Marcus Rashford and Greta Thunberg make appearances in new RE syllabus for schools in Peterborough

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The locally-agreed syllabus will reflect ‘diverse identities’ and ‘matters of justice’ including race, equality and climate change

Marcus Rashford, Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg all appear in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s new Religious Education (RE) syllabus.

A draft of the document, presented at a Peterborough City Council (PCC) meeting this month, shows how the syllabus has been updated for use between 2023 and 2028.

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Some of the texts to be taught in schools will be familiar to most parents, such as Peter Rabbit and Percy Parkkeeper, while others are newer releases, such as Marcus Rashford: Little People, Big Dreams, Malala’s Magic Pencil and Greta and the Giants: Inspired by Greta Thunberg’s Stand to Save the World.

Books about Marcus Rashford and Greta Thunberg appear in Peterborough's new RE syllabusBooks about Marcus Rashford and Greta Thunberg appear in Peterborough's new RE syllabus
Books about Marcus Rashford and Greta Thunberg appear in Peterborough's new RE syllabus

The former books will teach primary school children about the importance of community, the syllabus says, while the latter will start discussions about “why belief is important to some people”.

These are intended to encompass religious beliefs as well as wider beliefs, which include the need to tackle food poverty, fight for women's rights and protect the environment.

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Unlike Maths, English and other core subjects, RE doesn’t have a national syllabus set by Government; it’s instead set by local authorities, faith groups and school leaders with guidance from the Department of Education.

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Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s latest syllabus will be adopted by state-funded primary and secondary schools in the area as well as in neighbouring Rutland.

New focus on 'worldview'

One of the biggest changes in the new syllabus is that schools will be encouraged to move away from a binary view of religious and non-religious beliefs towards a focus on “worldview” which encompasses both of these as well as the views of individuals and small communities.

“British society is changing, so RE as a subject must reflect the current and future needs of pupils in a world of diverse identities, with multi-religious and multi-secular worldviews, and in matters of justice, such as climate, race and equality,” the syllabus says.

It adds that 2021 Census data shows a rise in the number of people who aren’t religious and a decline in Christianity which “provides a starting point for understanding local contexts”.

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Christianity remains compulsory

Despite this, Christianity remains a focal point: it must be taught to key stage one pupils (ages 5-7), the syllabus says, alongside one or more other faiths reflecting the backgrounds of pupils at each school.

Christianity is also a requirement for key stage two (ages 7-11) and key stage three (11-14) unlike other religions: schools will be able to choose between Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism for lessons on other faiths from early years education (3-5) up to key stage four (14-16).

Again, well-worn issues such as abortion, euthanasia and capital punishment will be discussed by older students alongside more recent additions such as slavery, social justice and the treatment of Uyghur people in China.

Primary assessments updated

Assessment criteria for RE in primary schools has also been updated, moving away from targets to monitoring overall progression between the key stages.

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The syllabus won’t apply to faith schools depending on their type: academies, private schools and foundation and trust schools are among those allowed to set their own syllabuses.

Parents and carers also have a right to withdraw their child from RE lessons at any kind of school, although alternate RE provisions must be made.

The region’s latest syllabus, which is at the final draft stage, has passed through PCC’s education committee and will next be discussed by its cabinet.

Intended adoption is September 2023.

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