Religion, philosophy & ethics

‘Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.’

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Religion, belief and spirituality form a fundamental part of the human experience and RPE at St Swithun’s aims to equip pupils to think carefully about the world they live in and a whole range of world views, faiths and philosophies.  In the classroom pupils will encounter a number of different faith traditions (the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam as well as the eastern traditions) and consider the way religious belief can affect lifestyle and ethics. As a department we seek to promote tolerance and understanding of religious traditions by opening pupils’ eyes to the diversity that exists around them and the origins and key beliefs of different faith and philosophical traditions. We seek to broaden the girls' understanding of contemporary ethical and social issues, and to increase their awareness of the values and ideals that underpin other cultures. From an academic point of view it develops and extends their analytical skills and ability to evaluate complex issues.

We hope that pupils will find that their RPE lessons give them space and time in which they can consider their own opinions and those of others: we aim to create an environment where you can feel free and comfortable to communicate your own beliefs and opinions, challenge ideas and raise questions. We want our teaching to be exciting and varied and we employ a range of different methods in the classroom.  Wherever possible we invite members of faith communities to talk to pupils on a variety of religious and ethical questions.

In RPE pupils are exposed to some of the great thinkers and religious teachers including ancient philosophers like Plato and Aristotle, modern scholars such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Bertrand Russell, religious teachers like Jesus and Mohammed and theologians such as Thomas Aquinas. Pupils are encouraged to develop their own opinions and ideas whilst looking objectively at questions of religion and faith. Pupils will learn how to create coherent arguments and how to support and justify their ideas. We seek to ask the fundamental questions of life which impact upon all of us from ‘What happens when we die?’ to ‘What is beauty?’ and ‘Why do good people suffer?’ Whilst RPE does not attempt to give definitive answers to these questions we hope that over the course of their study girls will have developed a greater understanding of themselves and what they believe.