Religion and Worldviews: Understanding Humanity: Proposal for Development of an Online Resource Pack for RE Teachers and Parent Educators

Dave Francis: For Sea of Faith Network AGM 28th October 2020

RE for All?

       The educational and social landscape of the UK is changing rapidly.

       Next year’s National Census will reveal a further decline in the number of those identifying with traditional churches.

       There will be small increases in numbers identifying with evangelical Christianity and some minority religions.

       The biggest increase will be amongst those who now say they have no religion: “70% of those aged 18-24 say they have no religion. This is an increase from 56% in 2002” (British Social Attitudes Survey 2018).


RE is not popular

       Only 12% of pupils say they enjoy RE ‘a lot’ compared with 31% for History and 47% for Science (YouGov Survey of 6-15 year olds in 2018).

       The general public view RE as one of the least important subjects in the curriculum (YouGov Survey of 1,648 adults in 2017).

       The name ‘Religious education’ sounds like children are being educated to be religious.

       40% of secondary academies appear not to be teaching RE in Year 11 (though they are supposed to) (NATRE Survey, 2019).


What should RE be like in the future?

The final report of the Commission on Religious Education in England (2018) recommended that:

       “no pupil is denied access to the knowledge of religious and non-religious worldviews that all pupils need to prepare them for life in modern Britain”.


A major opportunity for the Sea of Faith Network

The Commission on RE recommended that the name ‘Religious education’ be changed to ‘Religion and Worldviews’.

This is in perfect keeping with the Sea of Faith’s interest in ‘religion as a human creation’, where everyone has a worldview, whether religious or not, and whether consciously or unconsciously held.

It is also in perfect step with our own educational materials, as published on the ‘Solarity’ website:


Big Ideas: a medium for the development of Solarity into a whole Religion and Worldviews curriculum

       Based on research into the key ideas of the subject.

       A set of lenses through which to view and select appropriate content.

       A change of focus, from “Which religions will we teach at each key stage?” and “How many?” to  “When today's students leave school, what will they need to understand about the questions and issues that different worldviews deal with to navigate the world as it is?


Ideas for understanding humanity

       Big Idea 1: Continuity, Change and Diversity [the nature of religion and religious and non-religious worldviews]

       Big Idea 2: Words and Beyond [how people express feelings and experiences]

       Big Idea 3: A Good Life [The different ways in which people understand and try to achieve a moral life]

       Big Idea 4: Making Sense of Life’s Experiences [Interpreting the transformative and ordinary experiences of life]

       Big Idea 5: Influence and Power [The interaction on many levels between communities and religions/worldviews]

       Big Idea 6: The Big Picture [Accounts from religions/worldviews of how the world is – their grand narratives].


A model curriculum using SOF themes

        Building mental, emotional and ‘spiritual’ health;

        Learning from the wisdom and compassion of others;

        Living with uncertainty;

        Knowing what is of real value in the world today;

        Keeping people out of ‘bad lives’;

        Human goods or desires (e.g., decent length of life, bodily well-being, freedom and power, respect and self-respect, relationships, goods of culture);

        Reverence for nature;

        Celebrating the power of enoughness;

        Going beyond what is ‘fair’ and being very generous;

        Living without bitterness or ill-feeling.


The Plan

       Working with Dr Barbara Wintersgill, the lead researcher and editor for the Big Ideas Project and Denise Cush, Professor Emeritus of Religion and Education.

       Producing a new Online Resource Pack for RE Teachers and Parent Educators.

       A complete and comprehensive scheme of learning to meet the needs of ALL children, including the growing majority who have no religious affiliation themselves but are interested in seeking for wisdom and understanding humanity.

       Recruiting a team of advisers and teachers to write new materials: more than 20 have already applied.

       Thanks to the generosity of a few Sea of Faith members and securing a grant from another charitable foundation, we have enough money to make a start on the project though with some sails trimmed. We can produce exemplar material but not the whole scheme.

       The more we can raise, the more comprehensive a scheme we can produce. Another £2,800 would (a) give the Sea of Faith Network a clear majority share in the work and (b) confidence for the project to produce successful outcomes.

       This is a major undertaking that would help spread the existence of the Network far and wide in the educational world, and not just in the UK.

       We need more contributions, however small. It matters that we have the support of the vast majority of the Network’s members, so please do make a point of pledging a little cash after this meeting. A sum of £25 from each member will pretty much get to what we need.

       Please send your pledge, with ‘Solarity project’ in the subject line to Stephen Williams at