Religious & Integrated Studies
Meet the Religious and Integrated Studies department
John McCloskey – Head of Department
Key Stage 3 - In a divided society, integrated education has a responsibility to deal with the challenges of the past and present in a way that is both sensitive and nurturing but also direct and without fear. Throughout Key Stage 3, we ask questions surrounding rights, identity, choices and conflict. We explore a range of belief systems and religions, celebrating difference at each point.
We have a number of projects at Key Stage 3:
Prison to Peace
This programme facilitated by Queens University Belfast provides a unique opportunity to engage with the Northern Ireland conflict in a meaningful way. Based on the narratives of 15 political ex-prisoners, the programme explores why people became involved in the conflict, the impact of prison and the contribution former prisoners are now making to the community.
Studying a range of global faiths is of crucial importance when developing empathy, tolerance and understanding. Each year, one major world religion in explored in depth (Judaism—Year 8, Hinduism—Year 9, Islam—Year 10). Over eight weeks, students learn about origins, beliefs, celebrations, rituals and practices of each religion.
The individual project is an opportunity for students to prepare a presentation on a religious question that they have always wanted an answer to. The range of topics is always fascinating.
Visits to Places of Worship
Throughout Key Stage 3, students will visit a range of places of worship including Newcastle Presbyterian Church, Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, Newcastle Methodist Church, St John’s Church of Ireland, Newcastle Baptist Church and many places of worship of other faiths.
Key Stage 4
Religion is a compulsory part of the Northern Ireland curriculum at both Key Stages 3 and 4. Therefore, as part of their studies, students will complete a number of ’Religion Days’ in Years 11 and 12. These days will encourage students to consider the big philosophical questions in life and to gain an understanding of different belief systems. It is an excellent opportunity to show integration in action.
GCSE Religious Studies
Moreover, students may choose to complete a GCSE in Religious Studies. We use CCEA and follow the Religious Ethics and Philosophy of Religion units. The GCSE is excellent for developing a wide range of skills including critical thinking, analysis and interpretation.
At Shimna, we offer a popular A Level in Philosophy and Ethics. Exploring some of the greatest minds from the Ancient Greeks until the present day, dealing with the biggest ethical questions facing society, the course is challenging, enriching and worthwhile.
As the fastest growing AS/A2 in the UK, qualifications in Philosophy & Ethics provide suitable foundation for further study at University in a number of areas such as Religious Studies, Philosophy or Theology.
In addition, our students obtain a wide range of skills such as analysis, interpretation, critical thinking as well as the ability to produce extended evaluative pieces of writing & participate in oral debate.
Former students have gone on to successful careers in journalism, law, nursing and medicine, teaching and the theatre.
As well as our academic offer, we complete a number of extracurricular activities throughout the year.
Each November, our students host All Children’s Integrated Primary School for a Remembrance Day assembly. We then show respect for each other’s culture and traditions by laying a wreath at the Cenotaph in Newcastle.
At Christmas, we organise a choir of jolly students to spread Christmas cheer at local residential and nursing homes.
The Carol Service gives students another opportunity to display their talents when we pack out St John’s Church of Ireland on the last day of term.
In recent years, we have secured IEF funding to complete a video documentary exploring the experiences of minority religions in Northern Ireland. This was an excellent opportunity for students to work with a professional filmmaker and meet some inspirational people. The documentary can be viewed at: tiny.cc/shimna
What we do well
As a growing department which has undergone change in recent terms, we are proud of the popularity of our GCSE and A Level. For the previous two years, our GCSE has been oversubscribed and we currently have 25 students sitting A Level Philosophy and Ethics.
We are also very proud of our links with the local community. Through our visits, concerts, projects and outreach work, we have the opportunity to show our neighbours what we already know; just how wonderful our students are.
Both GCSE and A Level syllabi, past papers and exam advice can be found at http://ccea.org.uk/religious_studies/
Follow the department on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Shimna-Religious-Studies-908622609243499/
Our students made the national news when welcoming Syrian Refugees: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-35094227
Explore some interesting religion questions at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion