The new OCR specifications have already caused quite a buzz among teachers and the RS community, with Charlotte Vardy of Candle Conferences declaring it ‘the best of the final, accredited specifications in my opinion’. What I really appreciated in Charlotte’s blog was the fact that she identified features of the course that were central to our vision in developing it. It is fantastic to see these ideas and approaches being received so well. This blog will outline some of these, and give you an insight into OCR’s vision for our new AS and A Level qualifications.
Coherent and complementary
As an ex teacher, the need for simplicity and coherency in the structure of our A Level was very much at the forefront of my mind; if the teacher can’t understand what belongs in which component there is little hope for the students!
OCR has developed three clear and distinct components each with their own distinct identity, which also makes it a bit easier to divide material between teachers without confusing the learners. Having said this, there are many connections to be made between them that keeps the course feeling like a coherent whole.
Well understood and engaging
Religious Studies teachers know that the subject can be a real source of interest and inspiration, but despair when having to try and ‘sell’ content to students that doesn’t do the subject justice.
With this in mind we carefully selected the material for our A Level to retain popular areas, but also make use of the wide variety of ideas and topics available. For example, we give learners the opportunity to study Plato and Aristotle, which Charlotte believes ‘really stands out for offering more rigour and philosophical interest than the other boards’, as well as the important, highly relevant issues raised in Business Ethics; a great selling point on Open Evenings.
It is Charlotte’s praise for the Developments in Religious Thought components, however, that means the most to me. I taught a faith based component (Buddhism) for many years and was determined to try and tackle the image of the study of religion as ‘out of touch’, ‘boring’ and ‘unsellable’. To have Charlotte say that the topics in the Developments in Religious Thought have clearly been specified ‘thoughtfully … as if by people who actually understand both the subject-matter and what teaching is like – at its best – at this level’, is great.
Buddhism and social activism; the art of Chagall; Christian responses to inter-faith dialogue; criticisms of the concept of religion in relation to Hinduism; and social liberation in Islam; are just a few of the examples of how our specification tries to give students a really good grounding in the beliefs and practices of the chosen religion, but also reflect contemporary concerns and the ‘big issues’ in these faith today. All of our developers had strong backgrounds in the teaching and study of the component they were writing, and this has really come through in the great work they did for us. Thanks guys!
I really hope you are joining Charlotte in ‘positively looking forward to developing a scheme of work for this’ and getting into the teaching of the new specification. If you need any help or advice then do drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org or check out the CPD Hub for our training courses. Also keep checking the AS/A Level Religious Studies page for new and updated resources throughout the year.
Caroline Bristow - Subject Specialist - Classics and GCE Religious Studies
Before joining OCR Caroline taught in an FE College for seven years. During this time she taught a wide variety of courses, including GCSEs, A Levels and IB in a range of subjects including Classical Greek, Classical Civilisation, Anthropology, Philosophy, and Religious Studies. A pastoral specialist, she designed and oversaw G&T programmes and provided HE guidance and advice.
Caroline read Ancient and Modern History at Trinity College, Oxford, before progressing to an MSt in Ancient History. She specialises in Greek religion, with an especial interest in Mystery Cult, and also enjoys classical performance reception. She owns more copies of Homer’s Iliad than she cares to admit.
In terms of Philosophy and Religious Studies Caroline has a particular interest in Buddhism, political philosophy and philosophy of mind.