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 that constitute not only the well-established religious traditions, but also a number of alternative and secular worldviews such as Humanism. 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 judged 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.
GCSE Religious Studies
The GCSE in Religious Studies is offered as one option of five subject choices in total that most students will make going into Year 10. The two-year course results in a Full GCSE qualification, rather than a half-award Short Course alternative. This equates to six lessons per fortnight, featuring regular discussion and debate, along with plenty of opportunity to practice the key skills of explanation and evaluation requisite for success at GCSE.
The entire GCSE course has a focus on two major religions – Christianity and Islam – as well as non-religious worldviews. However, rather than emphasising religious practice, ritual or narrative 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 life, the world and the universe, as well as matters of life and death such as euthanasia and abortion.
Year 11 turns to a more philosophical and theological approach, studying the key beliefs, teachings and practices of the two religions in comprehensive detail. The course is examined through three discrete papers on separate dates, the first covering the entirety of the Y10 ‘Themes’ topics in one 2 hour paper, while components 2 and 3 each have one exam of 1 hour on the two religions studied in Year 11.
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 an academically rigorous, technically sophisticated 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, further broken down into two parts, assessing explanation and evaluation.