Teaching Staff – Rev John McHale
GCSE Religious Studies
As the name suggests, Religious Studies is about the careful consideration of religions, both in principle and practice: what different people of faith believe and why; how beliefs and attitudes influence thoughts, actions and daily lives; and how individuals and communities interpret and respond to a range of real-life moral issues and challenging philosophical questions.
Religious Studies is in no way about learning how to be religious or what to believe, nor is it about being unthinkingly critical of religious traditions. Rather, it explores all of the rich and varied dimensions which not only make up the well-established religious traditions, but also a number of alternative and secular worldviews. This includes questions of:
Identity and belonging: What is it to be human? How do we and how should we relate to each other and to ourselves? How do people relate to God? Is religion a basis for identity or just one aspect? Is there such a thing as a ‘soul’
Meaning and purpose: Why are we here? Do we have any purpose in life or simply what we make of it? If there is apparent order in the universe, why is this so? Are our actions in this life rewarded or punished in any kind of afterlife?
Dedication and devotion: How and why do people worship? How do beliefs inspire or influence actions? Does religious faith motivate good behaviour?
Right and wrong: What is ‘good’? Is there such a thing as right and wrong? Is euthanasia morally acceptable? Why might a Christian be opposed to abortion?
In Year 9, all students follow Religious Studies as part of the broad and balanced curriculum that Wycliffe offers. This course comprises an introduction to Religious Studies, philosophical and moral ‘big questions’, places of worship, Buddhism and finally what justice means to Christians.
As RS provision is a statutory requirement, all pupils follow the Short Course in Religious Studies which consists of three lessons per fortnight and results in a half-GCSE award. Pupils can choose to upgrade to the Full Course for a full GCSE award; this is only one extra lesson per week, comprising entirely different topics, and is in addition to the four options that students make for their GCSEs, thereby not affecting their other subject choices.
Irrespective of this choice, the GCSE course has a focus on Christianity and Islam, however, rather than emphasising religious practice or narratives the course starts from an issues-based approach. Year 10 focuses on social, ethical and philosophical issues with topics such as marriage and divorce, the origins of the world and universe, and euthanasia and abortion, while Year 11 turns to a more theological approach studying the key beliefs, teachings and practices of the two religions in greater detail.
A level Religious Studies: Philosophy, Ethics and Religion
RS in the Sixth Form comprises the study of philosophy, ethics and Buddhism for the systematic study of a religion component. It is an entirely different subject from that which you may have studied at GCSE level, with a rigorous and critical approach to a wide range of challenging philosophical, ethical, sociological and theological issues. Throughout the course students consider perspectives from some of the greatest minds throughout the human history across a plethora of critical questions. These range from the fundamental, such as “What is good?”, “What is real?” and “How, if at all, can we know anything?” to the more practical such as “Can religion survive the criticisms of modern science or psychology?”, “Why is there evil and suffering in the world?” and “Is cloning morally acceptable?”
Studying Philosophy, Ethics and Religion is in no way dependent on any religious or spiritual belief, or indeed any particular world-view; but rather an interest in some of the most pervasive and stimulating philosophical and ethical questions that humans have considered and attempted to address, but never resolved! It is an academically demanding subject that explores issues surrounding the nature of reality, faith, social change, morality and the possibility of a supreme being from a number of perspectives, encouraging discussion, debate and critical thinking.
Assessment in the course is entirely through linear examinations at the end of the two years, with no coursework. Each of the three exams are two hours in length and consist of two essay questions.