Religious Studies and Philosophy
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 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.
Years 10 and 11
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.
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.
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.
Beyond the classroom
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.
The Head of Department is Mr Simon Gates who shares the academic teaching with Fr Jack Branford who is the School Chaplain and Mr Chris Nichols. The department 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.