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Religious Studies and Philosophy

"We achieve great results at Haileybury and many pupils go on to read Philosophy at premier universities. Philosophy is an active subject and we are a department of learners. Philosophy is in the books we read, the films we watch, and much more besides – we love to share our thoughts and questions with our pupils."

Sarah McDonald Head of Religious Studies and Philosophy

Religious Studies and Philosophy

Religious Studies and Philosophy at Haileybury

Both Religion and Philosophy are significant sources of inspiration and self-discovery in equal measure. As subjects, they inform ourselves, our history and our political outlook; they also have a profound influence on topics as varied as Literature, Art, Economics and Business.

At Haileybury, with its emphasis on service and giving back to the community, we view the study of both subjects as fundamental to our pupils' development, whether studied in general at Lower School or in depth at Sixth Form.


In the first year of Lower School, pupils study the Old Testament and Judaism, before moving on to the New Testament and Sikhism in the second year. Removes explore Hinduism and Buddhism as well as a critical analysis of the effect of faith in the life of an individual.

The GCSE course starts in the Middle School, with pupils working towards OCR exams. During this two year course we undertake a detailed study of Christianity and Islam.

For AS and A2 Level, the topics are Philosophy of Religion and Religious Ethics, while International Baccalaureate (IB) pupils study Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion and Plato’s Republic. HL pupils will also study Religious Ethics.


Study trips form a major part of our enrichment programme. As well as local trips, such as our Sixth Form conference or our KS3 outings to London places of worship, we also organise more structured experience excursions. In 2014/15 for example, pupils enjoyed a joint trip with the History and Economics Departments to Russia, visiting Moscow and St Petersburg; and we are also planning a religious excursion adventure to India during the Easter holidays.

The department also runs a Philosophy Society which meets once a month. These evenings include a lecture, discussion and hot chocolate! We have welcomed a variety of speakers, including Mr Michael Wilcockson, and we have explored topics beyond the syllabus. Some of our most popular sessions have included ‘Philosophy, Physics & the universe’ and ‘Doing business differently: an ethical approach to the City’. An all-day Philosophy Study Day, featuring lectures and debates based on the A Level course, is led each year by Candle Conferences and Dr Peter Vardy.

In addition, pupils take part in essay competitions, including the Erasmus Competition and Trinity College Cambridge Essay Competition. The Department delivers great results and many pupils go on the read Philosophy at premier universities.

Head of Department

Sarah McDonald MA PGCE MEd is Head of the Religious Studies and Philosophy Department. She grew up in Northern Ireland and read Biblical Studies at St Andrews University. After that she studied for a PGCE and MEd at Homerton College, Cambridge. She previously taught at St Albans High School for Girls and is particularly interested in Philosophy, History and current affairs.

Teaching staff

Sarah's team at Haileybury includes: Alison Baker MA PGCE HM Hailey; Chris Briggs BD AKC PGCE Senior Chaplain; Nicola Dawson BA QTS(Teach First); and Pippa Simou BABSc PGCE.


To find out more about our recent results in Religious Studies and Philosophy, please click on the link below:

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