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My name is Penny Thompson. I am a researcher, writer and practitioner in the field of Religious Education in the UK. I taught in comprehensive schools on Merseyside for 15 years.

On this site you can find out about my books and booklets, debate with experts, comment on the RE scene in the UK, articles on the theory of RE and practical suggestions for use in the classroom .

My books

Inspiring Faith in Schools; studies in religious education

This is my most recent publication. Ashgate have just published this important book, co-edited by myself with Marius Felderhof and David Torevell.
You can find out about it here Inspiring Faith in Schools

The Effective Teaching of Religious Education

In October 2006 Pearson Education published a second edition of Brenda Watson's book first published in 1993. This highly successful work has been revised and updated by Brenda and myself and is now available for sale.
A picture of the front cover is here.
The details on the back cover may be viewed here.
Read the preface here and an uncut endorsement by Marius Felderhof here


Lutterworth Press published my book in November 2003, titled Whatever Happened to Religious Education? This was my first book. It tracks the changes in RE in this country since the mid-60s. It argues that far from being inevitable, such changes were conceived and brought about by an elite within the profession and are damaging to proper religious education. My book argues that RE should generally, in this country, be based on Christianity, taught in an open and self-critical way. It has a foreword written by the Bishop of St. Albans who calls it 'feisty, provocative and argued with passion'. Dr. Marius Felderhof gives his opinion here. Hope University College sponsored the launch of the book on October 30th with a champagne reception. Read the speech I gave here You can find a synopsis here. I can supply a copy, price 17.50 plus postage. Contact

Book Reviews

Priscilla Chadwick in the Independent Schools' Review.
Cynthia Dixon in the Journal of Christian Education.
Eric Bramhall in Crosscurrents, the Liverpool Diocesan Magazine.
Andrew Bebb in the Tablet.
William Kay in the Journal of Education and Christian Belief
Terence Copley in the TES
Marius Felderhof replies to Terence Copley's review.

My booklets

Fitting out the Framework

This is my latest booklet which gives ideas on how to implement the non-statutory national framework for RE.
You can read the actual framework here
Read the foreword to my booklet here.
You can read what a Head of RE thinks here.
Or look at the endorsement of the National Society and others.
Order copies (price 3.50) by emailing me at

Is religious education possible in our schools?

The booklet 'Is religious education possible in our schools?' was first given as the 2003 annual Cornwall SACRE lecture. I can supply it on receipt of 1.50p.

What does the Law really say about RE?

I can also supply a study of the law on RE. The law does not require the teaching of a particular six religions. Nor must all pupils study the same agreed syllabus. Read a summary here I can supply copies on receipt of 1.50 inclusive of post and packing.

A Guide to SACREs and ASCs

It is called SACRE and ASC: A Guide. It explains what members of these bodies need to know. Reading this booklet will help you to get things right. George Oliver has written a foreword to the booklet. I can supply copies on receipt of 1.50.

A Guide for Teachers

This booklet for teachers is called Challenging RE. It sets out an exciting way of teaching RE that is suitable for all types of school. It also deals with how and why the law has been misinterpreted. I can supply copies on receipt of 1.50. Here is a quote from the work of Marius Felderhof which I have made use of in this booklet. Peter Dawson OBE has written a foreword to the booklet. Read it here

A Guide for Parents to RE and Collective Worship

This guide is especially for parents. It was first published in The Plain Truth magazine. The 1988 Education Reform Act allows children to be brought up in their parental faith within certain limitations. This guide informs parents of the law and what their rights are in relation to RE and collective worship. You may order a copy from me, price 1.50.


Here I explain why I called my site CHALLENGING RE This will tell you about my vision for RE.

Comment on the RE scene

The non-statutory national framework

A major submission to QCA from 4 academics
Brenda Watson
Martyn Relf, member of East Sussex SACRE.

Background to the National Framework

Here are two papers I wrote at earlier stages of the progress that has led to the framework:
Paper 1
Paper 2

Debate with Professor John Hull

RE and Globalisation

Here you can read a piece written by John Hull for his university website. And here you can read my reply.

The National Society Church Schools' Mag
This online magazine carried a debate recently between myself and John Hull on the law and RE. I opened up with a view of the law here. John Hull replied here My response is here. John Hull decided not to reply to the direct questions I put to him, thus giving me the last word!

Debate with Dr. Trevor Cooling

Read a synopsis of Cooling's view of RE, as expressed in Issues in Religious Education, edited by Alan Brown and Lynne Broadbent. Click here You can read my response here

Debate with Dr. Brenda Watson

Brenda Watson is one of the foremost contributors to RE thinking in the UK today. She has written a response to to my ideas about RE. Click here

Articles on the theory of RE

Is it impossible to state a theory of RE?

Even our best minds have difficulty giving an account of what RE is. Read about it here

A call to discipleship

The proper teaching of Christianity will include a call to discipleship. Sunday at Farmington is the title of a reflection on a sermon by the Bishop of Oxford. It includes references to important publications on RE written by Professor Edward Hulmes and Professor Basil Mitchell.

Research into the effect of teaching five or more religions

Here you can read about empirical research which calls into question the teaching of this number of religions. Why have we all been taken in by the idea that we could teach so many religions?
Click on the book!

Ideas for use in the classroom

Inspiration before going in

Here are some words to inspire you

The Christian heritage

I am using an excellent booklet with children in school which explains our Christian heritage. You can look it up here

The ten commandments

Here is an idea for teaching the Ten Commandments Try it!

Literary Criticism

And you might like to try some literary criticism of the biblical narrative that builds on Keystage 2 literacy strategies. Click here

Please send me your good ideas; I will put them up on my site for others to benefit.

Letting the children choose the text

I am grateful to Liz McCaul who sent this idea in. Click here

Here are some USEFUL EDUCATIONAL SITES you might like to visit:


Religious Education Council
Stapleford Centre
York RE Centre

Last updated on 29th October 2007

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