Religious Studies

Head of Department: Sarah McDonald


Alison Baker, Rev Chris Briggs (The Chaplain) and Pippa Simou

Religious and philosophical ideas must be understood in their context. Apart from teaching our pupils to learn to think and to enjoy the dialogue of competing world views, the aim of the Department is to develop critical thinking, facilitate ideas and to understand the historical root of these ideas.

The Department's motto is: “What you think and believe affects how you live your life.” This is because our beliefs and ideas, religious or not, influence the kind of people we become.

The Department has five members of staff: Rev Chris Briggs, School Chaplain, who teaches Lower School and Middle School, along with his chaplaincy duties; and all others teach Middle School & Sixth Form. All pupils from Lower School to Fifths at Haileybury study RS throughout their school career.

Lower School

With only one lesson a week, the Lower School pupils have to keep up a fair pace. They study philosophy of religion which gives them the chance to ask all those difficult questions. Other topics include studying Judaism, Sikhism and the life and impact of Jesus Christ.

Middle School

In Removes, pupils undertake a study of Eastern Religions focusing on Hinduism & Buddhism. In Middles, all pupils begin their full course GCSE studies, by studying the religions of Islam and Christianity. In Fifths, pupils continue this and also study the Gospel of Luke.

Philosophy and ethics in the Sixth Form

Sixth Form interest in RS is also growing - we have a healthy number of pupils who opt to study Philosophy and Ethics. In 2011, the RS Department achieved the highest amount of A* grades (7) across the School.

The Philosophy course is stimulating and looks at the five classic arguments "proving" God's existence and the three standard arguments against the existence of God. On the Ethics course, we spend time arguing our way through various ethical theories, all of which impinge on our own moral decision making. Have you ever wondered, for example, what makes a person "good"? Should we strive to be virtuous, fulfil our purpose, or simply avoid pain and maximise pleasure? Most of our lessons are spent arguing through these important ideas.

The IB curriculum at Haileybury offers Philosophy, which is an interesting and wide-ranging course. The key difference to the A Level course is that more time is spent discussing what it is to be human. Are you a brain in a tank, is your life part of a construct or is your existence an illusion? Is truth relative or are there absolutes? Yes, the same old questions keep coming round. Much of the IB Philosophy course dovetails well with the Theory of Knowledge section of the IB.

An increasing number of pupils are now reading the subject at university. We have an excellent track record of sending pupils to premier universities, including Oxbridge, to read Philosophy-related degrees. Philosophy is highly regarded at university as it teaches critical and analytical thinking; one third of the current Government ministers has a Philosophy-rerlated degree.


Most years the RS Department teams up with the Classics and/or Italian Departments for a four-night spectacular trip to Rome. In 2007 and 2009, Mrs Baker and Rev Briggs organised a 10-day spiritual adventure to Northern India. The next scheduled trip to India is for Easter 2013. If any current Middle or Fifth Form pupils are interested in the trip, they should contact Mrs Baker.

""I find philosophy fascinating as it is a subject that makes you think deeply and wonder about the mysteries of everything." - Alejandro Roldan

The Chapel

International Baccalaureate

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