Subject Team

Mrs Speers (Head Of Department)

Mr Wright

Department Aims

Religious Education is a core subject in Portadown College and plays a leading role in our students’ spiritual, moral and social development.  It involves the academic exploration of beliefs and values and enables students to get a broad look at how religion and spirituality form the basis of our culture.  We aim to make the subject relevant and dynamic and a key emphasis is placed on religious and ethical issues in the media and contemporary society.

Our aim is that students will develop an awareness of the Christian faith, as well as an appreciation of other beliefs. We encourage students to appreciate their own religious values and traditions whilst respecting the traditions of others.

Through Religious Education students can develop marketable skills and aptitudes including:

  • Analytical and strategic thinking
  • Critical judgement
  • The ability to work with abstract ideas
  • An ability to ‘understand both sides’
  • Problem-solving skills
  • An appreciation of human diversity and belief

The Department has a track record of academic success and aims to promote in students the desire to reach their academic potential. A strong emphasis is placed on the pastoral care of each student and on preparing students for life beyond the classroom.

Portadown College award winners. Picture: Cliff Donaldson

Portadown College award winners. Picture: Cliff Donaldson

2013 GCSE SUCCESS: 

The department achieved unprecedented success in 2013 in GCSE Religious Studies.  Two students – Mary Jenkinson and Robyn Irwin attained joint 1st place in Northern Ireland and Neil Reilly achieved joint third place.  All three students were from the same class and were taught by Mr M. Andrews.

CONTENT:

‘Christianity (or Religion), if false, is of no importance. If true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important’. C.S.Lewis

At GCSE we study the origins of Christianity and debate the key ethical issues in society: abortion, euthanasia, relationships and the death penalty. Religion plays an important role in our society and can influence what people think, feel and believe. Through studying Religious Studies, students get a broad look at how religion and spirituality form the basis of our culture.

At A-Level we study Philosophy & Ethics in which we examine the big questions: Is there a God? How can God coexist with suffering? Can you believe in Genesis and Evolution? Would the world be a better place without religion? Is there Life after Death?

GCSE

GCSE Religious Studies

GCSE Religious Studies is a core subject taken by all students in Years 11 and 12.

Examination Board: CCEA

 What is GCSE Religious Studies about?

Religious Studies explores key events in the life of Jesus and examines their implications for today. It covers beliefs and practices within the Christian Church. Students will consider a range of important ethical issues including euthanasia, capital punishment, care for the environment, war and peace and abortion. Religious Studies enables students to get a broad look at how religion and spirituality impact on the world we live in. It helps students develop marketable skills and aptitudes including analytical and strategic thinking, the ability to work with abstract ideas and problem-solving skills. Student learning in the subject has been greatly enhanced through study trips to Auschwitz and Rome.

What will I study and how will I be assessed?

CONTENT ASSESSMENT %
 

Unit 3: The Revelation of God and the Christian Church

 

 

External Examination

 

1 hour 30 mins

 

50%

 

Unit 6: An Introduction to Christian Ethics

 

External Examination

 

1 hour 30 mins

 

50%

 What can this subject lead to?

Religious Studies is an excellent preparation for a wide range of university courses. It develops the skills to analyse and assess arguments, and to reflect, discuss and debate the fundamental issues (i.e. ‘the big questions’). The skills learnt are essential for any future education or employment. The application of philosophical and ethical ideas to practical moral issues (like abortion, euthanasia or holy war) can be especially relevant for those considering careers in law, the media, business and teaching or religious leadership.

We follow the CCEA Revised Curriculum course and complete two modules at the end of Year 12.  Each module is worth 50% and each module is examined in a paper lasting 1hr 30 mins.

There is no controlled assessment or coursework in G.C.S.E Religious Studies.  Discussion and debate are encouraged as 50% of the marks in both papers are for evaluation.

Useful Links:

http://ccea.org.uk/qualifications/revision/gcse/specifications_support/religious_studies

A Level

 

Religious Studies

Examination Board: CCEA

What is A Level Religious Studies about?
GCE Religious Studies offers an academic approach to the study of religion, ethics and philosophy. This subject is likely to appeal to students who enjoy discussing and critically evaluating contemporary philosophical issues such as the existence of God or an afterlife and the problem of evil. Within Ethics students will examine the relationship between religion and morality and focus on a range of ethical theories including Utilitarianism, Situation Ethics, and Deontology. These theories will be applied to modern ethical dilemmas such as abortion, euthanasia and medical ethics.  Students taking this subject should be confident with extended writing as essays form the basis of the examination. 

What will I study and how will I be assessed?

Content Assessment Weighting
AS 1

An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion

 

External examination

 

50% of AS

20% of A Level

AS 2

Foundations of Ethics with special reference to issues in Medical Ethics

 

External Examination

 

50% of AS

20% of A Level

 A2 1

Global Ethics

 

External Examination

 

30% of A Level

A2 2

Themes in the Philosophy of Religion

 

External Examination

 

30% of A Level

Are there any particular qualities or skills I should have to study this course and to what kind of careers can it lead?

Religious Studies is an excellent preparation for a wide range of university courses. It develops the skills to analyse and assess arguments, and to reflect, discuss and debate the fundamental issues – ‘the big questions’. The skills learnt are essential for any future education or employment. The application of philosophical and ethical ideas to practical moral issues (like abortion, euthanasia or holy war) can be especially relevant for those considering careers in medicine, law, the media, business and not forgetting teaching or religious leadership.

Entry Requirements: B grade in GCSE Religious Studies.

Useful Links:

http://www.reonline.org.uk/
http://www.philosophyofreligion.info/

A little deeper..

http://www.rzim.org/
http://richarddawkins.net/
http://www.johnlennox.org/

Department News / Events

ANTI-SLAVERY DAY: 

A Level Religious Education students marked World Anti-slavery Day in October 2014 by hosting local MP Mr David Simpson.  Along with Mr Simpson, A2 R.E. student Holly Taylor, spoke in assembly in order to raise awareness of modern day slavery and discuss local legislation on the issue.

A2  R.E. and Politics students also facilitated a Q&A workshop with Mr Simpson, which covered issues around slavery as well as the connection between religion and politics. Debate also developed around other controversial issues, such as Northern Ireland’s abortion laws.

The event highlighted the importance of values such as equality, diversity, justice and concern for others, which are at the heart of our GCSE and A Level course, as well as connecting with our school ethos. Portadown College will continue to strive to work with local stakeholders, such as Politicians and community leaders, as much as possible to engage our students in issues which are important to them. 

RE IN THE NEWS: 

Religious Education In Northern Ireland:  http://renorthernireland.blogspot.co.uk/

Why is RE important? A Student perspective: http://www.theguardian.com/education/mortarboard/2014/jan/15/dont-dismiss-religious-education-school 

Booming popularity of RE in the last decade:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/schools/keep-the-faith-why-religious-education-is-booming-769322.html

Educational Visits / Trips

Sixth Form RS Students attend Professor’s Lecture

On Monday 3rd April, forty five Year 13 and 14 Religious Studies students attended a public Lecture with Professor John Lennox on the topic: ‘Cosmic Chemistry- Does God and Science mix’? Professor John Lennox, a native of Armagh, is a Professor of Mathematics in the University of Oxford, and has written a number of books on the interface between science, philosophy and theology.  Afterwards students had the opportunity to participate in a lively Q & A with John Lennox. The event was an enjoyable and hugely informative experience for our students and offered a unique opportunity to personally meet and debate with one of the key scholars studied at A Level. The previous week the students had attended a lecture and Q & A with Professor William Lane Craig, a leading American philosopher on the topic- Is Christianity credible?

AUSCHWITZ: 

A group of A level Religious Studies students from Portadown College recently confronted the remnants of mass genocide and the worst of human depravity on a trip to Eastern Europe.  The students were visiting Krakow and Auschwitz in order to examine, in tangible form, philosophical questions about the co-existence of evil and an all-loving God.

On their return, some of the students spoke to a captivated audience in Assembly when they described their experiences and the profound impact which visiting a Nazi death camp had on their collective and individual consciousnesses.

The trip to Poland allowed the sixth-formers to experience a new culture and they were very grateful to have Weronika Janson from Year 11 as their guide and interpreter.  They enjoyed the architecture and varied culture of Krakow, their main base, and the reality of the Jewish experience became clear when they toured the Jewish Quarter, as it was from here that the first Jews had been taken to Auschwitz.  In the evening, the students enjoyed traditional entertainment at a Jewish restaurant which had been visited by Stephen Spielberg when he was making Schindler’s List.

The students spent a day at Auschwitz and were very privileged to meet a Holocaust survivor, Mr Shmolin, who had designed the museum.  They benefited from hearing about his experiences first-hand as he told them of how he had been arrested at eighteen because he had been part of the resistance movement against the Nazis, and how he did not see his mother for another four years.  On his first day at Auschwitz, he was made to stand absolutely still in the baking sun for the entire day as a precaution against potential escape.  Mr Schmolin believed that his job registering new prisoners saved his life.

For young people to hear first-hand accounts of such a significant aspect of world history was an amazing experience and one which will be impossible in the not too distant future.  Mr Schmolin described his most vivid memory of the screams as families, children and friends were separated and people experienced the ultimate sense of betrayal as they realised that they were not there for the better life which they had been promised by their captors.

Mr Schmolin studied to be a lawyer and was later involved in the trials which led to the conviction of many of the Nazi soldiers who had previously tortured him and others.

The College students visited the museum and they found it profoundly moving.  History was brought to life in the most macabre way as they saw rooms filled from wall to wall with people’s shoes, glasses, kitchen utensils and suitcases with names on them.  They struggled with the horrific sight of a room full of human hair, cut from the heads of about 140 000 victims, which the Nazis used to make rough fabric.  A visit inside one of the gas chambers was also part of the experience.  At the second camp, Birkenau, the scale of the “final solution” became all too obvious as there were workhouses as far as the eyes could see in all directions.  One of the students commented that when you step into Birkenau “you step out into a very strange atmosphere with no birds singing, no flowers and it is as if all the colour has been drained out of the world.  The sensation of being somewhere where the sadness is almost suffocating will stay with me forever”.  They were overwhelmed by the realisation that once the inmates were dropped off by train, there was no escape.

The staff who organised and led the trip, Mrs D Speers and Mr D Wright, must be commended for giving these teenagers such a valuable experience.  Through listening to a survivor of the Holocaust, facts and figures became real people and faces.  In addition to experiencing the diverse culture of the city, they witnessed what is left as evidence of the depths of human depravity and the ease with which a society can be led into the darkness of human immorality by a dictatorship.

The students found the experience very rewarding and they certainly inspired their audience. Their understanding of heinous human behaviour was reinforced and they expressed not only a renewed appreciation of their own experiences, but a sense of collective responsibility for the decisions of society and the direction which it takes.

As a reminder of this, it was a sobering thought that the Principal, Mr Harper, briefly related his own experiences of visiting a museum dedicated to the genocide in Rwanda in more recent times.

  • ROME: 

On 16th December a group of 15 Art and Religious Studies students left the freezing climes of Northern Ireland to travel to the Eternal City.  Despite a very early start, the students were very excited that their itinerary for the first day included the instruction to meet at the front entrance of the Colosseum, the ancient arena of the gladiatorial contests.  A guided tour of Ancient Rome was then undertaken which included the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill.

The Art students in particular were enthused by the presence of so much awe-inspiring architecture and many photographs of arches, columns and edifices were taken to provide stimuli for projects back at school.

On Friday, the R.E. students augmented their classroom studies by visiting the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel.  In addition to the position of the Vatican as the historical centre of a major religion, it is of course also home to many treasured art works including the roof of the Sistine Chapel itself.  There was plenty for all of the students to see and appreciate in cultural terms.

The College group did not escape the snow which had brought much of the province to a grinding halt but the weather in Rome was a gentler variety of snowfall and added to the picture perfect scenes surrounded by such beautiful architecture.  It was particularly picturesque when they visited the Christmas Market – a continental tradition – and the stunning Piazza Novona with its impressive fountains.  There were other trips to Art Museums and the students took part in a virtual tour of Rome.  They also enjoyed enormously the Italian food and even indulged in the legendary Italian ice-cream, despite the cold weather. On the final day the students visited the Catacombs.  In ancient Rome, burial within the city walls was forbidden and so the Catacombs were the underground burial cemeteries where the first Christians were interred. 

  • LOCAL EVENTS: 

Has Science Buried God? THE C S LEWIS 50TH ANNIVERSARY MEMORIAL WEEKEND

In November 2013, A Level Religious Studies spent a weekend in Ballymena attending the C.S Lewis 50th Anniversary Memorial Weekend at West Church.  The event’s main speaker was Dr. John Lennox, a Professor of Mathematics in the University of Oxford, who has written a number of books on the interface between science, philosophy and theology.

This event proved to be an enjoyable and hugely informative experience for our students. It offered a unique opportunity to personally meet and debate with one of the  key scholars that they study at A Level and to more fully explore some of the  issues at the very centre of both the AS and A2  Religious Studies Course.

Students also attended a range of seminars:

  • Dr David Glass spoke on the subject “Atheism’s New clothes”
  • Prof David Livingstone, Professor of Geography and Intellectual History at Queen’s University spoke on “Darwinian Imperialism”.
  • Brenda Kelso considered God’s purposes in suffering.
  • Ross Wilson,a well-known artist and sculptor shared the influence of C S Lewis on his faith and art.

CEIAG Links

What can be done with a qualification in RS? 

Religious Studies is an excellent preparation for a wide range of university courses. It develops the skills to analyse and assess arguments, and to reflect, discuss and debate the fundamental issues (i.e. ‘the big questions’).

The skills learnt are essential for any future education or employment. The application of philosophical and ethical ideas to practical moral issues (like abortion, euthanasia or holy war) can be especially relevant for those considering careers in law, the media, business and not forgetting teaching or religious leadership. Religious Studies is a popular subject within the school, with something for the theist, atheist and agnostic to argue about. Religious Studies was recently polled as the 4th most popular A Level subject in Northern Ireland.

Skills

Religious Studies helps students develop marketable skills and aptitudes including:

  • Analytical and strategic thinking
  • Critical judgement
  • The ability to work with abstract ideas
  • An ability to ‘understand both sides’
  • Problem-solving skills
  • An appreciation of human diversity and belief systems.

These skills are particularly useful for future careers in law, education, social work, politics, medicine, administration or the media

Past Students of PC Religious Education

  • Theology (Claire) 

My name is Claire Wheatley. I was a student at Portadown College from 2009-2013. I studied Religious Studies for GCSE and A level. Currently, I am in my first year at Queens University studying Theology. At the end of my three years studying this course, I hope to continue my education further by applying for a PGCE for secondary teaching. This will then enable me to become a Post-Primary teacher. From studying Religious Studies, my mind was opened to the idea of studying Theology at University. Studying Religious Studies at A-level gave me skills which helped me prepare for my University course. From Religious Studies, I learnt and evolved the ability to structure and write essays which is an essential technique to know for Theology. Some topics we focused on in Religious Studies were extremely beneficial as I moved onto further education. My decision in studying Religious Studies for A level has had a great impact on my way of thinking which I can now use in my current studies.

  • Creative Arts (Megan)

Studying RE at a level was really a great decision for me. I found the topics intense and thought provoking whilst really useful preparation for university essays and assignments. In year 13 we had the opportunity to go to Krakow, Poland this was an amazing experience and our visit to Auschwitz is one that I will remember for the rest of my life. When I left Portadown College in 2011, I made the decision to take a year out; I wanted to gain life experience before embarking on higher education. I  worked as a care assistant in an elderly care home for about 6 months before volunteering for a charity called El Shaddai in Goa, India for 3 months, this experience really brought me out of my comfort zone and is hands down the best thing I have ever done. After this I volunteered with ICS, a government funded international development scheme for young people aged 18-25, I spent 3 months in Mali, West Africa working alongside a number of charities for disabled people. It was through working with one these organisations to design and carry out various workshops that I came to know what I wanted to do in the future. When I got home I applied to study Creative and Therapeutic Art BA (hons) at University of South Wales, Newport. This is a relatively new course and was developed in response to an increasing awareness of the inclusive, creative & therapeutic effect of engaging with art. I am in my second year of the degree; when I graduate I hope to begin my career working therapeutically as a community-based Creative Arts Practitioner.

  • A. Religious Studies (Aberdeen) (Michaela)

Q: What did you study at A Level?

A: I studied Religious Studies, History and Politics at a-level.

Q: Did you find it easy to choose your degree course?

A: Originally I wanted to do Law at university because I love to debate and I felt it would be interesting. However I changed my mind over the summer before Upper sixth. I chose to do Philosophy and History.  I had developed a passion for Philosophy of Religion in sixth form and wanted and I decided that I wanted to go into more depth with the subject.   However once I began my course I realised that Philosophy was not the best choice for me. Although I was aware it would not be the same as A-level Religious Studies I did not expect the vast difference. I was fortunate to be taking Religious Studies modules and changed my degree to Religious Studies and History.

Q: What advice would you give A2 students for the examinations?

A

  • I recommend highlighting key points of every argument. There is a lot of information so it is important to be concise.
  • It is also important not to let your own personal views cloud your judgement.
  • Religious Education is a subject that is filled with many viewpoints and each point has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Q: Is studying Religious Studies at degree level harder than A Level?

A: Religious Studies is a lot harder at university than it is at school. It requires a lot more independent learning.  I found that a lot of the courses I studied were things I had never touched on at school. I have studied things such as Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and Shamanism. I have also touched on Atheism and different theories of Religion and why people are religious. Another course I studied was ‘New Religious Movements’ which involved studying religions that have only arisen in the past one hundred years.

Every module varies- some are 100% coursework whereas others are 100% exam. A lot of my courses were 60% exam, 30% coursework and 10% tutorial or presentation.

Q: What UCAS advice would you give to P.C. A2 students?

A: It is imperative to look at individual modules carefully before choosing a course at university. Courses vary from university to university so really research your courses in detail.

I found the course to be very enjoyable and varied. It gives students an opportunity to learn so many new things. It can take time settling in because it is a completely different system to school.

Q: What are your career plans?

My plan is to finish my four year degree at university and go onto to do a teaching qualification in Religious Studies. I also hope to stay in Scotland.

  • Primary Teaching (Judith) 

My name is Judith Connolly and I finished my A Levels at Portadown College in June 2013. One of the four A Level subjects I studied at the college was RE and I thoroughly enjoyed studying this interesting, engaging and relevant subject. I believe my positive feelings towards this subject are due to the innovative and excellent teaching I received from the RE department of Portadown College, right from GCSE through to A Level. Such high quality teaching allowed me to obtain A star grades at both GCSE and A Level and an A at AS Level.

Although I have left the college and A Levels behind the many marketable skills, which I learnt and developed through studying RE, have remained with me and I have carried such skills through to Higher Education. Currently, I am a student at Stranmillis University College Belfast studying primary teaching, specialising in Music. I really am enjoying my first year at Stranmillis however there are many times when I miss the PC family. After my four years at Stranmillis I wish to graduate and find a job (with great struggle I imagine) as a primary school teacher who specialises in Music. I know that through my time at university and throughout my career the skills I learnt as a result of RE will remain very useful.

Upon reflection, A Level has been very useful in a number of ways. Firstly, A Level RE gave me the opportunity to learn about different religions. As a result I appreciate various religions, which is important as we live in an increasing multicultural society. Also it is very important that I have an understanding of different religions, as I will be teaching children from a variety of religious backgrounds. Additionally, A Level RE has helped me develop marketable skills and aptitudes including analytical and strategic thinking, research skills, the ability to work with abstract, conceptual ideas, an ability to ‘understand both sides’ and negotiate and resolve conflict problem-solving skills. As mentioned such skills will be very useful throughout my education and career. However, the ‘thing’ that I found most useful from studying A Level RE was the encouragement it was to my faith as the arguments, in my opinion, confirmed the existence of God and who God really is.

In conclusion, if you are studying A Level RE my three ‘tips’ to consider when aiming for that A star grade are to keep up to date with your classroom work, make revision notes as you go along and to do timed essay after timed essay coming up to your exam. RE really is a fantastic subject to study and I would encourage everyone to take it onto A Level, as the skills learnt and developed are incredibly useful.

  • Psychology (Hayley) 

My Name is Hayley Cullen and I am currently in 1st Year at Queen’s University studying Psychology. My current plan after my degree is to apply for postgraduate studies in clinical psychology; I would love to pursue a career specialising in the treatment of eating disorders.  I studied A level RE at Portadown College and I believe that my essay writing at degree level as been very positively influenced by RE.   I developed the skill of including scholarship, such as that of Freud, who has been very influential in the work of psychology. This previous knowledge which I gained in RE has thus proved to very beneficial for this degree specifically.  Within RE, I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of evaluating different viewpoints and learning about the theories on which they are based. I genuinely found the subject very interesting and greatly appreciated all the support and teaching that was provided by both Mr Wright and Mrs Speers.