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Sixth form student in the Independent Learning Centre

Philosophy and Religious Studies

Curriculum Intent:

In Philosophy and Religious Studies, we study the great minds of the past, to build the great minds of the future. Philosophy and Religious Studies offers students the opportunity to explore the reasons why people think and act the way they do, and how we are motivated by our beliefs. It also involves the study of key philosophical questions surrounding God, right and wrong, and the purpose of human life.

Philosophy and Religious Studies is offered as:

  • Core subject Years 7, 8 & 9
  • GCSE RS Full Course Years 10 & 11
  • IB Philosophy Year 12 & 13


Key Stage 3 Religious Studies

Curriculum Overview

In Key stage 3 the foundations are laid for a thorough understanding of religion and philosophy, by examining Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and Sikhism, as well as the work of non-religious philosophers. We learn about the some of the most important and influential figures in philosophy and religion, and how their ideas are still relevant today. Throughout the course, students are encouraged to formulate their own ideas about what they have learnt.

Term 1 Term 2 Term 3 Term 4 Term 5 Term 6
Year 7 Atheism to Extremism Forgiveness to Jesus Heaven to Meditation Prophets to Temples Saints to Zoroastrianism Independent Project
Year 8 Creation Stories Lent Carnival Aliens, Ghosts, and God Reincarnation Big Questions
Year 9 Ancient Philosophy Medieval Philosophy Early Modern Philosophy Enlightenment and Revolution Contemporary Philosophy Eastern Philosophy

Year 7

Students study a course called “The A-Z of Religion and Belief”. This is a whistle-stop tour of religion in the modern world, which introduces students to key religious practices, beliefs, and figures. This is a “flipped” learning course: students complete a task after watching a video set as homework, and in the following lesson they complete a range of activities to consolidate and deepen their understanding.

Year 8

The Year 8 course is called “Life, Death and Beyond”, and explores key aspects of the beliefs, practices, and scriptures of the worlds three Abrahamic faiths: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The focus is on how these religions understand the significance of human life, and why these religions are so influential in the modern world.

Year 9

Students in year 9 study a course in the history of philosophy, from the Ancient world to the modern day. Students will learn about the great minds of the past, from Socrates to Simone de Beauvoir, and key philosophical issues such as truth, morality, and the existence of God. Students will be encourage to think about how their ideas might apply to the modern world.


Assessment is via a mixture of short answer questions to consolidate key knowledge, and more extended writing tasks, to develop key writing skills.

Further Reading/Resources

– BBC A-Z Religion and Belief:

– BBC Bitesize:

– The Philosophy Foundation Key Stage 3 Philosophy:

– Calendar of Religious Festivals:


Key Stage 4 GCSE Religious Studies

Curriculum Overview

In Year 10 and 11, all students study for a GCSE in Religious Studies, following the syllabus of the Eduqas exam board. This combines an in-depth study of Christianity and Buddhism with examining contemporary issues in Philosophy and Ethics, such as euthanasia, crime and punishment, and human rights.

Term 1 Term 2 Term 3 Term 4 Term 5 Term 6
Year 10 Buddhist Beliefs Issues of Relationships Christian Beliefs Issues of Life and Death Buddhist Practices Christian Practices
Year 11 Issues of Good and Evil Issues of Human Rights Revision: Buddhism Revision: Christianity Revision: Philosophy and Ethics

Year 10 and 11

Topics studied are as follows:

Philosophy and Ethics

  • Issues of Relationships
  • Issues of Life and Death
  • Issues of Good and Evil
  • Issues of Human Rights


  • Christian Beliefs
  • Christian Practices


  • Buddhist Beliefs
  • Buddhist Practices


Assessment is entirely exam based. At the end of Year 11, students sit three papers: Philosophy and Ethics (50%), Christianity (25%), and Buddhism (25%). To help prepare for this, in-class assessment is always done in exam conditions, with a mixture of short answer tests and exam style questions.

Further Reading/Resources

– GCSE Syllabus:

– Guardian Philosophy:

– BBC Religious Studies:

– Buddhanet (Buddhism for students):


Key Stage 5 IB Philosophy

Curriculum Overview

In the Sixth Form, students can opt to study Philosophy at Higher or Standard level as part of the IB Diploma Programme. The IB course covers a broad range of philosophical themes, and gives students a chance to engage with philosophical texts. There is a strong focus on students developing their philosophical skills and their own responses to philosophical issues.

Term 1 Term 2 Term 3 Term 4 Term 5 Term 6
Year 12 Ethical Theory Applied Ethics Theories of Personhood Issues of Personhood The Existence of God Issues in the Philosophy of Religion
Year 13 Reading Descartes’ Meditations


Internal Assessment


Issues in Descartes’ Meditations


Internal Assessment

Revision Revision
(Higher level students study the Exploring Philosophical Activity course concurrently with the above.)

Year 12 and 13

The elements of the course are as follows:

Being Human (core theme)

This theme provides an opportunity to explore the fundamental question of what it is to be human, including issues such as identity, freedom, and human nature, and questions such as what (if anything) sets humans apart from other species or intelligent machines.

Optional Themes: Ethics and Philosophy of Religion

Standard and Higher level students examine key questions in Ethics, such as “what makes an action right or wrong?”, “how do I live a good life?”, and “are ethical rules universal, or does it all depend on the situation?” Higher level students also study Philosophy of Religion, which includes questions such as “does God exist?”, “is there life after death?”, and “why does evil exist?”

Prescribed text: Meditations on First Philosophy by Rene Descartes

Students study Descartes’ Meditations, one of the most important works of literature ever written. This short book attempts to answer some of the most fundamental questions of human existence: “what can we know for certain?”, “what is a human being?”, and “how are the mind and body related?” The influence of Descartes’ Meditations is felt today not just in philosophy, but also psychology, science, and art.

Exploring philosophical activity (Higher Level)

Higher level students undertake a deeper exploration of the nature, function, meaning and methodology of philosophy. They examine what philosophers have said about the nature of philosophy, and evaluate these views in the light of their own experiences.

Internal assessment

All students produce a philosophical analysis of a non-philosophical stimulus such as a poem, film scene, or painting. Recent students have chosen stimuli ranging from Munch’s The Scream to Star Wars!


At the end of the course, Standard level students sit two exam papers, while Higher level students sit three papers. Additionally, the Internal Assessment contributes 25% of the marks at Standard level, and 20% at Higher level.

Further Reading/Resources

– IB Diploma Guide:

– Guardian Philosophy:

– Philosophy Pages

– Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy

– Island School Philosophy Website

British Values:

British Values in Philosophy and Religious Studies:

Democracy Year 7 RS introduces democracy as a term. In Year 9, students will learn how key philosophers have viewed philosophy, including Plato, Aristotle, and Mill.
Rule of law Year 9 and GCSE RS consider the differences between religious, moral laws and state laws, including the difference between a crime and a sin. Issues of law, crime, and punishment are covered in GCSE Religious studies, as are issues of human rights and civil disobedience.

Year 9 RS also considers Utilitarianism as a means of formulating laws.

Individual Liberty Liberty is explored in the KS3 philosophy, including the philosophical basis of universal and women’s rights, and Mill’s “harm principle”. The concept of free will is also examined in IB Philosophy. Religious liberty is examined as GCSE level, including issues such as wearing religious dress.
Mutual respect Respect for other cultures is particularly encouraged through the study of Eastern Philosophical perspectives in Year 9, and at GCSE, through the study of religious practices in different Buddhist cultures such as Tibet and Japan. Issues of prejudice and discrimination are also covered at GCSE.
Tolerance of those of different faiths and beliefs Understanding and respect for different religious and non-religious belief systems is taught throughout the Religious Studies curriculum. In Year 7, the course on the A-Z of Religion and Beliefs introduces a wide range of beliefs practices, starting with Atheism, and working through to Zoroastrianism.