Religious Studies

RS has an important contribution to make to the Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural development of pupils. By studying religions and learning from them, pupils can examine various moral frameworks so that the fundamental questions of human existence can be considered. However, the purpose of RS is not to convert, but to educate and to give boys the opportunity to consider and explore the Christian faith for themselves.

Quality RS occurs when we relate the beliefs, concepts and values of the world faiths expressed through such things as their scriptures, worship, practices to shared human experience.

The Christian Education Movement argues thus:

If RE is successful, its fruits will be evident not only in terms of knowledge, or even understanding or skills, though these will certainly be in evidence, but in attitudes. The religiously educated pupil will have reached at least an awareness of a set of beliefs and values by which he or she lives, while respecting the beliefs and values of those who have reached different conclusions. Such a pupil will also remain open to the possibility of further illumination, from whatever source, in a continuing search.” (CEM, The Agreed Syllabus for Religious Education, p.3.)

If Monmouth School for Boys is able to produce such pupils, RS will have made a significant contribution to the education and to the lives of those boys who have passed through the Department.


Years 7 - 9


The study of the six major World Religions makes up a core component of the RS course, alongside the other secular worldviews. One of the main objectives of both the school and the department is to give boys the opportunity to consider and explore faith for themselves. RS has an important contribution to make to the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils. By studying religions, pupils can examine various moral frameworks so that the fundamental questions of human existence can be considered. At all times we attempt to create a balance between ‘learning about’ and ‘learning from’ religions.

Year 7

The course begins by asking ‘Who is God?’ Looking through the lens of the different world religions, the students learn about the different aspects of the divine. The learning objective is to address the similarities and differences of the nature of God between the different religions. For example, the Creator God in the Christian Trinitarian tradition is juxtaposed against the Trimurti of the Hindu Brahman. The course explores in more depth the religious traditions, worship and practice, of Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism. The approach is narrative-based. The Hindu module reveals moral actions and consequences in the epic poem, the Ramayana. The Buddhist module focuses upon the life of Prince Siddhartha and his progress towards enlightenment. The Sikhism module allows the students to discover the contextual difficulties that practising religion in a growing secular society presents. It is hoped that by the end of the course the students will be familiar with, and able to differentiate between, the key beliefs and traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism, ready to explore the Judaeo-Christian tradition in Year 8. A world religions trip to Cardiff takes place in the summer term.

Year 8

Pupils first study the Old Testament and the ancient history of the Jewish race, focusing on the key themes of Covenant, Law and Prophecy. Modern Jewish practices and beliefs are considered in conjunction with the Biblical stories. They then move on to a study of the New Testament story, with particular emphasis on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, the growth of the Church, and modern Christian practice. Crucial to the pupils’ understanding is the way in Christianity grew out of Judaism and the links between the two faiths. In both elements of the course, there is a strong emphasis on making the Bible relevant to a 21st century audience. A trip to local churches/chapels takes place in the summer term.

Year 9

In Year 9, we broaden the spectrum to consider the whole concept of what it means to believe and how belief affects behaviour. Both religious and secular ‘faiths’ are considered, including Islam, Nazism and Consumerism. We also devote time to some contemporary moral issues such as Crime and Punishment, Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism. By the time boys make their subject choices for GCSE, therefore, they will have studied elements of the six main world religions, and will also have had the opportunity to consider some crucial philosophical, moral and spiritual questions. An education visit to a mosque and a synagogue takes place in the Lent term.


Head of Department: R.L.Wynne Lord

Board: AQA

The Course:

GCSE Religious Studies Specification A

The GCSE course is based around the study of Christianity and Buddhism. However, the specification does not presuppose faith and is designed to be accessible to persons of any religious persuasion or none. Rather it gives pupils the opportunity to engage with the religion and consider its role in history and shaping the world we encounter today.

The course as a whole encourages students to acquire knowledge and develop understanding of beliefs, values and tradition and the influence these have on the world around them.

In Year 10, pupils will have the chance to engage with the beliefs and teachings of Christianity and Buddhism. Buddhism is one of the diverse religious traditions and beliefs in Great Britain today and the main religious tradition in Great Britain is Christianity.

In the Christianity section of the course this includes the nature of God, the Trinity, the incarnation of Jesus, the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension, Judgment: heaven and hell, sin and salvation. We also look at Christian practices: worship, prayer, sacraments, pilgrimage, festivals, the role of the church in the local community, the importance of the worldwide church, Christian persecution, the Church’s response to poverty.

In the Buddhism section of the course we study key Buddhist beliefs and teachings including: The Buddha’s life and its significance, the Buddha’s teachings (Dharma), the concept of dependent arising (paticcasamupada), The Three Marks of Existence: anicca (impermanence), anatta (no fixed self) and dukkha (unsatisfactoriness of life, suffering), Theravada and Mahayana traditions. We look at Buddhist practices such as: Worship (puja), festivals and their importance to Buddhists in Great Britain, places of worship including temples, shrines, and monasteries, meditation and visualisation of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and Buddhist ethics e.g. (karma) and rebirth.

As part of this course we visit the local Anglican Church at St Mary’s Priory in Monmouth and the Lam Rim Buddhist centre in Raglan.

In Year 11, pupils will be engage with religious, philosophical ethical themes in Christianity and will make some comparisons to Buddhism:

  1. Theme A – Relationships and families (Marriage, sexuality, gender equality)
  2. Theme B – Religion and life (The environment, abortion, euthanasia)
  3. Theme C – The existence of God and revelation (Arguments for God’s existence, the nature of God)
  4. Theme E – Religion, crime and punishment (Death penalty and corporal punishment, forgiveness)


Candidates sit two papers, both at the end of Year 11:

Component 1: The study of religions: beliefs, teachings and practices Component 2: Thematic studies : religious, philosophical ethical themes

Each paper comprises 50% of the total mark awarded. There is no coursework requirement.

Religious Studies A level
Why study Religious Studies?

Religious Studies is an engaging, well respected and academically rigorous subject which introduces students to a stimulating range of ethical, philosophical and theological issues. The subject fits well as a complement to other arts and humanities subjects, and broadens and deepens the academic profile of those taking science subjects. Throughout the course, students will engage with some of the great philosophical questions with which humankind has wrestled, as well as examining moral and ethical principles from a variety of standpoints. Through their study of this subject, students will enhance their ability to argue and to communicate, as well as their skills of research, evaluation and analysis.

With religious and ethical issues so often in the news it may not be surprising that the subject is increasingly popular: Research shows that nationally the number of students choosing to study A level Religious Studies has increased more than any arts, humanity or social science subject over the past 10 years. The Russell Group of top universities has also made it clear that Religious Studies A level provides ‘suitable preparation for University generally’.  In other words, it can help applicants in both science and humanities subjects.

Religious Studies A level offers excellent opportunities to develop critically informed perspectives on the nature of human experience, perception, belief and society. The skills taught include building arguments, marshaling evidence and examples to support different points of view, and evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of different perspectives. The course content and the skills developed will appeal to anyone interested in big questions about meaning, purpose and reality, and there is a clear focus on lively classroom discussion and debate.

Religious Studies provides excellent preparation for a wide variety of arts, humanities, medical and science degrees, as well as leading on to varied career opportunities in law, medicine, journalism, education, academia, civil service and more. In our increasingly globalised world universities and employers place a high premium on critical and well-informed engagement with the beliefs, values and ethical issues around the world.

If you are interested in life’s big questions, if you enjoy lively discussion and debate, and if you want to examine the impact of religion on culture and society, Religious Studies could certainly be the subject for you.

Head of Department: Mrs R Wynne Lord

Course content

Board: OCR   A level Syllabus Code: H573

Study of a religion.
Christianity:  a focused investigation of different Christian beliefs and practices within the context of their social and historical development. This includes looking at issues such as gender, pluralism and secularism.

Philosophy of Religion.
The influence of Plato, Aristotle and Descartes, debates about the mind and the soul, arguments for and against the existence of God, the nature of religious experience and the problem of evil. Influence of analytic philosophy, uses of analogy and Wittgenstein’s language games.

Introduction to Ethics.
Ethical theories and systems such as Situation Ethics, Natural Law and Utilitarianism, looking at applied how these are applied to a range of issues such as business ethics and euthanasia.

Method of assessment

All by written exam which cover the three topics: Philosophy, Ethics and Christianity.

There is no coursework.

Philosophy A level
Why study Philosophy?

Philosophy A level asks students to think for themselves, to think rationally and to be open-minded. Students develop and refine a range of transferable skills, such as the ability to ask penetrating questions, to analyse and evaluate arguments, and to present their own arguments clearly, logically and with precision.

The course content raises stimulating and challenging questions about what we know of reality, and what we can and cannot know of reality. The nature of human consciousness is questioned, and the role of logic, reason and rationality are interrogated. Grounded in such foundational concerns students then engage with the underlying assumptions found in a range of ethical and philosophical questions about the nature and purpose of human life.

Philosophy is a highly respected academic subject, and at A level standard it sets apart those who are passionate about clear thinking on profound issues. Universities and employers across the spectrum value the critical independence of mind shown by those who study Philosophy, and it forms a core part of the famous PPE degree taken by many leading politicians and business people.

Philosophy is currently taught to Sixth Form boys and girls at Monmouth School for Girls.

Head of Department: Dr H Whately

Course content

Board: AQA   Specification Code: 7172

  • Epistemology: the study of what knowledge is. Issues covered include questions about the existence of the world outside of the human mind, the nature of knowledge itself, and what we can really ever actually ‘know’ of what our senses tell us.
  • Moral Philosophy: Engaging critically with ethical theories such as those of Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics, Kant’s Duty-based approach, and Utilitarianism. Issues covered include telling lies, simulated killing in computer games and eating animals.
  • Metaphysics of God: Introduction to issues around religious language and arguments for and against the existence of God. Issues covered include ways of ‘proving’ the existence of God, paradoxes such as whether an all-powerful God could create a stone which was too heavy for he/she to pick up, and the role of logic in the use of language.
  • Metaphysics of Mind: Alternative views of the mind-body problem, and how they relate to each other.  Perspectives covered include dualism, materialism and behaviourism, as well as the issue of philosophical zombies and the uses of theoretical arguments.

Method of assessment

Two three hour written exams:

  • Paper 1 Epistemology and Moral Philosophy.
  • Paper 2 Metaphysics and God and Metaphysics of Mind.

The papers contain a combination of  3 mark, 5 mark and 12 marks questions which assess knowledge and understanding, and a 25 mark essay which assesses critical reasoning and evaluative skills in developing arguments.

*Religious Studies or Philosophy?

Religious Studies A level and Philosophy A level do share some content areas, and we would not advise opting for both. Instead we recommend pursuing a qualification in one or other of the subjects. They take distinctively different approaches: Religious Studies emphasizes an understanding and appreciation of religious thought and its contribution to the individual, communities and society.  Philosophy, however, emphasizes the ways in which philosophers have identified underlying ideas about the validity of arguments and their premises.


Places of worship visited by Monmouth Students in 2018

On Mon 21st May Form II visited five different churches around Monmouth to learn the different styles of worship and to make comparisons in the way the buildings are designed and how the layout reflects their key beliefs.

They had the opportunity to stand in a Baptistry and hear from Rev Greaves about the importance of Believers baptism and then to stand in the very high pulpit in The Methodist where the focus of worship is on preaching the word of God. We also visited St Mary’s Catholic church and saw the in the beautiful garden hidden behind it and later we spent time in St Mary’s Priory Church where the boys were free to roam and take in the grandeur of this magnificent Anglican church.

We ended the day in our own school chapel where Rev Swartz explained how this significant building had changed over the years and how it has seen the installation of many amazing pieces of art. The boys will now undertake a project on their favourite church in place of a summer exam.

On Fri 8th June the Form 4 Religious Studies GCSE classes visited Lam Rim Buddhist Centre in Raglan.

The boys had an opportunity to sit in the shrine room and were taught about how to meditate and were able to try out this ancient practice for themselves. Ben, a Buddhist teacher and member of the Lam Rim community, answered the fantastic questions that the boys asked.

Later we were led through the grounds of the house on a typical zen walking meditation following the prayer path and stopping at shrines on the way learn more about the Buddhist beliefs and practices.

Form 1 Places of worship trip in Cardiff

Form 1 Places of worship trip in Cardiff from Rhiannon Lord on Vimeo.

Year 9 Trip – March 2016

Every year all of Year 9 have the opportunity to visit a mosque and a synagogue before completing a project on prejudice and discrimination. This year after spending time in lessons looking at examples of Islamophobic attitudes and the rise of Anti-Semitism, we were fortunate enough to visit Dar Ul Isra Mosque in Cathays Cardiff and the Cardiff United Synagogue in Cyncoed. The mosque provided a very hands on experience where the boys were able to have a go at writing their names in Arabic and listening to the Quran being read in Arabic then English on mp3 players. At the synagogue, the Rabbi gave the boys a clear understanding of what it meant to be Jewish and what life was like for a 21st century Jew living in Wales. It was an incredibly valuable experience and trips to places of worship remain an important part of the RS curriculum.

Here is a report of this year’s trip by Adam in Year 9:

The trip was very enjoyable and the whole year learned a great amount. We first went to the mosque in Cardiff. It was in the middle of a street and looked like a normal house and not the exotic building with domes and towers that we expected.

The imam was very welcoming and gave us a long talk about Islam and how he felt a belonging to the religion and how it gave him an identity. He also gave us the meaning of Islam and how you follow it. The rest of the visit consisted of several stations and all of us either listening to interesting facts or doing some kind of activity. The favourite activities were calligraphy where we were shown how to write our names in Arabic and the talk on the Qur’an was also very interesting. We also had talks on the history of Islam, key objects of Islam and related things, also a talk on the prophets. That talk was particularly interesting as all of us had seen Islam as a particularly alien religion but it showed links between Christianity which we are all familiar with.

Afterwards we went to the synagogue where we learnt a lot about prejudice and discrimination. The building was in a new and modern estate and the synagogue did not stick out as a place of worship.

The Synagogue was a very modern building in an estate with very high security. It almost felt a little bit uncomfortable with such high amounts of security, the doors all had bolts on them and the whole place looked rather over the top. Much of the talk consisted of accounts of anti-Semitism and most of the time there showed that anti-Semitism was a very current and alive event. The Rabbi talked to us about cases of anti-Semitism that he had faced and how he attempted to deface prejudices. He held coffee mornings and events outside of the synagogue all to show that they were normal people and meant no harm. We were also shown the way in which a service works and he also showed us how songs were sung and how prayers were done.

The day was very enlightening and we found it all very interesting and the trip was very well worth it.

Watch a short video of the day here: