Philosophy, Religion and Ethics
Through the study of Philosophy, Religion, and Ethics, we help students understand that religion is, and always will be, a significant factor in the way the world develops. It influences our politics, our societies, our laws, and has left an indelible mark on history and human behaviour. By studying contemporary ethical issues, alongside the history of philosophical thought, and modern-day religious practices, we aim to help students understand the immense impact faith and ideas have on the world around them today.
Head of Religious Studies
First to Third Forms – compulsory for all pupils
In the First Form, we start by attempting to answer the question, what is God? By looking at a range of different ideas from the ancient Greeks to modern day religious art, we tackle one of the biggest philosophical questions of all. This unit of work is followed by in-depth studies of Judaism and Christianity, before moving on to investigate the ethical issues raised by war and conflict.
The Second Form starts with an investigation into whether or not it is rational to believe in God, drawing upon ideas from a range of philosophers and thinkers such as Freud, Aquinas, and Swinburne. Students then undertake a detailed study of Islam, followed by a fascinating unit of work on medical ethics exploring topics such as cloning, euthanasia, and the ‘saviour sibling’ debate.
In the Third Form, we begin by exploring Buddhism, a religion vastly different from most other major world faiths. This leads to a study into the philosophical concept of life after death, and to an inquiry into the ethics of modern-day consumerism. The year ends with the study of the history of Christianity and divergences in the faith, asking the question: Is Britain still a Christian country?
Fourth and Fifth Forms – optional GCSE subject
We follow the AQA (A) course, specification 8062.
Students are required to study two world religions: Christianity and Hinduism.
As a major influence on our history, culture and values in the UK, Christianity is the obvious choice for an examination of beliefs and practices, and relevant to human decision-making, law creation and organisation of the society in which we live. Hinduism is the oldest of the major world religions with origins shrouded in mystery. Its ancient customs and rich diversity make for a fascinating in-depth study and provide an intriguing contrast to Christianity.
Students also study a range of ethical and philosophical themes, comparing how different Christian denominations approach issues such as:
- Relationships and families
- Religion and life
- The existence of God
- Religion, peace, and conflict
- Religion, crime, and punishment
- Religion, human rights, and social justice
Assessment: students sit 2 exams, each lasting 1 hour 45 minutes. Papers contain a range of questions from short answer knowledge questions to longer essay-style evaluative answers.
Sixth Form - A Level optional subject: Philosophy, Religion and Ethics
We follow the OCR Religious Studies course: H573/01 Philosophy of Religion; H573/02 Religion and Ethics; H573/03 Developments in Christian thought.
In this A-level, you will undertake a detailed study of the kinds of religious, ethical, and philosophical questions that have fascinated humankind throughout history and up to the modern day. This course critically examines the integral role that religious, philosophical, and ethical ideas play in the thinking and day-to-day lives of a large proportion of the world’s population; we grapple with thought-provoking concepts, debate current issues, and ultimately aim to understand and evaluate the ideas of great thinkers from the ancient Greeks right up to the feminist philosophers of today. In doing so, you will develop vital skills of critical analysis and independent thought, whilst learning to construct informed, balanced, and persuasive arguments.
The specification offers an academic approach to the study of religion and is therefore equally accessible to candidates of any religious persuasion or none.
Course modules in brief:
Paper 1 – Philosophy of Religion:
- Ancient Greek influences on philosophy
- Soul, mind, and body
- The nature and existence of God
- Religious experience
- The problem of evil and suffering
- The religious language debate
Paper 2 – Religion and Ethics:
- Natural moral law
- Situation ethics
- Kantian ethics
- Applied ethics: euthanasia
- Applied ethics: business ethics
- Meta-ethical theories
- Conscience and sexual ethics
Paper 3 – Developments in Christian Thought:
- St Augustine’s ideas on human nature
- Death and the afterlife
- The person of Jesus
- Christian moral principles
- Religious pluralism
- Gender and theology
- Liberation theology and Marxism
Assessment: Students sit 3 x 2-hour papers: paper 1 Philosophy, paper 2 Ethics, and paper 3 Developments. In each paper, students complete 3 essays from a choice of 4 essay titles. Each essay is worth 40 marks. The 3 papers are equally weighted.
7th Period super-curriculum: We use this opportunity to explore and debate ideas beyond the confines of the a-level specification. Previous investigations have centred around questions such as How do you know you are not dreaming? Is the death penalty justifiable? and Should artificial intelligence be given human rights? We also use this time to explore ethical, religious, and philosophical themes found in film as well as read more widely through the use of academic journals.
- All PRE students are encouraged to attend the after-school Philosophy Society meetings.
- “Film-osophy” club examines religious, philosophical, and ethical themes through film (open to First to Third Form pupils).
- Second Form pupils, in collaboration with the English department, attend an afternoon of Philosophy workshops run by renowned philosopher and author Jason Buckley.
Regular Trips, Visitors and Competitions
- First to Third Form: students visit Peterborough Cathedral as part of their studies into Christianity and participate in a visit to Cadbury World in a joint trip with the Geography Department to study the practical applications of Quaker philosophy. Throughout the year, there are also opportunities to visit various places of worship in order to gain a clearer understanding of the lived experience of different faiths today.
- GCSE related: GCSE students visit the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, the largest Hindu temple in the UK. This complements their studies into Hinduism and allows them to see how Hinduism is practiced in UK today.
- A-Level related: students have the opportunity to attend workshop and lecture events run by renowned ethicist and author Peter Vardy.