Guidance for Using Discovery RE
with Composite Classes
This guidance is to support schools teaching Discovery RE to a range of ages in a class throughout the school.
The fact that Discovery RE is medium-term planning, allows units (enquiries) to be moved between adjacent age groups quite easily. The first criteria to align to must always be your locally agreed syllabus which will give direction as to what religions should be taught, when (plus any additional requirements of your trust deed as applicable). The team at Discovery RE can map your syllabus to the programme, providing you with a basis on which to make your selections of what religions to teach, and then differentiating accordingly. Because of its medium-term nature, this is something teachers would need to do when using Discovery RE, whether or not they are teaching a composite class. This ensures that children are being scaffolded to reach the objective and making good (or better) progress.
The recommended approach for schools with composite classes is to implement a rolling programme that is designed to ensure that children will be taught about all the religions specified in their syllabus over the course of their primary education. The key is having a system in place to record and monitor each child’s completion of the chosen enquiries as they move through the school. This will be addressed in the “Assessment” section later.
As long as the enquiries are chosen from the adjacent age group, there will be very little adaptation needed beyond the usual differentiation, as the engagement lesson (Lesson 1) will allow teachers to formatively assess the children’s knowledge and then pitch the remaining lessons accordingly. Depth of teacher questioning and including higher challenge activities will be the main tools (see our challenge materials in the “Teachers” tab in the community area for support with this). Teachers with composite classes will be used to doing this across the curriculum.
An example chart of composite class planning for mixed age classes where Reception is “stand alone” is provided in the full PDF which can be downloaded using the blue button at the end of this article.
Where composite classes form a different pattern, the most straight-forward plan is to group the classes into pairs of ages. For example, for a 1.5 form entry school, all classes covering 5-7 years old (i.e. ages 5-6, 5-7 and 6-7) can follow the same planning (e.g. for ages 5-6) in one year, and the second year follow the 6-7 planning as shown above. There are a multitude of combinations of year groups in composite class schools so should a different solution be required, you could utilise the extra enquiries e.g. for Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Christianity to run different bespoke programmes. Schools in this situation are well-used to planning across the ages and help and support can be given from the Discovery RE mentor to support the choices made on an individual school by school basis.
Assessment with Composite Classes
Because each enquiry has its own stand-alone assessment activity, criteria and descriptors, assessment should be straightforward for teachers and can follow exactly that provided by Discovery RE. The support or challenge that should be provided for the children to allow all learners to achieve within the enquiry and the assessment, will be decided upon by the individual teachers. To aid in summarising where children should be at the end of the 5-7, 7-9 and 9-11 years age range, Discovery RE provides a helpful table which teachers can use to assess the overall achievement and progress of their children, whatever composite class format they may be experiencing. This is within the Foreword to the scheme of the work.
Discovery Re contains 3 age-related expectation descriptors for each enquiry in each year group. These expectations (working AT, TOWARDS and BEYOND) give guidance for assessing each of the 3 aspects of learning involved and made explicit in Discovery RE. Schools can, of course, use the language of their choice to describe these expectations (e.g. developing, secure, exceeding) in order to ensure RE is in line with the school’s system.
The 3 aspects of learning are colour-coded:
Green: personal resonance with or reflection on… (formerly AT2 personal)
Blue: knowledge and understanding of… (formerly AT1)
Red: evaluation/critical thinking in relation to the enquiry question (formerly AT2 impersonal).
This colour coding runs through the planning and activity sheets so the teacher can see which activity is focused on which aspect of learning and follow this through in the expectation descriptors (Working TOWARDS, Working AT and Working BEYOND) and in the exemplification. This will make it easier to link teaching with learning outcomes no matter what age or mixture of ages you have within the composite class.
Download the full article (below) which includes an example of an end-of-unit assessment sheet. It also allows children to assess themselves and identify actions they could take to improve next time. (TINT)
Discovery RE also contains tracking sheets for groups or classes of children which could adapted to be maintained over the primary life of the child to ensure that there are no gaps in their learning thus fulfilling the syllabus.
It should be remembered that the 3 assessment strands allow for a great deal of the children’s learning to be assessed verbally as well as in what they write at points within the enquiry and for the assessment activity. This allows the teacher to make an informed overall judgement which can be compared to the exemplification resources of what a child might say or write over the course of the learning period.
Download the whole PDF Article with diagrams