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This page contains archived news items which previously appeared on the news page and may be of interest.

  • Report on the ‘Distinctively Local’ SACRE Project
  • Latest news on SACREs from NASCRE AGM
  • Agreed Syllabus - Proposed Changes
  • Big Questions and Alternative Answers - Sixth Form Conference - Bath Spa University
  • Report from the South West Conference for SACREs, 10th March 2010, Dillington House, Ilminster, Somerset
  • Bath Interfaith Newsletter - May 2010
  • Recent guidance on the place and importance of Religious Education in schools
  • Yr 9 Animation Project 'The Miracles of Jesus'
  • JTrails
  • New pilot GCSE from OCR
  • Creation and Evolution: incompatible explanations?
  • B&NES SACRE Newsletter - Autumn 2008
  • Locally Agreed Syllabus

  • Report on the ‘Distinctively Local’ SACRE Project

    (Feb 2014)

    Project team members

    Teachers and advisers representing a cross-section of types of school, age-ranges and local authorities were recruited for the project: Dave Francis (Associate Adviser to Somerset & North Somerset SACREs), Yvonne Rayner (Berkley CofE VC First School), Frances Thomson (Crispin Academy School), Lyn Girling and Sally Smiles (Critchill Special School), Claire Selway (Holyrood Academy School), David McGrath (Oakfield Academy Middle School), Jenni Howell (Selwood Anglican/Methodist Academy Middle School), Ruth Motion and Amy Maunder (The Taunton CofE Academy), Rachel Cooper (Trinity CofE VC Primary School), Katie Duncan (Frome Community College), Katy Staples (Adviser to Bristol SACRE), Anita Compton (Adviser to Haringey SACRE), and Bob Allaway (Haringey SACRE member).

    During the time of the project Michael Metcalf (NASACRE) and Peter Newman (Equalities Champion for Somerset CC) were able to attend one meeting of the project group and were kept in touch with developments as the project progressed. 

    Achievements of the Project

    The aim of the ‘Distinctively Local’ project was to engage schools within the six local authorities sharing the agreed syllabus ‘Awareness, Mystery and Value’ (AMV) in producing resources for religious education that mark out distinctively local elements of religion and belief in each authority. 

    At the time of writing the project resulted in the following achievements:

    two model templates – one featuring Somerset and one featuring Haringey –  have been uploaded to the AMV agreed syllabus website. These provide guidance for schools on how to find suitable local resources and how to incorporate their use in the agreed syllabus programme of study;

    four examples of ‘mini-schemes of learning’, covering key stages 1, 2 and 3, uploaded to the AMV agreed syllabus website, showing how different sorts of local resource can be used to produce compelling learning within RE lessons;

    three further schemes being trialled in the project teachers’ schools, with the expectation of adding them to the website in due course. 

    The exemplar templates and schemes of learning can be found at: 

    Broader Outcomes

    Promotion of education into diversity among young people

    The exemplar templates and planning uploaded to the AMV site was successful in pointing to the variety of Christian groups located in the ‘AMV’ regions, as well as to the influence and contribution to the life of local communities made by individuals and groups from a variety of religion and belief traditions. They were all designed to promote understanding between people from these different groups. For example, in the KS3 unit on what can be learnt from the religions, beliefs and communities in the local area today, there is a focus on individuals who may have ‘protected characteristics’ that are illegal to discriminate against, in order to challenge prejudices and introduce pupils to the positive benefits of religious and cultural diversity in the area. 

    Benefits for communities in the AMV regions

    The project has brought recognition and renewed contact for some communities with the work of SACRE. For example, in the KS2 unit on how people might be inspired by the example of John Wesley, pupils are encouraged to make contact with or visit sites of interest to Methodists such as the New Room in Bristol. Or again, in one of the KS1 units on why some places are special, pupils are encouraged to make contact with and visit local places of worship, especially those that are in use by Christian communities.

    In providing the guides to local resources in such diverse areas as Somerset and the London Borough of Haringey, the project has enabled teachers to make connections between more rural areas of the AMV region with more urban and multi-religious ones.

    Production of exemplar planning schemes 

    These have been designed to promote pupils’:

    interest in powerful features of religion and belief in the local area. For example, in one of the KS1 units on why some places are special, pupils are introduced to the tradition of well-dressing as a powerful way of engaging with Christian beliefs and forms of expression, alongside questions of identity and belonging;

    knowledge and understanding of the diversity of religion and belief even in an apparently ‘mono-cultural’ setting. For example in the KS3 unit, challenging stereotypes about different groups found in the local community;

    understanding of people from different groups. For example, in the guide to resources in Haringey, pupils are encouraged to explore the impact local Christians are having in their work with people in the area;

    contact and confidence with local religion and belief communities. For example, in the guide to resources in Somerset, pupils are encouraged to investigate the work of humanist celebrants as well as hospital and prison chaplains, and to make visits to local places of worship or museums and libraries that hold exhibitions related to the religious and cultural life of the county.

    Overall, the project has been successful in engaging teachers for different school settings in an investigation of matters of religion and belief relating to our agreed syllabus that are ‘distinctively local’. This has enabled them to unearth some hidden gems that help to connect inspirational people of the past and present to the lives of the children living in those same places today.  

    Dave Francis, Associate Adviser for Religious Education

    11 November 2013

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    Latest news on SACREs from NASCRE AGM

    (Oct 2012)

    Newsletter 34 - Autumn 2012

    Newsletter - PDF

    See also New pilot GCSE from OCR
    See also Creation and Evolution: incompatible explanations?
    See also B&NES SACRE Newsletter - Autumn 2008

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    Agreed Syllabus - Proposed Changes

    (Sep 2010)

    Proposed changes to the Locally Agreed RE Syllabus: RE Heads and Co-ordinators are invited to offer feedback.

    The Local Authority has a responsibility and duty to provide a Locally Agreed Religious Education Syllabus. It is the role of the local Sacre to ensure that a suitable syllabus is in place, following a period of consultation and comment from all interested parties, including mainstream religious faiths and other groups.

    The B&NES Sacre adopted the Somerset Syllabus some years ago, with slight modification and additions that reflect the local dimension, after a period of consultation. The RE syllabus is entitled 'Awareness, Mystery and value'. (AMV)

    In light of recent changes to the National Curriculum and in RE, plus new guidlines and recommendations, the introduction of a non statutory but national Religious Education programme of study, plus the need to review the AMV Syllabus, the B&NES Sacre, along with Somerset, is currently reviewing the AMV syllabus. 

    The new syllabus proposals, while retaining much of the content from earlier versions, places a greater emphasis on an enquiry based, investigative approach to RE. Level descriptions have been brought in line with national guidance. The material for consultation is not the full syllabus but the key elements.

    Local faith groups and interested parties have made input into the proposed changes via the Sacre consultation process. B&NES Sacre recently wrote to Heads of RE and RE Co-ordinators in B&NES schools invitiong feedback and comment. The proposals and feedback form are enclosed here as well. Comment is welcomed. Please read the letter and complete the feedback form by the 19th October.

    Letter to Heads of RE


    Proposed Syllabus - Awareness, Mystery and Value 2011
    (Main document)

    Proposed Syllabus - Awareness, Mystery and Value 2011
    (Tables - 'Can do' levels and examples)


    See also New pilot GCSE from OCR
    See also Creation and Evolution: incompatible explanations?
    See also B&NES SACRE Newsletter - Autumn 2008

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    Big Questions and Alternative Answers - Sixth Form Conference - Bath Spa University

    (Jul 2010)

    About 800 students from nine schools are attending the university over three days (5/6/7th July) to explore 'Big Questions and Alternative Answers'. Among the big questions under discussion are whether religion brings peace or conflict, whether there is a 'God gene', whether 'near death experiences' are hallucinations, whether minds can exist beyond death, what is beauty and whether human enhancement is our destiny. Alternative answers are sought from religious and belief traditions including Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist, Nihilist, Bah???, Rastafari, Christian and er, Dr. Who.

    Students have a chance to meet representatives from the different faiths and beliefs and to experience 'the Tranqulity Zone'. Thanks to grants from both the Bath and North East Somerset SACRE and NASACRE (the national equivalent), we have been able to get two well known speakers from the 'RE Today' team, Lat Blaylock and Stephen Pett, and put on performances and workshops from the Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Tashilhunpo monastery and the well-known reggae drummer Rim Bim and his group.

    masked dancerThe monks will perform traditional sacred chants and masked dances which express Buddhist philosophy and the drummers explain how music and Rasta beliefs and values are related. The connections between religions and the arts is explored further via dancing Muslims and the creativity of rage and despair, and several workshops explore connection between religions/beliefs and the sciences. A particularly challenging workshop asks whether our culture today is guilty of perpetuating the Nazi ideology.


    The conference, the second of its kind, is for all year 12 students in the Local Authority, and is organised by a partnership of Bath Spa University Widening Participation team, the Study of Religions team from the Humanities Department of the School of Historical and Cultural Industries, Bath and North East Somerset SACRE (Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education), Bath Interfaith Group and the Bath and North East Somerset Heads of Sixth Forms Group.

    Conference Programme

    Conference Workshop Descriptions


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    Report from the South West Conference for SACREs, 10th March 2010, Dillington House, Ilminster, Somerset

    (May 2010)

    The theme was ‘Quality SACREs - Quality RE', and included a mix of keynote talks and workshops.

    The first talk given by Dr Mark Chester, RE Officer at QCDA, looked at three key issues facing SACREs:

    We then dispersed to one of 3 workshops to discuss these issues:

    After lunch we could choose a further two workshops - I opted for Graham Langtree exploring spiritual development and community cohesion through a range of teaching and learning activities - a very valuable exercise. Followed by Effective practice in RE and Community cohesion [Katy Staples].

    An invaluable part of the day was the opportunity to chat with others and get a feel for the many different levels at which SACREs are working - and are being funded [a huge range here!]

    About 35 attended , from local SACREs [Bristol, Somerset, North Somerset etc] and many were the representatives from local councils.

    Jane O'Hara, 10 May 2010

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    Bath Interfaith Newsletter - May 2010

    (May 2010)

    Newsletter >>

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    Recent guidance on the place and importance of Religious Education in schools

    (May 2010)

    The B&NES SACRE is currently reviewing the current syllabus, 'Awareness Mystery and Value' in the light of recent thinking and curriculum developments. A review of this syllabus is well under way. More news will be forthcoming when final decisions have been made.

    Religious Education - A statutory subject supported by
    a non-statutory programme of learning

    Religious Education n English schools: Non‑Statutory Guidance 2010


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    Yr 9 Animation Project 'The Miracles of Jesus'

    (Mar 2009)

    Yr 9 RE students at Somervale School have produced new DVD on the topic of 'The Miracles of Jesus.'

    yr9 animation miracles of jesus cover

    This exciting and fun project was made in conjunction with a visiting artist with the support of 'RE@CT'. The aim of the project was to utilise the school's Media Arts Status to enrich the learning in RE@CT. Miracles are studied at KS4 and KS5 and so the project served as an introduction to the GCSE course.

    yr9 animation miracles of jesus contentsAll year 9 students were involved in the project. Each teaching group were divided into half and each half spent a full day off timetable working with our guest artist. A smaller group of students were then involved in writing the scripts and narrating each individual animation.

    Students were given artistic licence to interpret the miracles as their group wanted.

    They were supplied with a biblical text to work with and encouraged to be as creative as possible.

    Find out more about the project and the DVD by contacting Dave Campbell at;

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    (Mar 2009)

    'Spiritually Shopping Around' - Understanding Issues and Trends in Contemporary Spirituality



    7.30pm Wednesday March 25


    The Theatre, Kingswood School, Lansdown Road, Bath.


    Spiritually Shopping Around’


    Understanding Issues and Trends in Contemporary Spirituality


    A Lecture by Dr. Marion Bowman of The Open University


    A glance at the shelves of most bookshops will show that the public interest in spirituality and religion ranges beyond the traditional structures of the Christian churches and the major world faiths. The encounter of younger people with alternative patterns of spirituality is particularly significant but they do not receive much attention in the RE syllabus. Dr. Bowman has an ongoing research interest in the field, and has published extensively. She has made a particular study of religion and spirituality in Glastonbury which she regards as a significant focus for these emerging trends, and is of local interest to us in Somerset.


    The lecture is aimed at school and university teachers and students. There will be opportunity for discussion and refreshments will be available afterwards.


    The lecture is free and all are welcome.


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    (Mar 2009)

    An informative and interesting website that traces Jewish life in Britain over the millennia.

    JTrails believes that Anglo-Jewish history and heritage is an important national, cultural resource that deserves general recognition. We aim to promote it through our own programmes and by working with existing Jewish and non-Jewish, community, historical and heritage organisations, communities and individuals. >>


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    New pilot GCSE from OCR

    (Feb 2009)

    A groundbreaking GCSE Religious Studies specification is being piloted by OCR, a leading UK awarding body, which encompasses a range of topics from biotechnology, to ethics, human rights, politics and culture in today’s Britain.

    Professor Liam Gearon from the University of Plymouth, said:'This is an intellectually exciting new Religious Studies GCSE from OCR which will challenge students to think about the role of religion in modern Britain and in the worldwide community. Encouraging the use of historical reflection as well as thought-provoking analysis of contemporary events, it will engage students of all abilities with the many issues that surround religion in the modern world.

    “Not shying away from the conflicts and controversies so often evident in relations between the great religious traditions, this new GCSE also provides opportunities for the investigation of how faith communities engage in inter-religious and other forms of dialogue, locally, nationally and globally, for example at the level of the United Nations.

    “As well as bringing new understanding to religion in the modern world which students confront daily in newspapers, on television, radio and the Internet, students can make use of this rich diversity of media as evidence and argument in the study of religion - for example, in the study of religion and politics, religion and war, religion and the arts.”

    Clara Kenyon, Qualifications Director at OCR, said: “This new GCSE pilot allows us take a fresh look at how religious studies is taught. The pilot addresses a range of issues relevant to students today, who often see religious issues in the news without necessarily having an understanding of the background.

    “Our specification aims to ensure that students can adopt an enquiring, critical and reflective approach to the study of religion, on both a personal and intellectual level. In addition, we can help teachers feel comfortable that they are able to encourage exploration of issues with students through open discussion.”

    The Religious Studies C: ‘Religion & Belief in Today’s World’ will be piloted from September 2009 until 2015 and will allow all 14-16 year olds taking the specification to be fully engaged with and able to discuss issues which they will inevitably be exposed to – either through the media or more directly in their lives.

    Currently, all students aged 14-16 in a maintained school have a statutory entitlement to religious education. This new pilot fits in with the Religious Studies teaching requirements allowing students to achieve a qualification as either a short course (two modules only) or a full course (four modules).

    The new pilot GCSE will be available for first teaching in September 2009. The specification can be downloaded from

    To register an interest in becoming a pilot centre please contact:

    See also Creation and Evolution: incompatible explanations?
    See also B&NES SACRE Newsletter - Autumn 2008

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    Creation and Evolution: incompatible explanations?

    (Feb 2009)

    Creation and Evolution: incompatible explanations?

    SACRE were concerned that teachers should have some guidance on handling the debate between science and religion, particularly in relation to the creationist-evolution debate. Having contacted some of you there appear to be no difficult issues in addressing this but replies suggested guidance would still be welcomed. I have set out below a way in which the major issues could be tackled though you would have to adapt the level of approach to the students you teach. I hope you find it useful. If you are using other resources that you find valuable do let me know and we can circulate further guidance on resources via the newsletter and the RE moodle.

    1. Religion and science

    The relationship between religion and science is a contested one and often fraught with emotional tension. My own experience includes going to an interdisciplinary research training seminar in education and sitting in a group in which we had to introduce ourselves, our discipline, and one observation about a problem we encountered in our work. My ‘problem' was that in religious education we often encountered student views that were negative about religion. A scientist in the group responded by saying that we deserved that and now science was getting its own back (on religion). I was taken aback because I hadn't expected such a hostile response, but it is evidence that animosity still exists between religion and science and that that is a legacy of ways in which religion treated some scientists as heretics previously when it had greater influence and power, the case of Galileo is perhaps the most famous example. The tensions between religion and science should not be denied but nor should we paint a black and white picture in this respect, it is more complex than that and, in the way we teach RE in Hampshire we are always looking for our students to explore complexity.

    What has made things particularly high profile, in terms of tension, is the debate that is now prevalent and newsworthy regarding the teaching of creationism (or ‘intelligent design') and the arguments against religion made by Richard Dawkins, and others, firmly based on an evolutionary perspective. To ignore this debate would be wrong but it needs to be put in perspective. That is our job as teachers. We already have the pedagogical instrument to do this with our conceptual enquiry methodology which encourages students to enquire into issues and makes it possible to readily bring different arguments and perspectives into focus and analyse their claims and then ask students to make their own informed judgements, which they then have to defend. The creation-evolution debate then becomes a very worthwhile one to focus upon. Below I offer an example of how you could do that.

    However, there are already a significant number of resources you can employ for examining science and religion. A recent one of value is ‘Religion and Science in the 21st Century Classroom' by Tonie Solberg and Geoff Teece. This is published by the University of Birmingham School of Education. Copies are available from Tonie Stolberg and he can be contacted at

    This 60 page booklet offers a pedagogical approach based on enquiry that can easily be adapted to our conceptual approach. It covers a number of aspects of fruitful engagement between science and religion providing ideas for lessons, informative background reading and suggestions for resources. If you want a fuller volume then buy Tonie L. Stolberg and Geoff Teece (2009) Teaching Religion and Science: pedagogy and practice, London: Routledge. The importance of Stolberg's and Teece's approach is that it is well informed, thorough and thoughtfully worked out in terms of teaching and learning, using the idea of ‘skillful means' borrowed from the Buddhist tradition as a basis for enquiry. Their Lesson 2 (pages 46-48) focuses on the evolution debate. I have adapted that below to suit our conceptual enquiry methodology and give a more detailed focus to the enquiry activities.

    1. Creation-Evolution Debate

    However, this debate is complex and, as you will see below, from the quotations presented, it is not an easy enquiry for students to follow. I suggest it can be simplified and many of you will have resources to hand or worked examples through which you do that. The main point of this guidance is to clear up any misunderstandings in the creation-evolution debate and for you to add anything I have presented to your present way of doing an enquiry into this issue.

    Summary of Points


    1. Cycle of learning

    Key concept: evolution


    Key question: What did Darwin mean by evolution and what issues does it raise?

     creation and evolution image

    Anti-Darwin cartoon 1800s

    Activity 1: use the above cartoon to introduce students to the issue:

    So far they have been hypothesising and relying on their prior knowledge and powers of observation. Use their responses to move on to an analysis of his evolutionist theory (below)


    Darwin's theory of evolution is based on five key observations and inferences drawn from them. These observations and inferences have been summarized by the great biologist Ernst Mayr as follows:

    1) Species have great fertility. They make more offspring than can grow to adulthood.

    2) Populations remain roughly the same size, with modest fluctuations.

    3) Food resources are limited, but are relatively constant most of the time.

    From these three observations it may be inferred that in such an environment there will be a struggle for survival among individuals.

    4)In sexually reproducing species, generally no two individuals are identical. Variation is rampant.

    5) Much of this variation is heritable.

    From this it may be inferred: In a world of stable populations where each individual must struggle to survive, those with the "best" characteristics will be more likely to survive, and those desirable traits will be passed to their offspring. These advantageous characteristics are inherited by following generations, becoming dominant among the population through time. This is natural selection. It may be further inferred that natural selection, if carried far enough, makes changes in a population, eventually leading to new species. These observations have been amply demonstrated in biology, and even fossils demonstrate the veracity of these observations.

    To summarise Darwin's Theory of Evolution;
    1. Variation: There is Variation in Every Population.
    2. Competition: Organisms Compete for limited resources.
    3. Offspring: Organisms produce more Offspring than can survive.
    4. Genetics: Organisms pass Genetic traits on to their offspring.
    5. Natural Selection: Those organisms with the Most Beneficial Traits
    are more likely to Survive and Reproduce.

    Darwin imagined it might be possible that all life is descended from an original species from ancient times. DNA evidence supports this idea.
    Probably all organic beings which have ever lived on this earth have descended from some one primordial life form. There is grandeur in this view of life that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved. (Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species)

    Activity 2: students can work in pairs or groups and:

    In using this text students need to:

    To answer the key question students need to consider:


    Key question: In what ways are these different responses to ‘evolution' compatible or incompatible and why?

    Distribute the texts below amongst groups of students. Given that some of these texts are harder than others you can differentiate which group gets what text.

    Ask the students in each group to discuss what significant point(s) the text is making and whether it is well made. Where more than one group has the same text, then ask them to confer on their observations and judgements. For example, you could use the ‘ambassador' technique here of one member of a group conferring with another group and feeding back, or put the groups together with appointed scribes.

    Coming back together as a class get feedback from the groups on the text they read, the observations it was making and the issue (s) that raises and agree the issues and rank them. Discuss any areas of the debate that students feel require more information as a result.



    1. The Wilberforce-Huxley debate

    ‘Unless and until Darwinians could produce an explanation of how organisms of one species could eventually evolve into those of another, it was a fair criticism to say that Darwin had not offered a causal theory but only, at best, a hypothesis.' (criticism by Bishop Samuel Wilberforce)32

    Prof. Huxley defended Mr Darwin's theory from the charge of its being merely an hypothesis. He said, ‘it was an explanation of phenomena in Natural History... it was an explanation of facts; and his book was full of new facts, all bearing on his theory. Without asserting that every part of the theory had been confirmed, he maintained that it was the best explanation of the origin of species which had yet been offered'. (defence of Darwin by Professor Thomas Huxley)35

    1. The position of the Catholic Church

    The Catholic Church distinguishes between the evolution of the body and the special creation of the soul. Jones summarises the Catholic position by reference to Humani Generis, the encyclical of Pius XII, arguing that the Catholic Church does not forbid the theory of evolution as an explanation of the origin of the human body, but rejects the notion that the soul was not created directly by God.This kind of language, however, poses problems in the debate with science because it smacks of vitalism, the incorporation of an ingredient in our natures which is not subject to scientific test.

    1. Darwin's Challenge to Theological Positions

    It is important to an understanding of the development of the ‘special relationship' between evolutionary theory and theology to understand what it was about Darwin's scheme which challenged 19th Century theological descriptions:

    These three conclusions now form the accepted background from which most theology reflects on the biosphere.

    1. Evolution as divine purpose?

    If it is simply asserted that God has used the processes of evolution to further divine purposes of creating a world in which there could be creatures like ourselves, then a further problem arises which was already known to Darwin, namely that evolution seems to contain such cruelty, waste and ugliness as to make it hard to defend as the means to a divine end. One of the strengths of Darwin's theory was that it explained, without the need for any ad hoc hypotheses, both aesthetically appealing adaptations, such as the beak of the woodpecker, and the ‘ugliness' of species like the ichneumonidae - wasps whose larvae are implanted within the body of a caterpillar and eat it alive from the inside.




    Key evaluative question: Is it possible to believe in both evolution and a creator God?

    The texts below consolidate and extend students' understanding and provide different perspectives on whether evolution and theological positions can be reconciled. You can select and amend as appropriate and use in a similar way to the activities provided in Contextualise. The main thing is to draw out the way in which the issues in the debate over creation-evolution have been responded to.


    Creationism is focused on defending a literal reading of the Genesis account, usually including the creation of the earth by the Biblical God a few thousand years ago. Unlike creationism, the scientific theory of intelligent design is agnostic regarding the source of design and has no commitment to defending Genesis, the Bible or any other sacred text. Instead, intelligent design theory is an effort to empirically detect whether the "apparent design" in nature observed by biologists is genuine design (the product of an organizing intelligence) or is simply the product of chance and mechanical natural laws. This effort to detect design in nature is being adopted by a growing number of biologists, biochemists, physicists, mathematicians, and philosophers of science at American colleges and universities. Scholars who adopt a design approach include biochemist Michael Behe of Lehigh University, microbiologist Scott Minnich at the University of Idaho, and mathematician William Dembski at Baylor University. (3)

    Creationism, creation science, and intelligent design theory are three religious theories of creation offered to explain the origins of the universe.

    It is difficult to distinguish among these theories. However, this is a starting point:

    3. Intelligent design


    Intelligent design is the assertion that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection."[1][2] It is a modern form of the traditional teleological argument for the existence of God, modified to avoid specifying the nature or identity of the designer.[3] The idea was developed by a group of American creationists who reformulated their argument in the creation-evolution controversy to circumvent court rulings that prohibit the teaching of creationism as science.[4][5][6] Intelligent design's leading proponents, all of whom are associated with the Discovery Institute, a politically conservative think tank,[7][8] believe the designer to be the God of Christianity.[9][10] Advocates of intelligent design argue that it is a scientific theory,[11] and seek to fundamentally redefine science to accept supernatural explanations.[12]

    1. The argument from design

    One of the argument's more famous variations involves an analogy with a watch. William Paley (1743-1805), the Archdeacon of Carlisle, writes in his Natural Theology (1802):

    In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone and were asked how the stone came to be there, I might possibly answer that for anything I knew to the contrary it had lain there forever; nor would it, perhaps, be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place, I should hardly think of the answer which I had before given, that for anything I knew the watch might have always been there.

    The reason, he says, that he couldn't conceive of the watch having been there forever is because it is evident that the parts of the watch were put together for a purpose. It is inevitable that "the watch must have had a maker," whereas the stone apparently has no purpose revealed by the complex arrangement of its parts.

    1. An argument against design

    "If there are any marks at all of special design in creation, one of the things most evidently designed is that a large proportion of all animals should pass their existence in tormenting and devouring other animals."
         --John Stuart Mill

    6 Humans as Made in the Image of God

    Genesis 1.26 describes humans as made in the image and likeness of God, the only creatures to which this direct connection with the divine is attributed. Theologically, then, the Christian tradition has asserted a radical discontinuity between humans and other creatures. Scientifically, the differences between humans and other animals are ones of degree, rather than a radical discontinuity of nature. (see the paradox of the development of modern humans).

    A Darwinian account of humanity can find no place for the notion that the species suddenly acquired a property called ‘the image and likeness of God'. Human distinctiveness evolved gradually (see the evolution of hominids). Can theology frame its understanding of the imago Dei in such a way as to take account of this perception? There are three main possibilities for grounding this concept:

    In fact, evolution is an absolutely essential ingredient in our thinking about God today. As the Roman Catholic theologian Hans Küng puts it, evolutionary theory now makes possible: 1) a deeper understanding of God--not above or outside the world but in the midst of evolution; 2) a deeper understanding of creation--not as contrary to but as making evolution possible; and 3) a deeper understanding of humans as organically related to the entire cosmos.(9)

    Skeptics, of course, will immediately ask how theology can reconcile the idea of God with the role of chance in life's evolution. This is a crucial question, and the contrast position's casual conjecture that chance may not really exist is unsatisfactory. In fact, chance is quite real. It is a concrete fact in evolution, but it is not one that contradicts the idea of God. On the contrary, an aspect of indeterminacy is just what we should expect if, as religion maintains, God is love. For love never coerces. It allows the beloved--in this case the entire created cosmos--to be or to become itself. If, as theistic religious tradition has always insisted, God really cares for the well-being of the world, then the world has to be something other than God. It has to have a certain amount of "freedom" or autonomy. If it did not somehow exist on its own it would be nothing more than an extension of God's own being, and hence it would not be a world unto itself. So there has to be room for indeterminacy in the universe, and the randomness in evolution is one instance of it.

    ‘Darwinian evolution, specifically natural selection...shatters the illusion of design...and teaches us to be suspicious of any design hypothesis...I think the physicist Leonard Susskind had this in mind when he wrote, "...modern cosmology really began with Darwin and Wallace. Unlike anyone before them they provided explanations of our existence that completely rejected supernatural agents"' (Richard Dawkins, 2006, The God Delusion, London: Bantam Press, p.118)



    Key Question: What is your response to the idea of ‘evolution'?

    Stimulus: Google earth images can be evocative for stimulating debate. Try the accompanying question: Can the universe be both majestic and meaningless?


    Here students are being asked to make and justify a personal response. This is different to the Evaluate part of the cycle but continuous with it. They need to decide what they can bring to the argument between evolution and the issue it raises for belief in God. Where do they stand?

    This might begin by summarising the class conclusions on the Evaluate question and the differing standpoints people have taken. You want the main interaction to be students responding to the views of other students and reconsidering and justifying their own position in the light of that.



    Key question: What are the implications of your response to the idea of evolution?

    Here Apply can focus on the consequences of the debate in communicate. This can mirror the debate they have scrutinized in their enquiry. Thus, students need to consider how disagreement should be managed: by respecting each other's views or by seeking to focus on their illogicality, lack of sensitivity to human feeling (in the case of science) or lack of evidential reasoning (in the case of religion). Here is the point where you want them to confront whether we can tolerate different ideas and processes whereby we gain knowledge or not; whether it is the case that science and religion have two different functions (science telling us how and religion telling us why; science dealing in facts and religion in meaning) or not.

    You may wish to organise a class debate at this point to finalise the enquiry.


    For further reading on this I would particularly recommend Mary Midgley (2002) Evolution as a Religion, London and New York: Routledge.

    Ideally, this is an enquiry that can be done involving both RE and Science departments in a school which acknowledges the importance of the QCA's guidance to create more interdisciplinary work in the secondary curriculum and produce ‘compelling lessons'.


    Clive Erricker


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    B&NES SACRE Newsletter - Autumn 2008

    (Feb 2009)


    (Autumn Term 2008)

    Local news

    1. Having forwarded Ashley Ayre copies of the publicity leaflets for our training days, I received the following reply;

    Dear David, thank you for recent email. I must congratulate your Committee for your work improving religious education, not only in schools, but in the wider community. I received highly appreciative comments on the lecture by Professor Keith Ward..... The planned courses in October on "Cohesion, Engagement and Sensitivity" are very pertinent to the national debate and will be extremely beneficial to our schools.

    As Director, I do not endorse specific courses as overall I am accountable for all training organised by the authority for its schools. However, I will ensure that these courses are clearly identified as being run within the authority's training programme by having the publicity flyers include the official Bath and North east Somerset Council header.

    I look forward to hearing how these courses go and once again thank you for your efforts.

    Best wishes

    Ashley Ayre

    Strategic Director, Children's Services


    The training events go ahead at Saltford Golf Club;


    2. We have received 80 copies of a new free CD-Rom entitled, Jewish Way of Life, for distribution to our schools. It covers many aspects of the Jewish faith through interviews and a highly interactive character. The resource is supported by a website- to help teachers get the best out of the CD-Rom and from where additional copies can be obtained


    3. A colleague of SACRE member Ann Hatton has approached SACRE with a request to provide training for our primary teachers. Mr Pat Lunt was a primary teacher for 12 years with responsibility for RE. He has since been an author of pupils' books and teachers' guides for a number of publishers. I asked Pat to provide a brief outline of the type of training he would want to provide for SACRE to consider (attached)


    4. B&NES SACRE will be represented at an AREIAC Conference; ‘Agreed Syllabuses: philosophy, pedagogy, process and product' in Birmingham on Tuesday 18th November. Dave Francis has suggested I attend with him, in the hope that the event will inform the development of our new agreed syllabus in conjunction with SnS SACRE


    National news

    5. The RE Council of England and Wales have published a leaflet to promote a better public understanding of RE. Its target audience is adults outside the RE circuit - headteachers, parents, school governors, school improvement officers, faith communities, journalists and politicians. It is the first initiative/PR campaign by the RE Council to raise awareness about the importance and value of RE. Copies can be obtained from the REC's website


    6. NATRE has been awarded funding to work with teachers to improve the capacity for RE. There are a number of government initiatives at present; RE and Collective worship is under revision, the new secondary curriculum currently rolling out, Primary curriculum review 2008/09, examination changes and new diplomas. There is to be a focus on skills, attitudes and attainment which are to be developed through Every Child Matters, Learning Outside the Classroom, Community Cohesion and Personal Wellbeing.....Phew!!!

    NATRE wants to survey RE teachers in the hope of developing a programme to provide for their needs. Teachers should log on to and follow the online survey tool

    NATRE is also offering free SEN resources entitled Growing in RE. It is available as a free download from (Free NATRE resources)


    7. As a result of a Becta funded initiative, JISC Collections for Schools (, high quality online subscription resources are now available at discounts of up to 75%. Of particular interest to RE professionals are;


    Free 30 day trials during the autumn term from


    8. 2008 examination feedback: A / AS level - The number of exam entries continued to rise, though as a ‘percentage of total sat' it remained the same as 2007. This was held to be encouraging and illustrative of students' interest in the subject being maintained beyond a passing blip (REonline)

    The numbers for GCSE and GCSE Short Course continue to rise. RS continues to be the most popular Short Course. There was also the biggest annual rise in higher grades since 1990 (65.7% A*-C). This continues a 10 year growth of interest in the subject at GCSE and represents a definitive trend rather like A level (REonline)

    Data is taken from JCQ where the full results can be viewed (


    D Campbell

    Training and Development

    (Sources: RE Today, REonline, NATRE,

    See also New pilot GCSE from OCR
    See also Creation and Evolution: incompatible explanations?

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    (Feb 2008)

    An exciting new initiative is afoot with the instigation of the first Faith Forum in Bath & North East Somerset. Members of the Faith Forum hope that this will be a fruitful way of getting the views of faith communities on social, political and ethical issues into the local political decision-making process.

    The Faith Forum has been set up as a link body between B&NES Council and the Faith Communities of the locality, through representation on its Local Strategic Partnership (LSP). The overall goal of the LSP Board is to improve the quality of life in B&NES; the LSP produces the Local Area Agreement (LAA), which is a strategic overview of the direction of B&NES Council, and will inform future decisions made by the council.  Representatives of many business, community and voluntary groups have been invited to the LSP meetings and the inclusion of a ‘faith representative' in the Communities sub-group is seen as a very positive recognition of the faith perspective.

    The steering group of the Faith Forum has a composition which attempts to cover as many of the local faith communities as possible, through consisting of representatives from the major faith community networks active in B&NES: from different Christian traditions, as well as Islam, Judaism and ‘other faiths' (this last is a representative of the Bath Interfaith Group).   While it is still early days for the Faith Forum, it is meeting on a regular basis, and has now produced Terms of Reference and set up a website

    cropped ff image

    The primary aim of the Faith Forum is to act as a bridge between local government and faith communities; interfaith dialogue and understanding is a by-product of their gatherings.  The Faith Forum recognises the distinctiveness of each faith tradition, and the range of views and opinions to be found within each faith community. While affirming the importance of enabling all voices to be heard, it is recognised that there will rarely be one ‘faith view' on any topic under discussion. The Faith Forum Representative, elected from among the steering group, therefore has the task of representing to the LSP what might be a spectrum of views from the forum, and will endeavour to do so impartially. 

    Those participating in the Faith Forum discussions undertake to disseminate information back to their local faith communities. It will be left to the faith communities to determine the most suitable method of representing their views to the Faith Forum via their representative, bearing in mind that it will not be possible for any one person to totally represent the views of their ‘Faith' in the forum meetings.   Interested members of the public are therefore encouraged to attend any of the Faith Forum meetings, and the Minutes are made available on the website.  Queries to the current Faith Forum Representative, Stewart Keiller, can be made by emailing

    Jane F O'Hara

    Secretary Bath Interfaith Group

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    Locally Agreed Syllabus

    (Nov 2007)

    The Local Authority convened a Conference on the Locally Agreed Syllabus for the teaching of RE in schools on 4th October 2007.


    The findings and recommendations were noted:


    The Local Authority should keep the existing syllabus and seek to work with Somerset and North Somerset Local Authorities when their syllabus is under review in 2009.


    The Clerk to SACRE will now seek agreement in principle from the Strategic Director  (Children's Services) for funds to support SACRE members to attend review sessions in 2008/09 and for in-service training for local RE Teachers in the implementation of the new syllabus in 2009.

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