Well, StrictlyRE 2021 turned out to be a triumph in its new online format! By the end we were all shattered but came away with lots to think about and ideas to implement with our students.
The sessions preceding the weekend were a great way of getting into some of the conversations around the main themes of Curriculum, Worldviews and Anti-racist RE. I particularly enjoyed Esther Zarifi’s session on how we can use the narrative within religions to help teach the GCSE specification.
Christine Counsell kicked off the proceedings on Saturday with her keynote on curriculum design and how it should be ‘knowledge structured as a narrative over time’. She emphasised the use of stories in teaching key concepts in RE. This made me think – stories are a great asset for RE, as most religions and worldviews have stories. Do we fully use them as tools for exploring key ideas? I know I don’t and want to do this more.
Both Neil McKain and Joanne Harris’ sessions were useful as they were clear on how they structured their curriculum/topic and shared the rationale behind them. I think this ‘how I do it’ kind of session with a practising teacher is useful and hope that there are more sessions like this next year.
The ‘Worldviews’ panel was fascinating as there is not a consensus on what the term ‘Worldviews’ means, and the panellists all gave their take on what it might mean for RE. This is an important concept for us to consider in RE. What difference will it make to what we do with our curriculums? If any?
Most importantly, team ‘Multi-disciplinary lenses’ did very well in the quiz on Saturday night. Let us just say that in our opinion, we were the winners!
Both the main sessions on Sunday were incredibly thought-provoking, in different ways. The ‘Anti-racist’ RE panel posed some particularly important questions for all of us working in schools, not necessarily just for RE teachers. I need to watch some of the other ‘Anti-racist’ seminars to hear a bit more of what this means for RE and what we might need to review in our curriculum. It was an immensely powerful start to the Sunday sessions.
Richard Kueh’s keynote was important for all colleagues in understanding how RE is multidisciplinary with substantive content and concepts, ways of knowing (disciplinary knowledge) and ‘personal knowledge’ or positionality. For some, this is a new way of thinking about our subject and one I think will help us to ensure that RE is academically rigorous. You can view his presentation here.
The weekend overall
Overall, the organisation and online experience was perfect. Everything worked when it needed to, and it was so easy to navigate through the weekend. The virtual exhibition area was amazing but I’m sure both delegates and stand holders missed out on the real-life human interaction there usually is when people are wandering around the exhibition hall.
As a bonus this year, we will have access to the recordings of the other sessions through our conference logins. I think we will choose some of them to be the focus of our department CPD meetings, as we can watch and discuss them together.
A huge thanks to all the speakers and especially to Chelsey and the RE Today/NATRE team for a well organised, inspiring conference. Who knows what StrictlyRE 2022 has to offer?
Dawn Cox is a Head of RE and SLE in Essex. She tweets as @missdcox.
You can read her pre-Strictly 2021 thoughts here and her key takeaways from last year’s Strictly RE conference here.