Religious Studies


Humanities Faculty

Mr J. Pledger

We want our students to be valuable citizens of society, community and country.

Having an awareness and understanding of different faiths and beliefs has never seemed more relevant. As the 21st century continues to highlight the significance that religion and other philosophies have in shaping human behaviour, our curriculum is fundamental in the personal and social development of our students. Our curriculum challenges our students to look beyond their previous conceptions and familiarities to promote acceptance and appreciation of a range of faiths and practices. However, we seek every opportunity to demonstrate similarities between the faiths and communities that make up our own Essa community to promote social and ethnic harmony. This allows our students to identify that there is more to unite our multi-faith country than there is to divide us. Our approach nurtures our students’ understanding and develops the necessary skills to allow them to appreciate and appraise various responses, as well as forming and communicating responses of their own. 

We built the curriculum with the intent that students will be: 

  • literate and able to communicate their ideas about religion, beliefs and spirituality with confidence. Our students will be able to appreciate where their point of view has come from, and identify evidence and statistical information to support the opinion they hold. Furthermore, students will be able to explore and appreciate the reasons why people hold views that differ from their own, and change their own perspectives if they choose to do so. Debating answers to some of the world’s biggest questions will enable our students to develop transferrable skills and improve their confidence when speaking in public.


  • aware of the world and how it functions. Religion holds a prominent position in public life and it is essential that students can recognise this. The curriculum exposes students to a range of faiths, and explores topics through a thematic approach.  Our students will have a deep understanding of the impact religion plays in the relationship between morality and justice. Exploring the commonalities between religious scripture and law will help our learners to appreciate how religion has adapted and changed over time. We will examine the rites of passage that religious and non-religious people experience in order to consider how much religion affects the daily lives of our fellow citizens. Exploring the relationship between religion, prejudice and discrimination allows our students to understand the consequences when there is a lack of understanding between different faiths and cultures.

  • able to take care of themselves and the world. Students have to consider their moral and spiritual responsibilities towards themselves and the planet, and explore key concepts such as free will, stewardship and the sanctity of life. Through the delivery of the Archbishop of York Young Leaders Award, we provide opportunities for students to give back to their local community and challenge the prejudices that exist towards young people in our country. 

  • healthy, safe and fit in mind and body. Our cross curricular links with other subjects and Fundamental British Values allow us to educate our students about how they would seek help if they felt their rights were restricted as a result of their religious or cultural beliefs. For example, our students are knowledgeable about the difference between forced and arranged marriage and what they could do if they felt their choice had been restricted.

  • ambitious with clear ideas of how RS can link to further careers and opportunities. Our curriculum is rigorous and we have high expectations of all of our students. We examine a range of important religious figures, identifying their occupation and the relevance having knowledge of religion had on their achievements. We encourage our students to reflect on the skills they have learnt, and get them to identify careers that they feel would benefit from the sorts of skills they have. Our clear links to the real would enable students to make appropriate life choices and help to develop their understanding of the negative impact poor life choices can have.

  • numerate and able to manage finances. We look at how vulnerable people can be exploited, and examine religious attitudes towards poverty and wealth. We examine the dangers of using pay day loans companies, and examine the morality of loan sharks. 

  • technically literate and aware. Our curriculum offer contains difficult language and concepts, and demands multi-disciplinary study. Our high expectations of our students has led to the development of a curriculum which enables students of all abilities to be able to interpret and use complex religious terms with confidence. Students use and understand key terminology from a range of languages including Greek, Hebrew and Arabic when explaining their understanding.

  • able to value creativity within myself and others. The study of religion is not confined to the ability to write and talk about what a person knows. As a team of teachers, we value the diversity of our students talents and skills, and recognise that there are many other ways to express our ideas around faith. We take part in a national art competition where our students are given the freedom to create their own piece of work to represent their perception of a particular concept.

Students experience a broad, deep and knowledge rich curriculum:

We look at our offer as one fluid key stage from 7-11, where experiences and subject choice is built upon and layered. We offer qualifications and experiences such as the Young Leaders Award and Spirited Arts competition that go beyond the norm and add breadth and depth to the foundations of the students prior learning.  The curriculum is accessible to all and every student succeeds; they leave equipped with the qualifications that will improve their life chances and employability. 

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In the absence of a National Curriculum, we have built our curriculum using the locally agreed syllabus with careful appreciation of the context of our locality. As set out in our intent, we are careful to foster a deep sense of unity between our students whilst enabling them to question their own religious beliefs and understandings.


Year 7

When our students join us at Essa Academy, many do not have experience of having being taught Religious Education as a discrete subject, often only encountering content through different ‘topics’ at Key Stage 2. We start with a thematic study ‘life after death’ to encourage our students to think about their own opinions before being able to appreciate the topic from a variety of faiths. We ensure that the curriculum offers opportunities for students to examine the contrasting beliefs and teachings through a depth study of Christianity and Sikhism in Y7. We use scripture to aid in our story telling approach to engage our students, and foster a love for learning about religion in its truest form. We expect students to be able to articulate themselves and the meaning of complex, technical terms from their first year at Essa, with terms such as omnipotence, omnibenevolence and transcendence being covered. Our schemes of learning are knowledge rich and we embed understanding through frequent recall and mastery of key concepts. Students consider how religious beliefs are expressed in daily life. We incorporate religious teachings when examining prejudice and discrimination in the modern world. The summer term allows us to promote creativity and independence as we enter the entire cohort in a national art competition.


Year 8

Students deepen their understanding and skills through the Archbishop of York Young Leaders Award. We cover three key elements as part of the course, hope, faith and action. This allows us to explore people of faith and understand how their religion influenced their actions. We focus on people from a range of religious backgrounds, cultures and context e.g. Corrie Ten Boom, Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi. The action element of this course encourages students to take what they have learnt and to design and lead a course of action in their local community. In addition to this qualification, we also examine human rights and gender equality with a specific focus of the roles of females in religion. We look at the events of the Holocaust through the examination of poetry written by the victims of persecution.  


Year 9

Year 9 sees the continuation of core RS for the majority of the year group. By year 9, we feel our students are ready to broaden their understanding and skillset to ensure they are able to do more than evaluate, but are developing key critical thinking skills that will benefit them across all subjects. We explore concepts that are prominent in A-level Religious Studies qualifications, such as the issues around the existence of God and the problem of evil. Throughout Year 7 and Year 8, the Dharmic faiths are covered within thematic studies. In Year 9, our in depth study of Buddhism allows students to develop a deep understanding of the beliefs and practices of a religion which is in contrast with their own. The knowledge acquired during Y9 can be used to complement the content covered at GCSE, although it will not be explicitly taught as part of the course. By the end of Year 9, our students have consolidated their understanding of key religious concepts and have a deep understanding of different religious beliefs, practices and how religion is portrayed in the modern world. 

In order to broaden option choices and the combination of GCSEs our students can gain, a small cohort are able to opt to do the KS4 version of the Young Leaders Award and GCSE RS at the end of Y9. We cover the core RS content through the delivery of the award, and this cohort of students then work towards an additional qualification of GCSE Religious Studies. For some students, this allows them to leave with 10 GCSE qualifications. Students also have the ability to opt to do GCSE Religious Studies at the end of Year 9.


Year 10 and Year 11

GCSE Religious Studies is a popular and oversubscribed option at Essa Academy. Given the context of our students, we opt to do a depth study of Christianity and Islam. Our choices are intentional; although a large majority of our students are practising Muslims, their knowledge of the foundations of their faith often has large gaps. Many students take part in religious and cultural practices, without realising why and the significance of their actions e.g. there are students who wear a hijab without understanding the relevance of it and there are students who don’t recognise the connections between the Abrahamic faiths. The Religious Studies team are able to ensure all of our students have a full and broad knowledge of Islam and contribute towards their personal and spiritual development. Christianity is an Abrahamic faith and there are strong links that can be drawn between our two religions at GCSE. Furthermore, we are able to develop skills and understanding in line with Fundamental British Values through the study of Christianity. 

The second part of the qualification involves the study of key themes. Our option choices allow us to address issues that we know are important to our students. One example is religion, peace and conflict – this unit allows us to explore the rise of extremism and terrorism, focussing on the media’s portrayal of ‘Jihad’ and how this may have skewed public perceptions of Islam. We also explore the role of the IRA and the importance of reconciliation. Furthermore, our study of religion, crime and punishment allows us to examine the use of corporal and capital punishment, and we draw on scripture to understand how some laws are still influenced by holy teachings e.g. capital punishment in some states in the USA, and Shari’ah law in Saudi Arabia.

Unique Selling Points in our curriculum

  • Students enjoy our subject and they do well!

  • We have high expectations of our students, and ourselves.

  • We teach content that is relevant and important to the world we are preparing them for.

  • We help students to identify and develop their own spiritual, moral and cultural awareness.

  • We have clear and strong cross curricular links.

  • We offer students experiences outside of the classroom e.g. through the Holocaust Education Trust, Young Leaders, Spirited Arts.

  • We create an environment where it is safe to discuss sensitive topics, make mistake and learn from them.


Our students WILL be valuable citizens of society, community and country.

Religious Studies requires students to be knowledgeable, empathetic, and curious young adults that question and challenge what they see and hear. By the end of Year 11, our students have gained skills and knowledge that will prepare them for adulthood in the modern world. The transferrable skills acquired lend themselves well to a number of different pathways and will complement students that go on to study traditional A-levels, or those who enter the world of work through apprenticeships. Students will have an in depth knowledge of major world religions, and will have an appreciation of how religion impacts the lives of billions of people around the world. They will develop self-awareness, forming and shaping opinions whilst learning to articulate these to others with confidence.