Religious Studies

Senior school > Curriculum > Religious Studies

Religious Studies and Philosophy at Gresham’s are designed to challenge every pupil to reflect on the questions which make us human beings rather than just another animal.

The focus is on issues that are directly relevant to everyday life and are the subject of much debate in the news. The courses at all levels consider philosophical and ethical questions and the way that different people and all sorts of religions have tried to answer them.

Pupils are taught how to think for themselves, evaluate arguments and undertake independent research into areas of particular interest. In recent years the department has a proud record of success in public examinations. However it also strives to produce thoughtful, informed human beings who have the skills that enable them to cope with the many and varied challenges of life.

Pupils can opt to study Religious studies at A level or IB Diploma Philosophy. The A level course explores the foundations of Western philosophy and its expression in different religious controversies including the existence of God and scientific development. It also looks at the contrast between this and Eastern philosophy as well as investigating a range of ethical theories and their application to modern issues. The IB Diploma philosophy course focuses at its core on the nature of human beings and how human experience is shaped and influences all other aspects of life and society. The IB course also includes modules on ethics and politics as well as an in-depth study of a philosophical text.

Philosophy and Religious Studies are highly respected amongst University admissions tutors as it places
thinking skills at the heart of study. The course leads directly to Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies at University as well as to almost any course that requires logical thinking and cogent argument including Law, Business, Medicine and a wide range of Humanities degrees. Future careers are also considerably varied with opportunities presented in education, management, law, business, broadcasting, marketing, medicine and the Civil Service to name just a few. It is an excellent preparation for any career that requires the transferable skills of analysing information, precise evaluation and clear thinking.


Pupils follow a course that introduces them to philosophical and ethical issues through a study of the some of the key features of the world religions of Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism. They explore the main beliefs that underpin these religions and the practical outcome in approaches to medical ethics and dealing with conflicts.


Exam board: OCR

Pupils can opt to study a GCSE in Religious Studies which covers the main philosophical beliefs, teachings and practices of both Christianity and Buddhism, looking at views of human nature, deity, life and the afterlife, as well as a range of ethical issues including war, medicine and relationships. The course develops the skills of logical thought, philosophical argument and personal reflection.


Exam board: OCR

There are three components to the course and it is intended that these will be taught by the three members of
the department simultaneously, with each delivering the paper connected to their specialist interest.

1 – Philosophy of Religion (H573/01) – candidates will study a variety of philosophical issues including ancient philosophical influences, issues of soul & body, life after death, religious experience, the existence & nature of God, challenges to belief, religious language and 20th century perspectives.

2 – Religion & Ethics (H573/02) – candidates will study the principles & development of ethical theories, applied ethics including medical ethics, ethical language, freewill, conscience and developments in ethical thought.

3 – Developments in Religious Thought (H573/06 Buddhism option) – candidates will study the philosophy and practices of Buddhism as a contrast to the western thought studied in the other two modules. Topics include the life & ideas of the Buddha, the noble truths & eightfold path, meditative practice, different schools of Buddhist thought and modern influences.

In addition to the curriculum lessons all sixth form pupils have the opportunity to attend meetings of the philosophy society, presentations by visiting speakers and external conferences delivered by experts in this field.


Entry requirements: None

Part 1 – Themes Core Theme – [All pupils] Being Human – Pupils explore the nature of the human condition, concepts of freedom, individuality and meaning. This is a wide ranging module looking at ideas and questions from a broad section of cultures, perspectives and understandings of humanity.

Optional Theme – [All pupils] Theories & Problems of Ethics – Pupils explore the principles, which underpin moral action as well as the application of morality in areas of medical technology, environmental issues and the responsibility of wealth.

Optional Theme – [Higher Level Only] Political Philosophy – Pupils examine the nature of the state, government, rights and justice. This includes study of crime and punishment, protest, political ideologies and civic duty.

Part 2 – Prescribed Philosophical Text – Pupils are required to study one text from the IBO list of prescribed philosophical texts.

Part 3 – Internal Assessment – Pupils are required to produce a philosophical analysis of non-philosophical material, to demonstrate their philosophical skills.

Part 4 – Unseen Text [Higher Level Only] – Pupils are required to develop a philosophical response to an unseen text that demonstrates the idea of ‘doing philosophy’, and shows a holistic appreciation of the skills, material and ideas developed throughout the course.


At Sixth Form level the Religious Studies and Philosophy society (Skiouros) provides the opportunity for pupils to investigate and debate topics beyond the confines of the exam board specifications with evening meetings in an informal environment. The society is pupil led and recent discussions have included the nature of language, the role of art and the value of exams as a measure of personal achievement!

The department also run evening sessions to assist pupils with the development of their work and to allow short discussions and debates on topics of interest.

The department endeavours to offer much more than a standard classroom curriculum. In addition to the extra-curricular societies there are visits to places and events of interest such as Sixth Form student conferences and lectures at Cambridge and the University of East Anglia. Local sites of significance such as Walsingham are used as part of the educational experience and speakers on topics of contemporary relevance are invited to the school.

Staff members also pursue their own academic interests, researching new areas of significance and attending academic lectures in the field, and these are often interwoven into the development of new specifications and teaching resources.

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A level
IB Diploma