Support the 'Understanding Humanity' Solarity Appeal

The SOF Network’s Board of Trustees has launched an appeal to raise funds for a very exciting and forward-looking project.

The proposal is to build on the Solarity materials that you see here to create a much more substantial online educational resource.

Dave Francis, who produced the Solarity resource, is working with Professor Denise Cush and Dr Barbara Wintersgill, originator of the ‘Big Ideas for Religious
Education’ project, to provide educators with a comprehensive set of plans for
a radically new curriculum for religion and worldviews, called Understanding Humanity.

This small expert team will bring together leading RE teachers to write a complete series of lesson plans covering the Infant Junior and Secondary sectors. Rather than prepare a ‘traditional’ course of religious education that looks at each religion or worldview one at a time, the proposed new curriculum will put human beliefs, values, experiences and identities at the heart.

Our new programme will be built on Six Big Ideas where, briefly, pupils will have opportunities to investigate and engage critically with:

1.    the amazing diversity of religious and non-religious worldviews and ways of life;

2.    the many ways to interpret the verbal and non-verbal forms of communication used in different worldviews and how to express their own beliefs, values, experiences and identities;

3.    the many kinds of guidance on how to be a good person and live a good life, and how these can be interpreted in many different ways;

4.    the deeply felt, meaningful or transformative experiences, that impact upon people’s worldviews;

5.    how worldviews interact with wider society, culture and politics, sometimes having considerable power and influence;

6. how worldviews often attempt to provide coherent overall accounts, however provisional, of the nature of reality – life, the universe and everything.


For the full version of Big Ideas, and the theory and rationale behind them see:

Big Ideas for RE’

and  ‘Putting Big Ideas into Practice in RE’

Evidence presented to the Commission on Religious Education (CoRE) Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC) demonstrates that there is an urgent need for published materials that support a national entitlement for all pupils to develop their thinking in this vital area of the curriculum. Such materials need to relate learning about worldviews to the needs, interests and experiences of all young people, including the majority who come from non-religious families, taking account of research findings related to the ‘nones’, i.e. those that identify with no particular religious tradition.

Through the existing ‘Solarity’ materials, we will have a head start on providing engaging activities and learning experiences for children and young people. We know that the Solarity sessions work well. One teacher who used them, Kate Penfold, said, “The Solarity sessions are inclusive and a wide range of pupils are actively involved because questions are so easy to understand. They promote resilience and support the ethos of our school. The children definitely saw that the material was useful and meaningful. One said, ‘It was useful information to use in life. It gave us other people’s perspectives and we need those.’ From this ‘we learnt that anyone can do the right thing and make a difference’.”

We now want to take this forward in terms of a coherent programme for education in Religion and Worldviews as experienced in the 21st Century.
Our priorities are therefore for a high-quality, broad-based education, where children and young people explore religions and beliefs openly, rigorously, critically and reflectively, in the context of a changing and globalised world.

But we cannot do this without your help.

In order to create an online resource for curriculum developers, teachers and home educators, we need funding for teachers to write and trial new materials and for the development of a user-friendly website to contain them.

The core team (see below) are providing their services for FREE but we will have to pay our writers for their services.

We estimate that this will cost £40,000, and while we are trying to raise funds from a range of charitable trusts, I am really calling on our own SOF members and Sofia subscribers to find a substantial proportion of this.

A donation of £130 from each of our members and Sofia subscribers would cover the cost of the project and therefore have ownership of the website and material.

A donation of £50 from each would ensure that we would be a major donor and therefore have regular involvement in its production.

But these are averages. Any amount that you can give will help us set the project in motion and would be the basis for an approach to other funders if needed. It will ensure that the SOF Network is acknowledged on all the resources produced.

This is a major educational initiative for SOF, in keeping with our charitable objects, and an important opportunity for us to promote our aim of ‘exploring religion as a human creation’ as well as offering an invitation for new members. It will be the first time for many years that we have asked members for money but this is a project that I, along with all the trustees, judge to be well worth our investment – an opportunity to be at the heart of a potentially transformative moment for education – not just in this country but in the wider world too.

Please show us that you support the Understanding Humanity (Solarity) project by pledging £200, £130, £50, £10, or another amount. Don’t send any money at this point, but please make your pledge by using the form below or by email, with ‘Solarity project’ in the subject line, to Stephen Williams at or in writing to 157 Russell Road, Moseley, Birmingham, B13 8RR.

Thank you!

About the Team

Denise Cush is Professor Emeritus of Religion and Education, Bath Spa University, where she was also Head of Department of Study of Religions. She was Deputy Editor of the British Journal of Religious Education until 2019, and was a member of the national Commission exploring the future of religious education in England (2016-2018). She has an MA in Theology from Oxford University, an MA in Religious Studies from the University of Lancaster, a PhD in Religious Education from the University of Warwick,
and an honorary doctorate from the University of Uppsala. She has also been an RE teacher and trainer of both primary and secondary teachers.

Dave Francis is the Associate Adviser for Bath & North East Somerset SACRE and Deputy Chair of the Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC). He is a former Chair of AREIAC and Lead Consultant for RE:ONLINE. He worked as a teacher of RE for
14 years, including ten as Head of a Department of Religion, Philosophy and Social Education, and has published several RE text books, as well as practical guides for primary and secondary RE teachers on assessment, ICT, self-evaluation and developing an
effective curriculum.

Barbara Wintersgill is an Honorary Research Fellow of the College of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Exeter. She was the Professional Officer for religious education (RE) at the National Curriculum Council (1990–93) and then at the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority (1993–97). In 1997, she was appointed by Ofsted as HMI and Specialist Subject Adviser for RE and continued in this post until
taking early retirement in 2005. She has come out of retirement numerous times to work on projects for Ofsted, the REC, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for RE, Warwick University and the University of Exeter. She is the main author of the two ‘Big
Ideas for RE’ Reports.

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