Prayer spaces support schools in developing Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural development (SMSC), in teaching of Religious Education (RE) and for Church schools in meeting the requirements of SIAMS (Statutory Inspection of Anglican and Methodist Schools). Here are some brief ways that prayer spaces can help your school in these three areas.
All schools must provide cross curricular provision for SMSC, which is assessed by Ofsted in their overall assessment of a school in the categories for ‘overall effectiveness’, ‘effectiveness of leadership and management’ and ‘personal development, behaviour and welfare’. Prayer spaces can help students to find a space to express their “beliefs, religious or otherwise, which inform their perspective on life and their interest in and respect for different people’s feelings and values” (www.prayerspacesinschools.com), as well as encouraging them to use their imagination and creativity in their learning. Students in prayer spaces often find a “sense of enjoyment and fascination in learning about themselves, others and the world around them, including the intangible”, such as exploring a sense of awe and wonder or in recognising the value of each individual and community around them. This could include the search for meaning and purpose in life, perhaps as a result of challenging or inspiring experiences they’ve had and the emotions they’ve felt in response.
The activities in prayer spaces give students the opportunity to reflect and learn from reflection in creative ways. They often promote a desire to help students explore their own and other’s views and a willingness to reflect on these. During these activities, the students are encouraged to ask questions and these questions and thoughts are valued.
“Pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is a strength…using the school’s prayer space, pupils contemplate values and provide thoughtful and thought- provoking responses when working in groups” (Ofsted report- Rush Common Community Primary School 2017)
Religious education is a statutory requirement with a non statutory national framework (DCFS 2010). All students should have access to RE provision from Foundation Stage to Key Stage 5 and at least 5% of the curriculum should be devoted to RE, with every locally agreed syllabus reflecting that the religious traditions of Great Britain are in the main Christian, as well as taking into account the teaching and practices of other principal religions represented (DCFS 2010). Throughout the different key stages, prayer spaces can help schools meet their legal requirement for RE. Good RE for children and young people:
- Provokes challenging questions
- Encourages students to explore their own beliefs
- Enables students to build their sense of identity and belonging
- Teaches students to develop respect for others
- Prompts students to consider their responsibilities
While the statutory requirement for RE does not extend to children under compulsory school age, RE and spending time in a prayer space can form a valuable part of the educational experience of children on the EYFS, contributing particularly to the prime areas of:
- personal, social and emotional development (exploring what themes like being thankful and helping others mean to them and their peers)
- communication, language and literacy (through group work with adults and peers)
and the specific learning areas of:
- knowledge and understanding of the world (thinking about their place in their school, community, country and the world, including places they’ve been or are interested in)
- creative development (using their senses and expressing themselves creatively through imaginative activities, such as using playdough, sand or aqua beads)
The activities in a prayer space can help young students to explore each of these areas of learning further in a reflective, practical and inquisitive way.
Key Stage 1
The varied prayer space activities provide students with opportunities to reflect using their senses, allowing them to share their beliefs, ideas and values and talk about or communicate their feelings and experiences in a variety of creative ways. Prayer spaces also provide opportunities to ask “big questions” about the world we live in and respond imaginatively to puzzling questions and reflect on such questions.
Key Stage 2
Through prayer spaces, students can respectfully explore their beliefs and those of others at a deeper level. They can reflect on different aspects of life, including purpose and meaning and can express their own beliefs, ideas, values and feelings in creative ways. Prayer spaces can help them to consider the whole range of human experiences and feelings and share personal experiences of how they have been affected, if they would like to.
Key Stage 3
Prayer space activities around social justice and global issues can give students the opportunity to reflect on world issues and their ultimate questions. They also provide contemplative opportunities to investigate Christianity, Christian worship and spiritual disciplines sensitively. Prayer spaces help give the language to students to enable them to express spirituality and their own beliefs and ideas in creative ways, as well as reflecting on their feelings, thoughts and potential reasons for those.
Key Stage 4 and 5
It is important that RE continues to be part of a coherent curriculum that enables older students to draw on their own values and beliefs in making independent decisions and choices, as they prepare for adult life. Prayer spaces at this stage can help students to:
- reflect on, express and justify their own opinions in light of their learning about and from religion and their study of religious, philosophical, moral or spiritual questions
- develop their own values and attitudes in order to recognise their rights and responsibilities in light of their learning about and from religions and beliefs
- relate their learning to the wider world, gaining a sense of personal autonomy in preparation for adult life
- develop skills that are useful in a wide range of careers and in adult life generally, especially skills of critical enquiry, creative problem-solving and communication or expression in a variety of media
Prayer spaces and themes explored in prayer spaces can help schools to meet the criteria of distinctive Christian character and good RE provision (as above). Exploring Christian values, stories and biblical themes in prayer spaces can support and feed into the collective worship of a school. Annual prayer spaces can also give ideas and keep student engagement with reflective corners in classrooms and support students in how to use these effectively.
Please contact us on email@example.com if you would like any further information on how prayer spaces can support your school in any of these three areas.