Antoine Lokongo reports on the launch of the first new RE syllabus for almost three decades A NEW syllabus that could revolutionise the teaching of religious education in schools and raise classroom standards has been officially launched this week.
The series, The Way, the Truth and the Life, designed to meet the needs of RE teachers at secondary school level, was published by the CTS and presented by Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham at Vaughan House. Westminster on Tuesday.
"I welcome this series which provides not only a syllabus but also a student's book, a teacher's book and a website with supporting materials. It has been very carefully prepared and very nicely presented in the book form and I believe it will be very helpful to teachers at Key Stage Three," Archbishop Nichols said at the launch.
Archbishop Nichols said he hoped the project would further the philosophy that lies behind it — the exchange of good practice between schools. He thanked a group of 70 RE teachers from schools in the north and east London areas, for their co-operation in developing and producing a "well-thought out and academically serious project". He also thanked their head teachers for offering their schools' resources for this four-year collective effort.
"I must confess that when I asked the schools to get together and work together on their classroom standards, I honestly didn't think that we will end up with a published product of such high standard," he said. ''But here it is. It is a great resource entirely developed by teachers themselves after thorough research, well piloted and tested, and I trust that the Catholic community in this country will be the richer for it."
Sr Marcelina Cooney, CP, RE Advisor and co-ordinator of the series, said: "We are at an important moment. Maybe now we have got the various elements that good RE requires in place. It has taken a while over the past 15 years to produce something that responds to the mood of our time like this; and I am not sure we have done things in the right order. We have had a directory that has been around only for a few years. I believe we can now go forward with confidence."
Sr Cooney also stressed the complementary role that parents should play in the religious education of their children outside RE classes.
"Now we are able to give teachers the support they need. But we have also put something in the hands of our pupils so much so that parents will be interested in what their children will be doing at schools," she said.
The series was initially combined with another project, Exploring the Mass,
commissioned by the late Cardinal Basil Hume. It comprises a teacher's book and a video and now forms one of the modules in the new syllabus. "It is for me a great privilege," Archbishop Vincent Nichols said, "to have been able to work with the Cardinal on that project. I know he enjoyed doing it very much, even though he never actually saw the video, because he was very ill by the time it was produced."
"Exploring the Mass focuses on one particular need: to help the Catholic community to discover again the riches of the celebration of the Mass. It was very close to the Cardinal's heart and he was keen to see it accomplished because it is very central to our faith," said the Archbishop.
He added that he also looked forward to a public presentation of the Icons syllabus at the end of July and said there would be no clash between the two projects. "I think we are well off to have both resources available," he said.