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Oxford project to tackle ‘nervousness’ about teaching Christianity in RE

Posted by: Rosemary, 26 November 2012

A YouGov poll commissioned by Oxford University’s Department of Education has found widespread support in England for the teaching of Christianity as part of Religious Education.

The survey was undertaken as the initial part of a national intervention project by Oxford researchers to support teachers tackling the subject of Christianity in schools. 

In the poll of a random sample of 1,832 adults in England:
64%  agreed that children need to learn about Christianity in order to understand English history
57% agreed it was needed to understand the English culture and way of life
44% said they thought that more attention should be given to such teaching.

Areas of Christianity that people regarded as particularly important for children to learn about in RE were:
58% the history of Christianity
56% major Christian events and festivals
51% how Christianity distinguishes right from wrong

The project is being launched by a research team of educationalists and practitioners at Oxford University, as part of their wider work on religion in education. The project follows concerns raised by Ofsted inspectors and others about how Christianity is taught. One problem identified in research literature is that teachers are sometimes nervous about tackling issues related to Christianity because they are worried that it could be considered as evangelizing.
The Oxford team is producing a web-based introductory package aimed at trainee primary teachers, which will be free and is expected to be available by September 2013. The project will explore ways of helping all classroom teachers in primary schools, as well as non-specialists teaching RE in secondary schools. The online materials provide a basic background on RE generally, but focus on the teaching of Christianity. They also touch on issues of personal faith and how this sits with teaching about Christianity, as well as other world faiths. Further online materials for teachers exploring other faiths are anticipated in the longer term.

The online materials for trainee primary teachers are being produced with £100,000 funding from the Jerusalem and Culham St Gabriel’s Trusts, charitable trusts that support school-based RE.  A further donation of £48,500 from the Jerusalem Trust will enable first stage work on a package for all primary teachers already in schools.

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