WHO WE ARE
The Teachers’ Enterprise consists of a large number of primary and secondary teachers who come together to work on a voluntary basis to support the teaching of Religious Education in schools.
WHAT WE HAVE ACHIEVED
The Teachers’ Enterprise in Religious Education (TERE) has developed the ‘The Way, the Truth & the Life’ Series for 3 – 14 year olds. This project was initiated by teachers for teachers in secondary schools as a direct response to the publication of the Bishops’ Conference ‘Religious Education Curriculum Directory’ (RECD). A lack of appropriate resources made it very difficult for teachers to meet the requirements of the Directory.
A draft syllabus, shared with twenty-one schools, led to a mass production of worksheets by the teachers themselves and teacher-led in-service. The advantages: tremendous creativity and co-operation. The pitfalls: an over use of black and white worksheets, a possible breach of copyright material and no Imprimatur and Nihil obstat on content developed.
Following this short period of experimentation in the Westminster Diocese, Cardinal Basil Hume and Bishop Vincent Nichols gave their full support to the development of resources for publication. The first was a video ‘Exploring the Mass’: accompanied by a Teacher’s Book and Student’s Book published in June 1999.
Our next step was to have a concise syllabus which would cover the requirements of the RECD and aspects of the ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church’. Teachers wanted continuity and progression on the sacraments, liturgical life of the Church, the Bible and history of the Church in Britain. Other faiths are covered, but not in depth, because there is an abundance of excellent resources available on the market for them. Teachers believed that pupils needed to have a good understanding of their own Christian beliefs in order to appreciate those of other faiths.
No sooner were the four Teacher’s Books, four Student’s Books, two CDs and a video for the secondary series completed in 2001 when there was a big demand for stimulating and attractive text books for primary schools. The primary teachers were eager to fill this need and were prepared, like their secondary colleagues, to work on a voluntary basis to do so. Concise syllabi were developed, mapping continuity and coherence from the age of 3 – 14 years, and in the last four years, seven Teacher’s Books, six Pupil’s Books and a CD ROM for Foundation Stage have been published for use in primary schools. This endeavour proved to be a very challenging experience as the team dealt with unforeseen difficulties and obstacles.
CONTENT & COMMENTS
In all the books, while covering the essential theological content, we have tried to give pupils a clear understanding of what and why they are being asked to study and what it will do for them. Learning about the Catholic faith leads to learning from the Catholic faith. Each topic is developed in depth for a period of approximately six weeks; some are not covered every year, but picked up in greater depth every two or three years. Recent comments from a head teacher illustrate this, “I have particularly valued using the sections on the Sacraments of the Church in ‘The Way’ Year 7. The practical application of the sacraments is explained, but more than that, the reason for them is presented within the overall plan of salvation. ‘The Way’ makes connections and so the section on the Church not only explains origins and identity but why she exists and the purpose of her mission. In these ways the book is effective in presenting Christ to pupils and teachers alike”.
Another head teacher commenting on the Primary Series of WTL wrote: “The experiences of children attending Mass in Church can be very varied, very often leaving them bored and detached from what is happening at the altar. In these books the children can explore the Mass together in ways that are appropriate for each age group. The centrality of the Mass in our lives as Catholics is present throughout the series. Presented in clear language, with attractive lively illustrations, the books offer sound, clear teaching on the Sacrament of the Eucharist and take pupils through the Liturgy of the Mass. Meaningful activities, requiring a wide range of skills, help to develop the pupils’ understanding and knowledge and encourage their appreciation of Christ’s most wonderful gift to us. The Teachers’ Books support the teacher by providing them with sound theological notes, guidance on using the contents of the Pupil’s Book, further activities to extend knowledge and understanding, a range of resources and appropriate assessment tasks. Written by teachers for teachers to use, with the best of good practice in mind, this series offers teachers tremendous support and confidence. “
Terence Copley, professor of religious education at the University of Exeter, when reviewing WTL for the Times Educational Supplement, writes, “The material is challenging, there is none of that odour of piety that adolescents can find so repugnant. Instead, we are presented with Catholicism as a world Church, open to the truth in other religions, wanting its children to engage with and discuss the big issues and not sweeping their questions and criticisms under the carpet. In these texts, the Catholic Church is in the marketplace of the world, competing with some value systems, co-operating with others, but never expecting to be accepted simply on ‘authority’.”
Readers may wonder what impact these resources have on the quality of teaching and learning. The clarity and depth of content and wide variety of activities together with very attractive books greatly enhance teachers and pupils love for the subject. Comments shared at in-service sessions convey not only a deep appreciation for the materials but an enthusiasm for handing on the faith in a lively, dynamic and enjoyable way. Some comments from teachers: “Wow! What an amazing amount of time, effort, energy and dedication! These are very useful ideas and resources, thank you for making our lives so much easier!” “Teachers’ and Pupils’ Books are excellent. The scheme has filled a vacuum: it enables teachers of all levels of experience, background and security to teach the Faith in a meaningful way.” “The Pupil’s Book is bright, engaging and child friendly – the children love it and so do I. The Teacher’s Book has good solid doctrine which reinforces my knowledge, confidence and faith. The website is great, can we add to it!” “I really like this scheme. It is firmly rooted in scripture, is relevant to children’s experience and contains Catholic doctrine which we have been missing.” The most recent comment was emailed from a young primary teacher who only discovered WTL in January ’06 and started using it with Year 6 immediately: “I have just finished one week of teaching 6.1 ‘The Kingdom of God’, and the children (I truly believe) have received more religious education, evangelism and catechesis in those two lessons than in the last year since September. It was fantastic to see the children and myself becoming inflamed with this topic.”
The strengths of the series are its clarity and simplicity of presentation. Whilst introductory training on WTL is helpful and teachers enjoy meeting colleagues and sharing ideas and additional resources, it is not essential for using this programme. It is sufficient to open a Teacher’s Book and Pupil’s Book, and to devote an hour to reading them in order to know what to do in the classroom! Obviously, the more time given to quality preparation the more enriched pupils will be by the lesson.
However, we have received some very favourable comments about the in-service we offer: “It was beneficial to have a snapshot of all the year groups so that I can feed back to all the teachers. I feel very positive about the scheme and feel motivated about trialling it in my class.” “One of the most productive in-service sessions I have attended for a long time, delivered by one who enthused about the scheme. I thoroughly look forward to piloting this in my school and working with my staff in preparing them to use it, grateful thanks!” Schools that have been using the series for a while also appreciate in-service which usually incorporates brain-based learning; developing thinking skills; assessment for learning; as well as updates on the most useful websites, videos, DVDs, CDs, Power Point presentations and ways of using Interactive Whiteboards to reinforce the content of the material in the books.
In order to meet the growing need for ICT material, we have developed a very comprehensive website www.tere.org. It supports whole school Catholicity with resources on collective worship, spiritual development, thought for the day for teachers, literacy, pupils’ work, assessment, syllabi, etc. There is an interactive section with activities marked online for key stages 1 & 2. Even adults will be entertained and challenged by the ‘Hangman’ activities for key stage 2. Do try reading the ‘Stories’ – we will welcome contributions!
There is also a variety of resources for key stages 3, 4 and 5, including some notes and worksheets ‘A’ level in the Sixth Form.
We are aware that there is always room for improvement and welcome comments and suggestions from teachers. Sample material from the books or weekly lessons plans for the primary series can be obtained by contacting me: email email@example.com or phone 020 7359 2642.
Sr. Marcellina Cooney CP
Co-ordinating Editor of WTL
Director of Teacher Enterprise in Religious Education