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Carshalton High School for Girls

Carshalton High School for Girls

Carshalton High School for Girls is a highly successful school, judged by Ofsted in November 2017 as ‘Good’ in all categories.

Religious Studies A Level KS5

What will students be studying in Religious Studies this year?

The Religious Studies A Level course runs over two years, with students studying 50% of the course material in Year 12, and the remaining 50% in Year 13. The department follows the Oxford, Cambridge and RSA (OCR) specification which gives learners an invaluable opportunity to gain transferable skills for future careers and courses demanding analysis, evaluation and clarity of expression.  

Students study for three papers – one in Philosophy, one in Ethics and one in Developments in Christian Thought. In Year 12, we consider the origins of Western philosophy from Greek rationalism (Plato and Aristotle) to Hebrew monotheism, we evaluate the classical arguments for the existence of God and consider the major challenges to belief in God. In Year 13, we debate the meaning of language, the nature of human experience, the possibility of miracles, the plausibility of belief in God, and the nature of life after death. In Ethics, the ethical theories of Aristotle, Kant, Bentham and Mill, Aquinas and Fletcher form the background to the study of contemporary issues, sexuality, cloning, abortion, euthanasia, economics and environmental ethics. The A Level course also considers the impact of Christianity on contemporary philosophical and ethical debate through the synoptic Developments Unit.

Students in Year 12 and Year 13 have nine Religious Studies lessons per fortnight and this time is divided equally among their three units of study.  The course is aimed at those who are prepared for an open-minded exploration of the big questions, in particular the medical, legal and moral issues that affect the lives of humans today, as well as deeper philosophical questions about the nature of the universe and of humanity, and the existence or non-existence of God. The big issues in such areas as legal ethics, medical ethics and the environment as well as sex and relationships provide the opportunity to explore how we know what has been traditionally seen as right and wrong and how we apply these ideas in practice. The big questions like “if there’s a God why doesn’t (s)he prove it?” in addition to euthanasia, cloning, IVF and social justice, are investigated through the writings of the philosophers and scholars, always requiring pupils to evaluate for themselves the relative strengths and weaknesses of the contrasting evidence. 

Religious Studies A Level is for anyone to undertake and previous knowledge from GCSE, whilst helpful, is not a requirement.  An open mind to often controversial and complex issues is required, as is the understanding that we are required more often than not to discover the questions and a number of solutions, but not a definitive answer. Those who wish to ask the impossible questions about life, the world and the universe and explore some of the answers offered by the philosophers and scholars are likely to feel at home being challenged by, and challenging others, on this course. 

What are the major assessments this year?

In addition to their end of year exam, students will be set exam-style questions in their three units of work.  At the end of Year 13 students will sit three external papers: one in Philosophy, one in Ethics, and one in Developments in Christian Thought. Each paper is two hours long and contains three essay questions, worth forty marks each.

What do the assessments test?

Assessments target two Assessment Objectives set out in the exam board specification.  Students are assessed on their ability to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of religious belief, including the influence of beliefs, teachings and practices on individuals (AO1), and on their analysis and evaluation of aspects of religion and belief (AO2).

What are the expectations of my child in Religious Studies?

Students will be set homework regularly which they are expected to complete to the best of their ability. Homework tasks will often take the form of exam-style questions which students are required to complete in order to develop their written technique.  Alongside this, students are expected to use their independent study periods to carry out wider reading and research, using their accompanying textbooks and other materials. 

What should students do if they feel they are struggling in Religious Studies?

Students should speak with their Religious Studies teacher to explain what aspects of the topic or task they are struggling with so that the appropriate support can be offered. This may take the form of intervention sessions, or additional reading material to support student understanding.

How can I best support my child in Religious Studies?

The best way for parents to support students in Religious Studies is to talk about the topics they are studying and what they are learning in class, as well as to encourage them to read widely and keep up-to-date with current affairs. This will help to support students in their application of philosophical and ethical theory. Parents can ask students about how independent study time is being used and, if necessary, help them to plan the use of their time accordingly. 

Whom should I contact for further advice or information?

Please feel free to contact your child’s Religious Studies teacher by email, or the Head of Religious Studies, Mrs Collins at if you have any questions about your child’s progress in the subject.