Skip to content

Religious Education 

Guidance and resources for religious education

Olivia Seymour 

Assistant Director of Education – Christian Character

The principal aim of RE is to enable pupils to hold balanced and informed conversations about religion and worldviews. This principal aim incorporates the following aims of Religious Education in Church schools.

To enable pupils:

  • to know about and understand Christianity as a diverse global living faith through the exploration of core beliefs using an approach that critically engages with biblical text.
  • to gain knowledge and understanding of a range of religions and worldviews appreciating diversity, continuity and change within the religions and worldviews being studied.
  • to engage with challenging questions of meaning and purpose raised by human existence and experience.
  • to recognise the concept of religion and its continuing influence on Britain’s cultural heritage and in the lives of individuals and societies in different times, cultures and places.
  • to explore their own religious, spiritual and philosophical ways living, believing and thinking.

Appropriate to their age at the end of their education in Church schools, the expectation is that all pupils are religiously literate and, as a minimum, pupils are able to:

  • Give a theologically informed and thoughtful account of Christianity as a living and diverse faith.
  • Show an informed and respectful attitude to religions and non-religious worldviews in their search for God and meaning.
  • Engage in meaningful and informed dialogue with those of other faiths and none.
  • Reflect critically and responsibly on their own spiritual, philosophical and ethical convictions.

Religious Education in Different School Types

Religious Education in Voluntary Aided (VA) schools

For Voluntary Aided Schools with a religious character Religious Education is the responsibility of the governing body. The Diocesan Board of Education recommends its syllabus for adoption as it has been written to reflect the religious foundation of a Voluntary Aided school in York Diocese.

If you would like a copy of the Diocesan Syllabus (for Primary and Secondary Schools) please contact Olivia Seymour.

Religious Education in Voluntary Controlled (VC) and Foundation schools

Voluntary Controlled schools with a religious character should follow the Local Authority Agreed Syllabus unless parents request a denominational one. There is much in the diocesan syllabus to support schools to achieve Christian distinctiveness and the diocese strongly suggests that schools use the support materials in the syllabus as they will complement the Locally Agreed Syllabus.

Religious Education in an Academy

The requirements for Religious Education at an academy with a religious foundation are specified in the funding agreement for that academy.

For a VA school that converts to academy status the model funding agreement specifies that an academy with a religious designation must provide RE in accordance with the tenets of the particular faith specified in the designation. The diocesan syllabus is written to support academies within the Diocese of York to meet the requirements of their funding agreement.

Foundation or Voluntary Controlled schools with a religious designation that convert to academy status must arrange for RE in accordance with the requirements for agreed syllabuses (in the main Christian whilst taking account of the other principal religions represented in Great Britain) unless any parents request that their children receive RE in accordance with the tenets of the school’s faith. If any parents do request this, the academy must make arrangements for those children to receive such RE unless, because of special circumstances, it would be unreasonable to do so. The funding agreement sets this out (by applying the relevant provisions of the Education Act 1996 and the School Standards and Framework Act 1998). In practice these academies generally choose to follow the locally agreed syllabus. The Diocese of York would commend this.

Some schools that are sponsored as Church of England academies will have a funding agreement that reflects the funding agreement for a VA school. These schools are therefore most likely to be required to deliver RE in accordance with the tenets of the Anglican Church. The diocesan syllabus is written to support academies within the Diocese of York to meet the requirements of their funding agreement.

Religious Education in Community Schools

Community schools must follow their Locally Agreed Syllabus. The York Diocesan Board of Education’s syllabus for Religious Education has a flexibility allowing for a balanced selection of material to be made reflecting the local context. The Diocesan Syllabus could be used alongside its counterpart from the Local Authority to provide extra support materials. It is intended to be a support to community schools in their teaching of Christianity as well as the foundation for religious education in church schools.

Balanced RE

This approach to RE curriculum design has been developed by four Diocesan RE advisers (Jane Chipperton [St Alban’s], Gillian Georgiou [Lincoln], Olivia Seymour [York] and Kathryn Wright [Norwich]) for use in all schools and academies. This work has been developed in collaboration with teachers and subject experts over the last four years and has recently received support from the Church of England Education Office to facilitate its further development. The four advisers set out to try and achieve a balanced curriculum that enables pupils to hold balanced and well-informed conversations about religion and belief. This balanced approach will ensure that children and young people are able effectively develop their religious literacy. Implicit within this is the study of a range of religions, belief systems and worldviews.

The documents below outline the Balanced RE approach in more detail and provide audit tools to support RE subject leaders to consider the RE curriculum in their school or academy.

Further information about the Balanced RE approach in the evolving Religion and Worldviews paradigm can be found on RE:Online here.


Assessing RE

The Ofsted RE Research Review (2021) outlines three key types of knowledge developed through the RE curriculum: substantive (the content we teach), disciplinary (the ‘ways of knowing’; the questions asked of and methods used to engage with the content) and personal (a pupils’ growing awareness of their own worldview and the ways in which it impacts on their learning). Substantive knowledge and disciplinary knowledge do not equate to a ‘knowledge and skills’ dichotomy. We need a clear understanding of the different types of knowledge if we are going to be able to support pupils to know how to ‘get better in RE’ (i.e. make progress).

Pupils can be said to be ‘getting better at RE’ (i.e. making progress) if they are knowing, understanding, remembering and being able to do more as a result of the curriculum that has been planned and delivered.

Assessment processes help us understand whether pupils know, understand, remember and can do more based on the curriculum that has been planned and delivered.

Below is some guidance that focuses on what it might look like to ‘get better’ at the ways of knowing (disciplinary knowledge). This document was written by two diocesan advisers, Gillian Georgiou [Lincoln] and Olivia Seymour [York]