Assessment in religious education

The Agreed Syllabus for RE (2016) is a significantly slimmed-down version of the previous syllabus; this is deliberately so, to enable teachers and learners to focus on fewer things in greater depth.

The system of assessment for RE should be the same for all the other curriculum subjects, so we have provided End of Key Stage Statements.

Following consultation with schools across the four local authorities, we suggest that three categories of attainment are needed; different schools use different terms for these categories along the lines of the 3 ‘e’s of ‘emerging – expected – exceeding’, or the 3 ‘w’s of ‘working towards’, ‘working at’ or working beyond’, to achieve ‘mastery’.

End of Key Stage Statements describe the knowledge, skills and understanding expected of a pupil who has a secure understanding of what has been taught.  The KS3 statements develop and build on the standards expected by the end of KS2 which in turn have evolved from KS1 expectations. These statements support the assessment of progression and attainment. They help to raise standards by providing teachers of the next key stage with information about what most pupils know, understand and can do so that they can then build the next stage of the pupils’ learning journey. The idea is that at each phase, pupils will deepen their knowledge and understanding of the essential core ideas and practices of the religions and beliefs being studied and that this is shown in the development of their abilities to interpret, apply and evaluate those ideas and practices.  

This agreed syllabus does not suggest that End of Key Stage Expectations are all that is taught, only that they form the core of what is assessed. 

The Key Content (knowledge) for each faith is detailed in the statutory section.  It will be up to the teacher to say how well the pupil has shown their knowledge and understanding and what form of words express this, e.g. ‘needs more practice at…’, ‘is working towards an understanding of…’, ‘has shown clear and repeated understanding of…’, ‘has secured and is ready to master their understanding of…’, etc.

The importance of religious literacy - the knowledge of, and ability to understand, religion - is increasing as globalisation creates greater links and migration between societies of different faiths and cultures. Assessment should enable teachers to be confident that their pupils are developing religious literacy through the provision of sequential learning, driven by age-appropriate expectations. Learning is based on an Enquiry approach, whilst also taking account of the theology of the faith community studied (or equivalent for non-religious worldviews). Engaging with the big concepts of religion will take pupils deeper into their learning than just exploring random key questions.

Assessment in primary schools

Good or outstanding practice is characterised by:

  • planning for each topic which is carefully checked by the subject leader to ensure that work set is appropriate and ensures progression
  • clear skills ‘ladders’ shared with pupils to ensure they understand what they need to do to improve
  • a variety of assessment activities including self- and peer-assessment, project work with peers, talk for learning, responding to teachers’ written comments on post-its and opportunities for oral feedback - clearly identified in teachers’ planning
  • assessment information impacting on planning for the succeeding topic, to reshape the learning
  • a range of monitoring strategies used by the subject leader and senior managers, including book trawls, marking and planning checks and pupil voice, as well as direct observations of teaching and learning to ensure consistency and the assessment of impact on provision
  • portfolios of pupils’ work used to help teachers moderate standards and provide accurate End of Key Stage assessments
  • mechanisms to record evidence of oral contributions
  • a rigorous and detailed assessment policy 
  • practice which includes regular points for formal assessments and the recording of other informal evidence of pupils' progress or the identification of difficulties, or signalling unusually good or perceptive pieces of work.

Assessment in secondary schools

Good or outstanding practice is characterised by:

  • effective baseline and subsequent assessments which are focused on the students’ conceptual understanding across the two attainment targets
  • good use of open-ended questions to assess students’ understanding
  • learning checks linked to lesson objectives and questions which are sufficiently probing to challenge the higher attaining students
  • use of differentiated outcomes when planning units of work to ensure a clear overview of what all, most and some students would be able to achieve in relation to a specific topic
  • regular tracking of students’ attainment and progress and appropriate interventions when they are at risk of underachieving, with the data used well to inform lesson planning
  • effective use of exemplification material and processes of moderation of judgements across the teaching team
  • strong self-assessment opportunities with good use of plenaries to help students reflect on their progress
  • good use of assessment information to adjust subsequent planning to ensure students will be appropriately challenged.

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