"WHAT works in theory doesn't always work in practice," says Dr
Rob Freathy, from Exeter University, who is working with his
brother, Giles, a primary-school specialist leader of education, at
Sir Robert Geffrey's School in Saltash, Truro
diocese. "Theories often benefit from being tested in the
classroom, and it's important to create the opportunities both to
influence and support teachers in schools.
"In our project, theory and practice have been developed
hand-in-hand. Because we are brothers, we're able to be more candid
with each other; this has definitely led to improvements in our
respective contributions." Their novel approach to teaching RE has
won the Humanities Award from the Times Educational
Supplement Schools Awards.
They have been using four "superhero" puppets:
Know-it-all-Nicky, Debate-it-all-Derek, Ask-it-all-Ava and
Have-a-go-Hugo. Each of the characters represents a different
approach to exploring religious topics, from questioning and
arguing to interviewing, empathising, and participating.
"In the ensuing role-play", Giles Freathy says, "the real pupils
could identify with the 'puppet pupil', learning from his successes
and failures, empathising with his sometimes anxious questioning or
As a teacher, Mr Freathy says that he moved between being the
puppeteer to evaluating the puppet's performance like a theatre
critic, and engaging the pupils in discussion about what the puppet
was doing and why. It all sounds very complicated, he says, but has
been "really successful".
The TES judges commented on the rigour of the approach,
and the pupils' "engagement, empathy, and ability to analyse
information from multiple stances". The two Freathy brothers hope
that it will bring about a revolution in the way that RE is