RE-searchers: A critical, dialogic and enquiry-based approach to RE in primary schools (Culham St Gabriel‘s Trust / Hockerill Educational Foundation)

The RE-searchers Approach: A quick start guide with exemplar activities and units of work provides a practical ‘how to’ guide to planning using ‘the RE-searchers approach’. This resource will help interested teachers bring the RE-searcher characters to life in the classroom. It includes exciting child-friendly RE-searcher character images, a step-by-step guide to planning a unit of work, exemplar units, and over 50 warm-up/lesson activities

The RE-searchers approach encourages pupils to think about the significance and effectiveness of different methodologies and methods of enquiry in RE. To make these accessible to young children, we have personified some of them as cartoon characters: Debate-it-all Derek, Ask-it-all Ava, Have-a-go Hugo, and See-the-story Suzie. This publication is one of the outcomes of the ‘RE-searchers curriculum development project’ undertaken by Giles Freathy of Sir Robert Geffery’s Church of England Voluntary Aided Primary School, Cornwall, whilst on secondment to The Learning Institute. It was carried out under the editorial guidance of the project’s consultant, Dr Rob Freathy, from the University of Exeter. We would like to thank Culham St Gabriel’s Trust and The Hockerill Educational Foundation for their generous sponsorship of the project.

The RE-searchers approach to teaching RE was developed by Giles Freathy and Rob Freathy.

NEW research article:Freathy et al_BJES_2017 RE-searchers

NEW RE-searchers Book (2nd Edition) is available here:

This publication is very practical  and will provide teachers interested trialling the approach with a step-by-step guide to planning RE-searchers’ units. There are over 50 practical activity ideas included. These can to be used to help students ‘get into character’ and many of them can be extended to be whole lesson activities. Many (if not all) of these ideas are applicable to secondary students as well.

Giles is  available to lead local hub meetings and answer any questions about this or other resources we have published. All of our publications are now available at:

CHRISTMAS RESOURCE Mr Stricken’s Nativity Nightmare

See also Youtube video about the approach:

Additional videos created by Lorraine Abbott via her blog: (RE-searchers: A Dialogic Approach) which can be used with students.

The current project (Freathy, Freathy, Doney, Walshe and Teece, Jan 2014 – Dec 2014) seeks to develop these pedagogical principles and procedures further, in consultation with a wider range of schools and teachers, and in preparation for a longer-term and larger-scale research and development project.

If you would like to find out more about the project, or get involved in developing or trialling curriculum resources, please contact Giles Freathy

More about the project:

An innovative pedagogical approach to Religious Education (RE) has been trialled very successfully in one primary school in the southwest of England. It is informed by the belief that the main purpose of RE should be to teach pupils the disciplinary knowledge and skills associated with the communities of academic practice concerned with theological and religious studies, and it synthesizes critical and dialogic pedagogical principles.

The approach seeks to enable pupils to enter into the kind of informed, critical and sensitive dialogues which are at the heart of academic study of religion(s) (see Freathy & Freathy 2013). It acknowledges that there is no neutral vantage point from which religions can be explored without prejudice, and it seeks to facilitate the critical discussion and evaluation of a plurality of perspectives through practical, participative and inter-active methods of critical dialogic enquiry.

For the purpose of trialling the approach in practice, pupils were re-conceived as joint researchers working alongside teachers to investigate the effectiveness of different methods of studying religion(s), and thereby, acquiring the knowledge and skills associated with the communities of academic practice concerned with theological and religious studies. To do so, a simple technique was developed utilising four cartoon characters (with illustrations and accompanying profiles) each representative of different research methodologies. These ‘RE-searchers‘ were then used by pupils to explore the efficacy of the different approaches, and thereby pupils were introduced to more abstract issues concerning ontology, epistemology and methodology.