What to expect at the Strictly RE conference

The National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE) annual conference, Strictly RE, is rapidly approaching. On Saturday 26 January, nearly 300 RE teachers will convene near London for what looks to be a great day of RE professional development.

I’ve only attended Strictly once before, and I remember a real buzz in the room as teachers left after a full day of RE-specific CPD. It’s a great opportunity to meet with RE colleagues from around the country and sometimes teachers that have travelled even further (luckily, it’s right next to Heathrow!). For some it might be the only RE-specific professional development of the year, so it’s a great day to immerse yourself in RE and only RE.

The programme and sessions

The opening keynote is on religious literacy, which is a widely debated RE topic, and it will be interesting to hear what Professor Davie has to say about what it looks like for our students.

The main programme has a variety of sessions for all stages (which can be unusual at some conferences), so delegates from all phases have a good choice of sessions. I hope to go to the secondary-focused sessions and the cross-phase panel, however the primary offering looks very creative. I’m sure delegates will collect many ideas to take back to their schools and networks. #REChatUK regulars and RE SLEs, Katie Freeman and Corrine Guntrip, are both running sessions that look interactive and thought-provoking. I will try and catch up with them to see what they are speaking about, and maybe try to get a Strictly selfie.

I’m looking forward to hearing teaching ideas and discussing with colleagues the current and future position of RE. At a time of potential change in how RE is organised and what is taught, it will be interesting to hear what the panel thinks about the future of change in RE. Will the Commission on Religious Education’s findings ever fully come to fruition? What might change? What might stay the same? It’s interesting to see that two of the sessions this year are on non-religious worldviews, including one session being jointly run by Luke Donellan, Humanists UK’s head of education. Will RE change to become known as ‘worldviews’, and importantly will ‘Strictly RE’ become ‘Strictly worldviews’?

Finally, the closing keynote is a joint session by the RE Today legends Lat Blaylock and Stephen Pett. They’re sure to close the conference with some thought-provoking ideas to ponder on the journey home.

Conference tips

  • I know it can be difficult when you don’t know anyone, but when you sit down at a table in each session, quickly introduce yourself to someone else; you know you should have at least one thing in common!
  • The conference provides a valuable time to look at RE resources on the various stands at the exhibition. Of course, OUP will be there alongside other publishers, exam boards and specific RE-resource suppliers. If you come a few minutes early it’s worth grabbing a drink and wandering round the stands.
  • Use the journey home to ponder what you will do with what you’ve learnt during the day. What might you change? Who could you discuss the conference with? How will you use a lesson idea? How will your students benefit from you attending?

What I think is great about Strictly is that the sessions are run by a variety of people, including teachers who share the realities of teaching a particular topic, and consultants who have listened to what teachers need in order to provide easy takeaway ideas that can be used straight away. Most of us are short on time, and giving up a day of our own weekend for CPD is a big ask, but I think that the programme for this year will make it worth it for delegates.

They say you can judge how good a conference is by the lunch, but I think in this case we can pre-judge Strictly by the number of sessions, the variety of presenters, and the range of topics it offers.

Follow me on Twitter on the day (@missdcox using #StrictlyOxford) or follow the Strictly hashtag (#StrictlyRE).

Dawn Cox is a Head of RE and SLE in Essex. She tweets as @missdcox. 

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