I was a little disappointed at the start of this school year because for the first time in ten years our intake of new students to Philosophy, Ethics and Christian Thought was significantly down. We have always fluctuated between 3 and 4 classes of first year students (between 75-100 students) but this year our intake was just over 40.
Now don’t get me wrong, I know that R.S doesn’t always bring in the big numbers at A Level, I am also very grateful to still have four large groups over the two years. My concern is that next year our students will be entered onto a 3 A Level programme immediately (whereas currently they select four subjects, take one as an AS exam at the end of the first year and continue three subjects into the full A Level) and notoriously R.S is that fourth subject choice…not any more!
Rather than just blaming the new spec content, dip in the cohort or not being recognised as a facilitating subject, I have set myself a challenge (I do this quite often – remember the Revision Podcasts last year?!?) I am going to revamp, promote and advertise R.S. My main motivation (other than wanting a job next year) is that I believe that Philosophy, Ethics and Christian Thought is an amazing subject at A Level (slightly biased I know). So I have come up with a number of areas where I think improvements can be made:
- Open Evening
- Taster Days
- Career Links
- Connections with local secondary schools
- Social Media
And this is how I am going to do it…
Last year I put a lot of effort into revamping R.S on Open Evening, with a number of interactive stations, a Philosopher photo booth and updated handouts (for more details see: Open Evening Ideas for A Level R.S). The big problem though was that so many visitors never entered the room. So my plan for this year (and I best get a move on since it is in three weeks!) is to:
- Create a promotional video with students (going to ask the students about this one)
- Set up a large folding display board with important features of the subject, including trips, past and current student quotes, celebrity philosophers and topical discussion questions.
(Update: first section on trips completed)…
Finished product (it took far longer than I anticipated – there was a lot of cutting, laminating and sticking but I am very pleased with the outcome!)
- Student helpers to go around college interacting with visitors. Update: I have created Discussion Question slips to engage parents and students in key ideas.
- Send links via FB and Twitter to local schools with the promotional video. Update: two schools out of five re-tweeted, liked and/or shared the video, which is a really good start!
- Pop-up-shop: enquire if there is a more focal point in college (such as our Hub or café) to set up a table with handouts, discussions questions and sweets…plus the display board. Update: we have been allocated a prime location in the café area to advertise the subject…fingers crossed we draw in some interest.
I am totally redesigning the Taster Days, creating a number of interactive stations within the classroom that students can engage with. My aim is to create a positive and memorable learning experience that represents R.S. I will post a blog later on next year once I have put it all together.
I am going to speak with the Career’s Advisors at college to see how the transferable skills developed in R.S can be promoted more effectively. I am also going to pick the brains of the Promotional Team to see what is currently being done and how this can be utilised for R.S.
Connections with local secondary schools
Scarborough Sixth Form College is a post 16 institution, which means I currently have no connections or involvement in the local secondary schools. This needs to change:
- Run part of an assembly, speak in R.S/PHSE/English about R.S at college (the idea does scare me a little though!)
- Teach a topic that overlaps – adding some A level elements
- A level students run a session
- Run a lunchtime or after school workshop
- Enquire if any schools run any clubs that link with R.S
- Send information and relevant links to the R.E departments at each of the local secondary schools
Changing the Name
I have decided to promote the course under: Philosophy, Ethics and Theology. The reasoning behind this is that ‘Religious Studies’ implies the study of religions which does not fully reflect the A level spec. Whereas Theology recognsises the focus on the Christian elements whilst also embracing the academic nature of the course. I will still make it clear in the prospectus/ taster days that the qualification will be Religious Studies but the course content is better recognised as Philosophy, Ethics and Theology.
Saving the best until last…how do I connect with the next generation of students = Facebook and Twitter of course! How…
- Post regular discussion questions relevant to the spec and have students comment on them. This silent discussion develops essays writing technique but also promotes how interesting and engaging R.S is. (Note: Ground rules need to be set such as no offensive remarks and all points justified. Students also need to be reminded that FB and Twitter are universally accessible, so other people outside our classroom may engage in the discussions). For more support with setting this up, check out: Silent Discussions on Social Media! or join in at: FB and Twitter
- Audio record classroom discussions. These recordings can then be posted on social media, shared with friends and viewed by many. My class recorded their first podcast today: PhilosoCast on the subject of gender roles. Check it out on YouYube.
- Considering somehow posting short videos, maybe live stream or post pics of students working/ interacting…this is a work in progress!
- FB Logo Redesigned. My FB page logo has been redesigned to better suit promoting the department (thanks to the Art/Graphics Dept).
I would love to hear from you if you have any other ideas 🙂