1 to P7) and 2 hours in secondary schools (S1 to S6). 6. faithfully observe the Church’s guidance provided in This Is Our Faith on the content and nature of religious education programmes for pupils in P1 to P7 and S1 to S3 7. plan a range of opportunities for all young people to show love of their ‘neighbour’ by committing their time in loving service of those in need, both in the local community and globally 8. ensure that the internal procedures which are used to monitor the quality of school provision also include rigorous arrangements for evaluating and improving the quality of learning and teaching in religious education 9. consider carefully the potential consequences of decisions taken in staff allocation and in the designing of other curriculum areas so as to avoid any adverse impact on the quality of religious education provision for all pupils 10. provide adequate time and resources to support the professional and personal development of teachers so that they can confidently provide young people with ‘excellent’ experiences of religious education and faith development.

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Having Faith in the Curriculum

Guidance on curriculum planning

1 Curriculum for Excellence The development of the Scottish Government’s Curriculum for Excellence programme has brought attention to the need for each school to provide a coherent, flexible and enriched curriculum which will ensure that children and young people aged from 3 to 18 can develop the attributes, knowledge and skills they will need if they are to flourish in life, learning and work. Each school has been encouraged to articulate its own vision of the curriculum ‐ “the totality of experiences”3 ‐ which it will offer to children and young people through four contexts for learning: its ethos and community life, its curriculum areas and subjects, its interdisciplinary learning and opportunities for personal achievement. A school’s curriculum is expected to be underpinned by explicit values and its purpose to be defined in terms of “the four capacities” – to enable each child or young person to be a successful learner, a confident individual, a responsible citizen and an effective contributor. 2 Christian vision and values All schools are expected to articulate their particular vision of the “excellence” which will underpin the range of experiences and outcomes which they plan to provide for their students. Catholic schools are fortunate in being able to base their strategic vision for the curriculum on the rich heritage of Church teaching which, for many decades, has articulated the aims, purposes, vision and values of Catholic education. The values being offered by the school should be explicitly described in school documentation. Careful consideration should be given to how learning and in each curriculum area and subject will be planned to help young people to experience ‐ and come to understand the significance of ‐ Gospel values and faith in their lives. In recent times, advice has been published by the Scottish Catholic Education Service 4 to guide Catholic schools on how they can articulate a vision of “excellence” which is authentically Christian: In Christian terms . . . “excellence” is understood as a state of perfection in which, through the full development of all our God‐given talents, we can reach our eternal destiny and “abide in love” with God . . . ‐ a life‐long journey to salvation and perfect eternal happiness.5 It is expected that every Catholic school in Scotland will use this published advice to support its own expression of its distinctive rationale in all its core documentation: school handbook, school improvement plan, standards & quality report etc. It is vital that, when mapping out its curriculum plan, each Catholic school should articulate the Christian vision and values which it is offering to young people. In this way the activities and programmes planned by 3

Building the Curriculum 3, Scottish Government, June 2008, p. 11 Values for Life, Scottish Catholic Education Service, 2008 5 Shining the Light of Christ in the Catholic School, Scottish Catholic Education Service, 2009, p.10 4

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the Catholic school will be seen to be “attentive to the needs of today’s youth and illuminated by the Gospel message”. 6 The Gospel message, expressed in the words and actions of Jesus Christ, tells young people that they are created by God who loves them, that God has enriched their lives with potential and that they are called to use their talents for good in this world and to secure happiness with God for eternity. Thus, the spiritual and the religious formation of the young person are expected to be at the heart of the school experience and of the school’s planning. The faith development of children and young people should not only be addressed in the school’s religious education programme but should be at the heart of the school’s planning across the life of the school, as is made clear in Church teaching: [The Catholic school should offer its students] a Christian vision of the world, of life, of culture and of history. . . [In the Catholic school] there is no separation between time for learning and time for formation, between acquiring notions and growing in wisdom.7 Detailed advice is given in Values for Life 8 on how the Catholic school should firstly identify the particular Gospel values which it intends to deliver through various curriculum areas and then demonstrate how these values can shape the development of ‘capacities’ in young people. For example, an activity such as a ‘buddy’ scheme may nurture the value of Compassion, with the associated values of Service and Gentleness and it may also develop pupils’ capacities to become responsible citizens, showing respect for others and being committed to participate responsibly in the life of the school, and to become confident individuals, able to relate to others. In this way the Catholic school can demonstrate its distinctive educational approach, embedded in the curriculum and across the life of the school. 3 Planning to provide experiences of prayer and liturgy (Religious Observance) All Catholic schools are expected to provide a rich programme of opportunities for the spiritual development of children and young people. Central to this provision of Religious Observance ‐ and central to the school planning process ‐ should be the Liturgical Calendar which sets out the main seasons and feasts which are celebrated by the Universal Church and which will influence many of the school’s activities. These arrangements should be mapped out, for pupils at various stages across the school year, and made evident within the school’s pastoral planning which should be developed in partnership with parents and with the local parish(es).


The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, Congregation for Catholic Education, 1988, n22 The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium, Congregation for Catholic Education, December 1997 8 Values for Life, Scottish Catholic Education Service, 2008, p21 7

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School planning should include arrangements for the celebration of Mass and for other liturgical services, opportunities for prayer in class and in school assemblies, the provision of opportunities for ‘retreat’ experiences and pilgrimages. It should be evident to students, staff and parents when the school’s activities are being shaped by the Liturgical Calendar ‐ e.g., when, during the Season of Lent, pupils sacrifice their own needs for the sake of serving others by donating funds to charitable causes or when celebrating particular feast days in honour of Our Lady, St Andrew, the school’s patron saint etc. Good practice, in the promotion of liturgical awareness, includes the provision of relevant ‘liturgical’ information in student calendars, planners and homework diaries, school newsletters, staff bulletins, staff handbooks, school TV and Intranet displays, banners and posters. Schools which are faithful to the Liturgical Calendar will make efforts to create ‘sacred space’ in the form of school and classroom displays of objects and colours appropriate to the season / feast. In this context the Liturgical Calendar wall chart available from SCES can provide an excellent focal point in every classroom, enabling young people to learn the significance of particular feasts and seasons. 4 Planning to provide experiences of faith witness and action Within any school community of faith and learning, it is understood that a central feature of faith development includes active engagement with community: “Faith without works is dead” (James 2: 26). For this reason, Catholic schools have always encouraged children and young people to embrace the consequences of their beliefs and values by committing their time, energy and resources to support the common good. The excellent Catholic school should demonstrate its faith character by systematically planning opportunities for young people to show love of their ‘neighbour’ by supporting those in need, both in the local community and globally. Working in partnership with local parishes and with other agencies such as SCIAF, MISSIO Scotland, SSVP, Knights of St Columba etc., the Catholic school should identify its priorities for offering support to particular groups and causes. At times, this may involve a commitment to support a community group in another part of the world. At other times the commitment may be more localised and more time‐restricted. These priorities should be agreed by the school community, after consultation with appropriate groups, including young people themselves. School planning should include opportunities for young people to reflect on their experience of making such commitments and undertaking such actions. In this regard, the development of the Pope Benedict XVI Caritas Award will provide an appropriate framework for schools to provide opportunities for faith witness, faith learning and faith reflection and to recognise achievements in providing loving service ‐ “Caritas” ‐ to those in need. The Caritas Award is intended to encourage young people to commit their talents in ways which will make an impact within their local parishes.

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Having Faith in the Curriculum

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5 The central significance of religious education Religious Education is the only curriculum area which historically has been ‘guaranteed’ by legislation to be part of the entitlement of every child and young person in every school in Scotland.9 This reflects not only the historical foundations of education as a service originally provided by the Church but, more importantly, the centrality of its contribution to the formation of human lives today ‐ shaping our values, sustaining our relationships with God and with others, guiding our search for meaning, purpose and truth in life. Every school in Scotland is legally obliged to ensure that all children and young people are able to benefit from this entitlement. Every Catholic school has additional obligations, of course. Parents, in choosing to enrol their children in a Catholic school, will have expectations that their children will be supported, within a community of faith and learning, in their religious and spiritual formation: The special character of the Catholic school and the underlying reason for its existence, the reason why Catholic parents should prefer it, is precisely the quality of the religious instruction . . . 10 The central obligation of the Catholic school in the provision of religious education is to the Church, specifically to the local Ordinary (Archbishop / Bishop) who holds legal authority over the content of the religious education programme and over the amount of time for religious education to which children and young people are entitled: Catholic religious education. . . [is] subject to the authority of the Church. . . It is for the Conference of Bishops to issue general norms about this field of action and for the diocesan bishop to regulate and watch over it. . . It must present the Christian message and the Christian event with the same seriousness and the same depth with which other disciplines present their knowledge.11 For some years, in various documents, the Catholic Education Commission, on behalf of the Bishops’ Conference, has expressed the minimum time requirement for religious education as being 2.5 hours per week for children in primary school and 2 hours per week for young people in secondary school. (In secondary schools this is expected to be provided through a minimum of 2 periods (50/55 mins.) per week, PLUS additional activities through the year, for all stages.) This minimum time allocation cannot be altered by any Catholic school or by any local authority without the agreement of the local Bishop, who would require to be assured of the exceptional circumstances which necessitated some deviation from this norm. Legislation prevents any change to the time provided for “religious instruction” in any denominational school without the agreement of the Hierarchy ‐ and, moreover, of Scottish Ministers.12 It should be noted that these time allocations refer to ‘core’ religious education 9

Advice Notes on Religious Observance and Religious Education and Religious Education in Catholic Schools, Scottish Government 22 February 2011 10 Catechesi Tradendae, Pope John Paul II, 16 October 1979 11 Circular Letter to the Presidents of Bishops' Conferences on Religious Education in Schools, Congregation for Education, May 2009 12 Education (Scotland) Act 1980

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and that time for specialist religious education courses in S4‐S6, should be calculated separately. It should also be noted that, while the inclusion of certain topics in PSE classes (or other curriculum areas) may be seen as supporting religious education, they cannot be used to replace religious education or to justify a reduction in the time given to core R.E.

6 Ensuring the quality of religious education provision The Hierarchy’s authority over the content of religious education programmes requires that This Is Our Faith will govern the delivery of the RERC outcomes and experiences13 for P1 to S3 pupils in Catholic schools. Faithful observation of the guidance provided in This Is Our Faith will help to ensure that religious education programmes in all Catholic schools are consistently faithful to Church teaching, relevant to the lives of students, providing experiences which are stimulating, energising, challenging, affirming, participative and joyful. Head Teachers are expected to ensure that the procedures which they use to monitor the quality of school provision also include arrangements for evaluating and improving the quality of learning and teaching in religious education courses. Given this document’s key messages about the central importance of religious education in the Catholic school, it is vital that every school can demonstrate how it plans to ensure continuing improvement in the quality of religious education and religious observance. The involvement and contribution of members of staff should be clearly specified in these procedures. To support schools in the task of evaluation and planning for improvement, the Scottish Catholic Education Service has published Shining the Light of Christ in the Catholic School to provide detailed advice and exemplification of how the Catholic school can demonstrate a commitment to its faith mission. Among these key features of the Catholic school which are detailed, the following are particularly relevant to ensuring the quality of religious education:  The rationale of the curriculum embodies the vision of the Catholic school as a community of faith and learning . . .  The person of Jesus Christ is central to the school’s vision and mission, permeating all aspects of policy, planning and action.  The design of the curriculum is dynamic and reacts to change to ensure the integrated education and formation of the whole person.  The Catholic vision of education permeates all programmes and courses.  Programmes and courses promote an inclusive ethos which aims to honour the life, dignity and voice of each person, made in the image of God.  The school provides high quality programmes of Religious Education and Relationships education to enable learners to develop their understanding of Gospel values and to develop all their capacities for life. 13


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 Programmes and courses promote learners’ development as citizens / disciples ready to take on their role within the Church and society.  The school ensures that learners who transfer to the school, or who are on a part‐time placement with another establishment, are guaranteed continuity and progression in their learning and faith development. 7 Impact of other school decisions on religious education It is important that Head Teachers consider carefully the potential consequences of decisions taken in designing provision for other curriculum areas which might impact adversely on the provision of religious education for all pupils. Decisions on class organisation, staffing, accommodation and resourcing, which are intended to govern provision in one area of the curriculum may well have unintended effects on other areas, including religious education. Timetabling and class cover arrangements may determine the availability of teachers to deliver particular programmes. It is vital that religious education is at the top of the school’s priority list when it comes to organising the timetabling of learning and teaching and ensuring continuity of pupil‐teacher contact. In secondary schools, while it is important to ensure the optimum deployment of teachers with specialist religious education qualifications to enhance the quality of learning and teaching in religious education, it is also important to ensure that appropriate opportunities for continuing professional development are provided to those ‘generalist’ teachers who contribute to the teaching of religious education. So, careful thought should be given to balancing the time commitments of specialist staff to classroom teaching, to curriculum development, to supporting ‘generalist’ teachers of religious education and to budget allocations. While secondary schools may organise some subject classes for mixed‐stage groups of S4‐S6 students, such arrangements are not likely to be suitable for religious education where the students’ emotional, moral and spiritual development will be central to their learning. Where arrangements are made for young people to benefit from ‘out of school’ learning, for example in FE Colleges, schools should ensure that this does not lead to a reduction in time for the religious education of these pupils. This may require particular arrangements being made to ensure that these pupils benefit from their entitlement to religious education.

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Having Faith in the Curriculum

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8 Advice on planning for learning and teaching in religious education When planning any learning experience, the teacher should take account of a child’s prior learning, ability, interests, background and developmental stage. In this way learning can meet the needs of a pupil and can enable them to progress at their own rate. It is acknowledged in BTC514 that a child’s progress should be seen as a journey rather than a series of hurdles. Curriculum for Excellence anticipates that schools will attempt to develop a broader range of knowledge and understanding, skills, attributes and capabilities which children and young people develop in a range of contexts. As a consequence, assessment is likely to involve a broad range of approaches that allow children and young people to demonstrate what they know, understand and can do. So, teachers will be expected to take account of all the experiences that are planned for learners, learning out of school and whole school activities. Curriculum for Excellence encourages schools to consider four broad contexts for learning and the range of related pupil activities:  Ethos and life of the school as a community: participating in various groups and committees supporting fellow pupils e.g., buddying, mentoring organising fundraising for charities  Curriculum areas and subjects: delivering experiences and outcomes focussing on content, skills and experiences ensuring progress through levels at learner’s pace  Interdisciplinary learning: enabling learning across and between curricular areas taking place in a variety of contexts linking to previous knowledge, interests and talents of children  Opportunities for personal achievement: celebrating success acknowledging learning out of classroom building learning around existing talents and skills recognising some pupils as ‘experts’ in certain fields.


Building the Curriculum 5, Learning and Teaching Scotland, 20010

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In religious education, planning must take account of the wider experiences of children, including those acquired at home and in the parish. Catholic schools must work in partnership with parents, school chaplains and local parishes to provide a religious experience which enables children to develop their spiritual lives within and out with school. It is possible to identify planning at a number of levels in school. These can be appropriate to both primary and secondary schools. Planning Level A: Whole school planning The school should take account of the experiences that the children will have beyond the classroom and of whole school celebrations and activities. These should be planned in preparation for the year ahead and include the experiences and outcomes and the core learning that will be covered. All staff should be involved in this type of planning so that they can take cognisance of these experiences within planning at class level. The school chaplain should also be involved, so that his role within the school and at parish level is clearly defined. The links between home and parish should be included in whole school planning. This plan should take account of:    

the Church’s Liturgical year – assemblies and celebrations special feast days – school patron saint etc., other school and parish events ‐ celebrations of First Communion, Confirmation, retreats, year group Masses, penitential rites and Sacrament of Reconciliation Catholic Education Week.

Planning at a whole school level should ensure that learning outside the classroom is relevant and meaningful for pupils. It is the responsibility of teachers to ensure that children reflect on these experiences and understand how they can affect their own development. Planning Level B: Year planning at class level As in other curricular areas, class teachers must ensure that pupils have a cohesive and progressive experience within their class. When planning the learning they will offer to pupils, they should take account of the four contexts for learning and include experiences at: 

class level – specific skills in RERC and inter‐disciplinary learning experiences. Examination of the liturgical calendar and a thematic approach.

whole school level – school celebrations, assemblies, school responsibilities

home – taking account of learning at home and enabling parents to participate in class learning

parish – involving the parish in school learning and linking into parish experiences.

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Having Faith in the Curriculum

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Planning Level C: Thematic plans Once the whole year plan has been established for the class and stage, it is the role of the class teacher to plan specific experiences based upon relevant themes. These themes will be designed to cover a shorter timeframe and will focus on the development of specific knowledge and skills, either through discrete RERC lessons, or a specific context. The thematic approach will enable the teacher to provide a cohesive experience for pupils, enabling them to make links across specific ‘strands of faith’, experiences and outcomes and core learning. These thematic plans will take account of: 

the liturgical year

age /stage of development of the child e.g. P1 ‘Myself’

sacramental preparation (as appropriate)

other necessary themes e.g. community, prayer

Within these thematic plans the teacher will include appropriate approaches to learning and teaching and resources which will support learning. In planning these experiences the teacher should take account of why they are planning this experience for the children in their class and should link it back to section 2 of ‘This is your Faith’. 9 Assessment and reporting on pupil progress in religious education As in other areas of the curriculum, assessment in religious education will involve observation of what a pupil says, writes, makes and does. It would be impossible to assess in great detail every experience and outcome and core learning that is planned. To make this manageable, the teacher should consider the key aspect that is at the heart of the learning experience and focus on assessing the pupil’s progress in this. When planning, it is this key aspect which will be emphasised and this should be reflected in assessment. Within the core learning provided in ‘This Is Our Faith’, the use of active verbs to describe the skill and/or understanding which the pupil is expected to develop, will provide a clear focus for assessment. As in other curriculum areas, when making progress in religious education, pupils will be expected to show that they: 

are progressing in a breadth of learning across a range of Es & Os

can respond to the level of challenge set out in Es & Os and are moving forward to more challenging learning in some aspects

can apply what they have learned in new and unfamiliar situations.

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Having Faith in the Curriculum

Guidance on curriculum planning

Advice from HMIE and others suggests that teachers, when reporting on pupil progress in curriculum areas, should: 

use brief qualitative statements

refer to achievement at a level, either in part of a curriculum area or in a whole area

take account of breadth, challenge and application

provide a summary of progress and achievement

provide qualitative statements and information on achieving a level

do what is proportionate and manageable o not against 4 capacities o not against each E & O.

HMIE have advised teachers and schools to “take care” when reporting on progress within a level, if using these terms to describe how the learner is: 

developing o has started to engage in work at this level o is beginning to make progress in an increasing number of outcomes across the breadth of learning described in Es & Os for the level

consolidating o has achieved a breadth of learning across many of the Es & Os for the level o can apply what he/she has learned in familiar situations o is beginning to undertake more challenging learning and to apply learning in unfamiliar contexts

secure o has achieved a breadth of learning across almost all of the Es & Os for the level, including any significant aspects of the curriculum area o has responded consistently well to the level of challenge set out in these Es & Os o has moved forward to more challenging learning in some aspects o has applied what he/she has learned in new and unfamiliar situations.

When making professional judgements about learners being “secure” in learning (i.e., having achieved a level), teachers are advised to: 

take a holistic approach

consider significant aspects of learning

evaluate a range of evidence across breadth, challenge and application of learning (e.g., class‐work, tests, other activities)

be confident that the learner has demonstrated a secure grasp of a significant body of learning.

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