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John Milton Academy Trust

These schools are part of the John Milton Academy Trust. Click on the school's logo to visit their website.

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Powerful Knowledge

Year 9

Year 9 is used as an introductory year to Philosophy and Ethics.  The aim is to teach students essential skills which they will need to access the content of the GCSE course. This unit links to work students will complete at GCSE and A level. The year includes:

  • An introduction to Philosophy
  • Epistemology (Descartes hyperbolic doubt and the brain in a vat)
  • Critical thinking skills: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence (Carl Sagan), questioning and the limits of knowledge, what not to believe and why.
  • An introduction to ethics
  • Medical ethics: including sanctity of life and personhood
  • The ethics of punishment: capital punishment

After Easter we aim to show students how to apply Philosophical and ethical thought to deal with major world events.  This unit is focussed on the question ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ (Leibnitz). This unti links to work students will complete at GCSE and A level.

  • What is the universe?
  • Does the Universe have ‘cause’?
  • How do the possible answers influence our view with regard to our relationship with each other and the earth.
  • Environmental Ethics: including global warming, the responses to global warming, the relationship between human beings and the planet.

Years 7&8

The study of religion & belief is integral to the teaching of the History course and much of the content is included in the context of the historical material being studied. For example the Romans unit in Year 7 covers the ethics of Roman entertainment as well as Roman Gods & religious belief and the birth of Christianity. The importance of the Christian Church and Christian belief is further developed in the Medieval unit and as part of this students study the beliefs & practices of Islam in depth linked to the context of the Crusades. Similarly in Year 8, students encounter the development of Christian belief through the split in the Christian Church in the 16th & 17th centuries as well as considering the ethics of Empire & Slavery and as part of this wider world study students examine in depth the beliefs and practices of Hinduism.


Above all else, students are challenged to develop their skills of debate, discussion and argument. Socratic questioning is used extensively so that students reflect, modify and rephrase ideas and propositions. Being able to identify the incoherency/coherency of arguments, self reflection and the ability to change views and opinions are skills and a mindset which is carefully nurtured and developed.  Literacy is further developed through the use of the homework projects. They require students to research, organise and present their findings in a variety of ways including essay writing and class presentations.

School Context

The study of RS/Philosophy is studied in its own right in Year 9 and on an equal basis to the other Humanities subjects, History & Geography in preparation for options. It was felt that by this stage students would have the necessary maturity to engage more constructively with an introduction to the demands of thinking more critically which is integral to further study in the subject. At the time of the curriculum review before transition to 11-18, it was decided to subsume the teaching of RS into the History course in Years 7-8, partly owing to the availability of specialist staffing within the school, and partly due to the desire to avoid the discontinuity of teaching a once a fortnight RS lesson. This situation continues. Islam & Hinduism have been chosen to widen students’ cultural diversity, something only reinforced by the concerns a limited number of parents have expressed over the teaching of the former to their children.


Assessment is largely through the termly homework projects in Year 9 which the lessons build up to and the review of this is integral to the progress of each of the three units covered. In addition, there is frequent recourse to assessment of student knowledge & understanding through class discussion which is integral to lessons. In Years 7&8 there is a similar approach with one of the homework projects being allocated to RS in each of the years - Islam & Hinduism. Students are assessed on their ability to recall, identify and describe religious belief and practice, and then to explain how belief links into practice to show their understanding of it. A similar example would be the features of the Catholic & Protestant churches of the 16th & 17th centuries which students have to describe and then explain in the context of belief.


See entry for KS4.