Philosophy & Ethics
Asking the Big Questions
Although we are a secular school with no religious or ideological affiliations, we understand the importance and value of the quest of all religions - to try and make sense of this extraordinary existence we call Life.
Philosophy & Ethics considers 'The Big Questions' humans have asked of themselves through time. For example: 'What is the nature of God?'... 'Why am I here?'... 'What is my purpose in life?'... 'What is suffering?'... 'What is wisdom or truth?'
Students explore these and other questions through the study of Religion, Philosophy and Ethics. All major belief systems are considered in relation to past and present, alongside cultural belief systems articulated through, for instance, Atheism and Humanism.
We encourage our students to explore their personal responses to often complex issues, supporting them to use critical analysis, creative thinking and background knowledge to formulate ideas and opinions.
The Philosophy & Ethics curriculum is closely tied to the students study of History. Although we currently only teach Philosophy & Ethics up to Year 8, it forms a not inconsiderable part of History in Year 9 and the GCSE years, as well as being explored in English Language and Literature.
Our curriculum offers opportunities to open up ever wider thinking based on balanced, knowledge-based communication, underpinned by respect, tolerance and compassion for each other's perspectives. We take a non-judgmental, critical view of religions, encouraging tolerance of all beliefs whilst promoting the importance of ‘thinking for yourself’.
Primary Philosophy & Ethics
We begin exploring Philosophy & Ethics, as a separate lesson, in the last year of Primary. We start with a brief history of the major religions in chronological order - Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity & Islam. We go onto to explore key religious concepts sculpture as God, faith and love, considering each of these ideas with an open but also critical mind.
In the second term we look into what draws humans to religious faith and ideas, tracing their development from primitive rituals to the increasingly structured ceremonies and beliefs of early paganism. This is complemented by a personal consideration of the question that drives our uniquely human spiritual journey - Why do I exist?
Finally, in Primary, we consider the development of Polytheism within the societies of Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, the Celtic pagan traditions and Norse Mythology. The importance of the natural environment is emphasised in these early belief systems.
Secondary Philosophy & Ethics
In Lower Secondary, the first year of our equivalent to Year 7, we begin by exploring the roots of Western philosophy with a study of Greek Philosophy and the ideas of the great ancient philosophers, Plato / Socrates and Aristotle. We consider what is the nature of truth and what is wisdom.
We then move onto a study of the roots of the Abrahamic faiths - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - highlighting their familial relationship. The early version of Christianity, Coptic Christianity, is considered, and we explore how this original belief system was subsumed, adapted and used by the Roman empire to create a new dominant religious force, Roman Catholicism.
The first year in Secondary is completed by shifting our focus eastwards to look at Hinduism and Buddhism, exploring the experience of being and the states of consciousness and mindfulness.
In the second year we consider the nature of suffering and how this has been a driving force behind many religions belief systems. Christianity is then explored as it becomes a dominant force throughout the Dark Ages and Medieval periods in the West. We explore the emergence of the third Abrahamic religion, Islam, and how Christianity was threatened by its existence and responded with the Crusades. We look at the Golden Age of Islam and how this also influenced the rebirth of Europe with the Renaissance.
This leads to a general discussion and exploration of the relationship and increasing conflicts between the Abrahamic belief systems, which will ultimately lead to the Holocaust and the modern day tensions between Judaism/Christianity and Islam. These issues are explored in greater depth in History, from Year 9 onwards.
The last term we study of Sikhism before moving onto the impact of the Enlightenment and the development of atheism and Humanism. The curriculum ends with an exploration of the importance of respect, tolerance and compassion in everyday life.
Philosophy & Ethics Curriculum
Here is a general outline of the topics studied at our school. Please note that this is principally a guide and is subject to change.