Religious Studies / Philosophy & Ethics

Religious Studies at Thetford Grammar School facilitates pupils’ personal development. At each of the Key Stages, Religious Studies takes into account the awareness and abilities of pupils and contributes towards the personal development of the child as they engage with their own context in the world today.

This approach to learning involves shared concerns and experiences as opposed to shared topics. Rather than learning purely ‘about’ the different beliefs and practices of many religions, pupils explore questions such as those concerning matters of life and death from their own point of view, as well as though contrast of differing religious perspectives.

The schemes of learning for Key Stage 3 are designed with a view to the Norfolk Agreed Syllabus for Religious Studies.


Year 7

Autumn Term:

Introduces ‘ultimate questions’: what is ‘real’; how do we ‘know’ what is real; how do ‘we’ know what is real?

Pupils are introduced to the world views of theism, secularism and postmodernism and consider these, thinking about the impact of these views on our lives and on our ideas of tolerance.

Spring Term:

Pupils consider sources of wisdom and authority from the perspectives of Christianity, Judaism and a secular ethic. Pupils use these religious and non-religious perspectives to approach the ‘big question’ of whether taking a life is ‘always wrong’.

Summer Term:

Pupils study Judaism and Sikhism and explore the ways in which beliefs and teachings impact upon the identity of a Jew or a Sikh.

Year 8

Autumn Term

Pupils explore Christian approaches to making ethical decisions, including an introduction to Situation Ethics, and a secular approach. Pupils learn the way these worldviews might approach a moral dilemma – including issues of whether human life should be protected at all costs, animal rights, and war. Pupils assess which approach is more helpful in each case.

Spring Term:

Pupils learn about the Muslim, Sikh and Hindu approaches to prejudice and poverty. Pupils reflect on what they can do in response to the poverty and prejudices experienced in the world today.

Summer Term:

Pupils consider religious and non-religious approaches to life after death, including humanist, Buddhist, Christian and Islamic beliefs. Pupils will also consider the  coherency of these different beliefs and the ways in which such beliefs might impact on the way someone chooses to live their life.

Year 9

Autumn Term:

Pupils consider different types of argument and statements about the world. This allows them to consider what they count as ‘reliable evidence’ and to explore if anything can be known about the non-physical. In turn, this will help them to begin to evaluate some of the philosophical arguments for the existence of God (design and causation) and the challenges posed by evil and suffering.

Spring Term:

Pupils spend a term focussed on the beliefs, teachings and practices of Buddhism. Enquiry questions that run throughout this unit of study include ‘what is belief and what does it mean to be religious’; ‘does suffering have a purpose’ and ‘does suffering prove that God does not exist?’

Summer Term:

Pupils explore the extent to which human life can be seen as sacred, as well as the extent to which science makes people ‘play god’. The question of quality versus sanctity of life opens discussion to current world issues of abortion, euthanasia and capital punishment, paving the way for GCSE study if so opted!


The new OCR Religious Studies GCSE provides learners with the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of two world religions- Christianity and Islam, as well as the opportunity to explore philosophy of religion and ethics. Throughout the course, students will engage with relevant topical issues including relationships and families, and war, peace and conflict.

Learners will sit three examinations in total: one on Islamic beliefs, teachings and practices, one on Christian beliefs teachings and practices, and one on religion, philosophy and ethics in the modern world.

The skills of critical debate and analysis and judgement of such a range of cultural, religious and non-religious, moral and ethical topics makes Religious Studies an ideal subject to prepare a student to face such dialogue outside of the classroom.

A Level

We study OCR Religious Studies at A Level. This consists of 3 papers - Philosophy of Religion, Religion and Ethics and Developments in Christian Thought.

The A Level is an excellent foundation for university level study but also develops the critical thinking and reasoning skills needed in so many areas of our lives - not just in the academic field.  Students enjoy challenging concepts and being able to question each other, and key scholars, using their nurtured powers of reasoning.

It is not uncommon for this same logic to be used to find gaps in a student’s  own foundation arguments and so in each topic, it is one of academic and personal growth for both teacher and student!

You do not need to have studied RS GCSE in order to study the subject at A Level – but good ability in other essay-based subjects that show skill in analysis and evaluation (e.g. History, English) are essential.

The RS A Level pulls together teachings of great thinkers from hundreds of years before Jesus’ time, to modern day, and applies them to a wide range of Philosophical, Ethical and Theological ideas. Traditionally part of the Art and Humanities Pathway, the nature of the three-combined papers unites skills of English Language and Literature, History, Critical Thinking, Logic, and analysis. However, the Applied Ethics links nicely to future career areas in Medicine, Law, Sociology, Business and Psychology, with previous students now studying or pursuing Criminology and Sociology, teaching Religious Studies in a secondary school having trained with the highly selective Teach First organisation, Civil Service Fast Stream, Music and Philosophy, and more!

Summaries of key content are below:

Philosophy of Religion:

Ancient philosophical influences e.g. on our understanding of reality

The nature of the soul, mind and body - are we just material ‘matter’ or is there a non-physical aspect of us? If the latter, then what is this and its nature?

Arguments about the existence or non-existence of God

The nature and impact of religious experience - religious and non-religious responses

The challenge for religious belief of the problem of evil

Ideas about the nature of God

Issues in religious language - is all ‘God-talk’ meaningless?

Religion and Ethics:

Normative ethical theories - how do we make moral decisions and is there a reliable way? Deontology (rightness or wrongness of the act itself), teleology (the outcome affects morality) or something else? Natural Law, Utilitarianism, Situation Ethics and Kantian Ethics.

The application of ethical theory to two

Contemporary issues of importance - euthanasia (voluntary and involuntary, is withdrawing treatment on the same moral level as actively ending a life), and issues within Business such as globalisation, the relationship between stake and shareholders, whistleblowing

Ethical language and thought (does ‘good’ or ‘bad’ have any meaning or are they just matters of emotion?)

Debates surrounding the significant idea of conscience (including religious ideas of conscience being from God, and Psychological ideas of the conscience (including Freud and Piaget)

Sexual ethics and the influence on ethical thought of developments in religious beliefs.

Developments in Christian Thought:

Christian religious beliefs, values and teachings, their interconnections and how they vary historically and in the contemporary world e.g. teachings on human nature (both from theological perspectives and from evolutionary biology), teachings on death and the afterlife, ways of knowing God’s existence etc

Sources of religious wisdom and authority - including religious texts, teachings of religious and historical leaders, and modern scholars. In studying the person of Jesus - we consider Jesus as Christ, Jesus as a teacher of wisdom and Jesus as a ‘liberator’ - I.e. the religious ideas of Jesus as God’s Son, as well as the ‘historical Jesus’ who brought about social change.

Practices which shape and express religious identity, and how these vary within a tradition - Christianity within a multi-faith and increasingly secular (non-religious) society, changing attitudes towards gender in religion and in society etc

Significant social and historical developments in theology and religious thought e.g. Liberation Theology and Marxism and questions of whether Christian theology should engage with secular atheist ideologies

Key themes related to the relationship between religion and society e.g. the challenge of secularism - e.g. the views of Freud and Dawkins that God is an illusion and the result of wish-fulfilment, and views that religion should play no part in public life.