Why do we need Big Ideas?

The National Curriculum Review group (2013) made two recommendations that were to have an impact on RE

  1. Pupils should learn less content in more detail in order to secure deep learning in the big ideas in the subject.
  2. The practice of basing assessment on an 8-level scale would be abolished.

The level descriptions attached to the eight levels had for many years defined progression in RE. They also influenced the choice of content for each age group in many syllabuses.

Two questions arising from the NC review advice were:

  1. If the content of the RE curriculum is to be reduced, on what principles or criteria should we decide what content is included?
  2. On what principles or criteria should we decide how the selected content should be sequenced for ages 5-18?

Ofsted had been concerned about low standards in RE for many years.  Inspectors identified two particular problems with the subject:

  1. Pupils were unable to see the big picture in RE because they couldn’t make connections between different topics in their learning.
  2. Although RE had gained popularity where it is well taught, many students found the subject irrelevant in today’s world.

Two questions emerging from Ofsted’s concerns were:

  1. How might the RE curriculum be presented in a more coherent way?
  2. How might we make RE more engaging for young people growing up in the 21st century?

    Big Ideas provide solutions to all these questions.

    1. Big Ideas act as criteria for the selection of content (substantive knowledge).
    2. Because Big Ideas are set out in order of difficulty for pupils aged from 5 to 18 years, they provide progressive objectives for learning and assessment.
    3. The Big Ideas provide a consistent structure that permeates our proposed RE curriculum. As pupils learn to interpret what they learn about religions/worldviews in the light of the Big Ideas, this structure enables them to make connections between aspects of their learning and so to understand the ‘big picture’.
    4. Big Ideas address concerns about the relevance of RE by focusing on issues related to religions and non-religious worldviews in the complex world which students inhabit today and will for the rest of their lives.