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Know-it-all and Have-a-go

25 July 2014

"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 hesitant commentary."

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 taught.

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