Focus on Education

A public meeting on the topic of Education, and in particular, Religious Education, took place as part of a Devon and Cornwall Gathering on Saturday 19 October 2013 in the United Reformed Church, Exeter.

The speakers were David Birch (An independent consultant and Deputy Director at NET, the National Education Trust) and Ed Pawson (Head of RE at the King's School, Ottery St. Mary and Chair of NATRE, the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education).

David Birch is an examiner and examinations consultant at Ofqual, AQA and the Alphaplus Consultancy. He is an English specialist in literacy; is a ’School Improvement Partner’ and leads training events. He is interested in post-16 issues, independent learning, student voice and working with parents and is a former Principal of Sidmouth College.
Ed Pawson Teaches RE in Ottery St Mary and is currently exploring the impact of a skills-based curriculum on secondary Religious Education linked with a Farmington Fellowship.

(The National Education Trust describes itself as a Do-Tank - so much better than a mere Think-Tank!).

The Planning group was: Barbara Childs (Okehampton), Jan Pawson (Exmouth), Caroline Walmsley (Kingsbridge) and Geraldine Winnall (Exmouth) with some administrative assistance (including this web page) from Raymond Thompson (Exeter)

The event grew out of a concern from Exmouth Meeting about the downplaying of Religious Education and other subjects (art, music and sport, for example) in proposed curriculum changes.


The speakers addressed us in the morning followed by a question and answer session.

There were facilitated workshops in the afternoon:

  • RE and the Quaker Peace Testimony - Maggie Cartridge
  • Exploring teenage worldviews - Ed Pawson
  • Independent Learning - David Birch
  • Art in Education - Kate Hale

Our concluding minute:

Final thoughts and summary of the day

Our day set out to explore three questions

        What is happening in education?

        Who is it for?

        Does Religious Education matter?

David Birch gave us a considered and coherent picture of what is happening in education, spelling out the tensions, highlighting the problems in our current system but also recognising laudable intentions, like trying to reduce educational inequalities.

Ed Pawson gave us a clear picture of what RE could give our children if handled with his imagination and clarity of purpose. We are now better equipped to make the arguments for the inclusion of RE and to help schools to adopt the new curriculum to be launched on 24 October.

We had lively comments during and after their input and conversations continued through lunchtime. The afternoon’s workshops covered a variety of topics and people were still talking animatedly as we gathered for our final session.

We are thankful for the dedication of many teachers, for their belief in children and young people and for their desire to help them fulfil their potential. We will do what we can to show the value we place on teachers as we know that it is not educational theories nor the models for education espoused by our politicians but teachers we rely on to inspire children and assist them to see themselves as powerful, life-long learners.

Judith Thompson              Clerk of the day                19 October 2013



The resources listed here are neither exhaustive nor necessarily balanced. They are intended for background reading.

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