The school is a large, diverse primary school located in an area of South London which is in the 70th percentile for deprivation. At present 42 different languages are represented within the school alongside a wide range of religious faiths and belief systems.
As part of a unit of work with Year 6 children exploring faith in modern-day life, pupils considered the following three questions:
-What is the role of a modern-day faith leader, how important are they and how does this role vary between different faiths and belief systems?
-How do people’s faith and beliefs shape their day-to-day lives?
-How do individuals show their beliefs and how do I define and express my own identify?
Pupils began by examining what it meant to be a leader: they considered the types of leadership roles they knew within school and in the
wider community. In doing so, they were able to identify some common themes and values: the leaders were all perceived as honest, trust-worthy and as good role models for the community they served.
“They want to do the best thing- they will do what is right.”
“Leaders show an example to people- it’s a big responsibility because people look to them to see how things should be done.”
“If you’re chosen to be a leader, it’s a big complement because it means people trust you and look up to you. It’s something to aspire to.”
Using their varied personal experiences as a starting point (including opportunities in previous years to meet local faith leaders
representing a range of religions and a unit of work exploring historical faith leaders during the Mayan, Egyptian and Tudor periods), the pupils discussed what they already knew about the responsibilities of faith leaders in their religious communities. They then developed a set of questions to use to interview a variety of faith leaders: pupils volunteered to take the role of interviewer to gather information for the next lesson. This was comprised of written responses, audio files and videos of the interviews. Pupils used this information to identify the similarities and differences in the responses and to evaluate the significance of the role of faith leader in modern-day Britain
and how they represent the values of modern Britain.
“They all talk about responsibility and serving people- you can tell they think of their job as a privilege.”
“Even though the different religions have different beliefs about gods and how to worship, they have very similar ideas about the community. Everyone talked about working together and about making things better for everyone. It was more than tolerance- it was really positive and respectful.”
Building on this work, pupils then worked collaboratively to draft a job description and person specification for a faith leader, including
their personal qualities, skills, tasks and previous experiences. Pupils then used drama to interview for the roles advertised and gave and received feedback against the job and person specifications devised by them.
In subsequent weeks, pupils explored the choices that individuals and communities make about the way they express their faith. They
compared the day-to-day choices and practices that differentiate between branches of the same religions. The religions chosen to explore are represented by pupils in the year group and included Sunni and Shia Islam or Pentecostalism, Evangelicalism or Roman Catholicism as branches of Christianity. Pupils took part in discussion about the reasons for these differences and explored some examples of where these differences have led to conflict. The discussions were linked frequently to the themes of tolerance, liberty and respect.
“It’s hard to balance people’s right to say and do what they want with respect- for some people, what you are saying or doing might be disrespectful or offensive. I think you should have to consider other people’s feelings.”
“It’s sad when people can’t get on- as long as you are not hurting someone else or stopping them showing their beliefs, I think people should be tolerant and accept that people are all different.”
Bannockburn Primary School, Greenwich