Liz Mills is a member of the Executive Committee of the PCfRE. She is a primary school teacher and freelance writer.
Much has been written of late about the importance of church schools being inclusive. We are therefore delighted to be able to share an example of a church school modelling the Christian responsibility of welcoming visitors of all faiths in a special RE week.
RE at Welton St Mary's Church of England Primary school near Lincoln received a tremendous boost last February when the school decided to organise an RE week.
This special week was crammed with activity. Six guest speakers representing a range of world faiths visited the school to run practical workshops and to field children's questions. Each year group had been focusing on a particular world faith in their RE lessons leading up to the RE week and so visitors were allocated accordingly.
The week buzzed with creativity. In different year groups, pupils learnt about African Christian music and dance, Indian drama, Jewish Israeli dancing, Christian storytelling, Sikh artefacts, Islamic customs and enjoyed a visit from the Bishop of Grimsby. The children also visited a number of places of worship, including a mosque and several local churches.
Despite this flurry of activity, the week ran smoothly thanks to the impressive organisational skills of the RE co-ordinator Melissa Fung. "It was like a military operation!" she comments, "but everyone really worked together, which was a big support. We planned it together as a team in staff and planning group meetings. I invited all the visitors, arranged the visits, drew up a timetable for the week, gave colleagues box files full of resources and found background information on videos so we could all prepare beforehand. I also visited the Diocesan Education Office and our local Secondary school to borrow artefacts." She also approached the school's 'Friends Association' who generously offered £1000 to support the project.
"In our RE at other times, we generally rely on books and videos. The children come predominantly from white, nominally Christian backgrounds, so our aim for the week was to give them as many opportunities to meet people of faith, from all over the world, as we possibly could.
"The children really seemed to get excited and inspired by the week and many of them still talk about it. One child went home and made her own 'sheet sari'. Parents, staff and governors were really supportive and enthusiastic. The best thing was that it brought the religions alive for us all and if the children remember just a small part of that experience then it will have been more than worth all the effort!"