Image of secondary school students in the playground

Religious and worldview education

Image of secondary school students in the playground

Religious and worldview education

Improving Religious and Worldview Education in Schools

We are working to find out ways of supporting teachers to develop and improve religious and worldview education.

An important way forward is for a more hermeneutical approach to the subject which focusses on classrooms becoming places where interpretation and meaning is investigated and becoming a wise interpreter is central to the subject. Worldview education really matters as it illuminates both the grammar of meaning that each person reads the world through, as well as the traditions of meaning found in religious and non-religious worldviews.

Religious and worldview education: why?

Everyone has a worldview, a lens through which our interpretation of the world around us is observed and lived. In today’s world it is recognised that modern society is composed of a complex labyrinth of worldviews that align with, nurtures, shapes and challenges our personal beliefs. Therefore, it is imperative that young people are given the appropriate tools to develop a confident perception of their own beliefs and values, as well as an appreciative, empathetic understanding of others differing views.

In September 2018, the Commission on Religious Education, (CoRE) issued its final report, entitled Religion & Worldviews: the way forward. A National Plan for RE. Alongside several suggestions, the final report recommended that Religious Education be renamed ‘Religion and Worldviews’ to reflect the various religious and non-religious beliefs that contribute to our modern world. While this final report is not issued as a legally binding policy, it endorses the need to offer all pupils a broader and deeper encounter with the subject. This vision however, is tempered with the acknowledgement that the current standard of RE in some schools needs improving so that¬† pupil experience in the classroom adequately prepares them for life in a society where people hold different worldviews from their own.

The Text and Teachers projects

How can this help?
The Text and Teachers project is driven by the aim to improve the quality of classroom practice through a more disciplined approach to study, as well as aid the transition to Religion and Worldviews education. The project introduces a valuable resource, equipping teachers to explore a new pedagogical approach that enables pupils to become proficient interpreters of meaning.

Who can benefit from this?
Teachers, curriculum leaders, curriculum designers and examination boards.

Links to resources

An overview of available resources

The findings report demonstrates how, with subject specific support, teachers are empowered to confidently bring pupils into an active exploration of sacred texts using hermeneutical discipline. Consequently, it signifies the fundamental worth of hermeneutics and sacred text study for developing in pupils a systematic sense of knowing from their own and other worldviews.

Download Report

This guide outlines a development programme for teachers who are interested in creating a hermeneutically designed curriculum, as well as support for those who are seeking to develop new resources framed by hermeneutics. It additionally offers insight for professionals involved in developing examinations and questions that look to elicit deeper understanding of sacred texts and higher quality responses.

Download Report

In September 2018, the Commission on Religious Education, (CoRE) issued its final report recommending a significant paradigm shift for Religious Education to include a focus on worldviews. While many in the field of RE have since welcomed this recommended shift, for others, the broadening of the subject beyond RE is of great concern.

The Theos report, Worldviews in Religious Education, argues that the proposed notion of worldviews offers exciting new possibilities for the subject. It clearly explains the concept of organised and personal worldviews and responds to various criticisms made of the paradigm shift. As authors of the Theos report, Professor Trevor Cooling, in co-operation with Professor Bob Bowie and Dr Farid Panjwani, argue that a worldview approach to RE is relevant to everyone irrespective of having a faith identity or not, as we all have or inhabit a personal worldview, a lens through which our observation of the world is interpreted and lived. They argue that reframing RE in the context of understanding worldview as a shared human phenomenon encompassing religious and non-religious manifestations not only prepares young people for the reality of diversity that exists in modern society but, promotes both academic rigour and meaningful formation within the classroom.

The written report, together with the recording of the online launch event are available below and are essential resources for anyone concerned with the future of RE:

Get the Report

Down the Rabbit-Hole: A hermeneutical journey is a series of videos related to teaching hermeneutics in schools and associated questions for religious and worldview education.

Use the button top right on the video to see the playlist.

Watch on Youtube

Academic Scholarship

  • Bowie, R. In Press. “The implicit knowledge structure preferred by questions in English Religious Studies public exams.” Edited by G. Biesta and P. Hannam Religion and education: The forgotten dimensions of religious education? Leiden: Brill | Sense.
  • Bowie, R. 2020. “The collective consciousness of an RE department during curriculum change: scripture, representation, science, fear and anger.” Journal of Religious Education.¬† DOI: 10.1007/s40839-020-00111-9.
  • Bowie, R. and Coles, R. 2018. “We reap what we ‘sew’: perpetuating biblical illiteracy in new English Religious Studies exams and the proof text binary question.” British Journal of Religious Education. 40 (3): 277-287.
  • Bowie, R. 2017. Interpreting texts more wisely: A Review of Research and the Case for Change. in: Stuart-Buttle, R. and Shortt, J. (ed.) Christian, Faith, Formation and Education Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 211-228
  • Bowie, R. 2016. Stepping into sacred texts: how the Jesuits taught me to read the Bible. in: Voss, A. and Wilson, S. (ed.) Reenchanting the Academy UK Rubedo Press.
  • Bowie, B. 2016. Doing RE hermeneutically - learning to become interpreters of religion. RE Today. 34 (1), pp. 60-62.
  • Cooling, T. with Bowie, R. and Panjwani, F. (2020) Worldviews in Religious Education, London: Theos.
  • Cooling, T. 2020. “Worldview in religious education: autobiographical reflections on The Commission on Religious Education in England final report.” British Journal of Religious Education. 42 (4): 403-414.
  • Cooling, T. 2019. Editorial: the return to worldview - reflections from the UK. International Journal of Christianity & Education. 23 (1).
  • Cooling, T. 2017. Formation and Christian education in England. in: Stuart Buttle, R. and Shortt, J. (ed.) Christian Faith, Formation and Education Cham, Switzerland Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 115-130
  • Pett, S. and Cooling, T. (2018) Understanding Christianity: exploring a hermeneutical pedagogy for teaching Christianity. British Journal of Religious Education. ISSN 0141-6200.
  • Revell, L. and Panjwani, F. (2018) Religious education and hermeneutics: the case of teaching about Islam. British Journal of Religious Education, 40 (3). pp. 268-276

More Information

If you would like to arrange for a member of NICER to speak to you or your organisation about this area of work, email