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Notre Dame High School

Notre Dame
High School

Philosophy & Ethics (RS)

Why study Philosophy & Ethics

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Religious Studies (also known as Philosophy, Ethics & Developments in Christian Thought) is a fascinating subject at A level. It explores some of the most fundamental questions about life and helps you sharpen your skills in critical thinking, debate and persuasive writing – all skills which will be of great benefit to you in later life, whether you move on to higher education or the world of work.

The subject is essay based and requires a commitment to independent reading and research; working through often complex issues and being able to write persuasively, with reference to wider scholars and original texts.

  • Philosophy of Religion starts with a study of Ancient Greek thinking about the nature of existence, through the Middle Ages to modern arguments for and against the existence of God. 
  • Ethics considers a variety of approaches to ethical reasoning and applies these theories to a range of practical situations.  
  • Developments in Christian Thought is Christian theology and explores religion from the inside, using the methods, language and view of the world from the insider’s perspective.

Always relevant, the subject disciplines are suited to careers which demand attention to detail, empathy with other people’s views and the ability to argue fluently. People with qualifications in Religious Studies go on to a wide range of careers, such as law, the police and social services, health care professions, teaching, politics, and journalism.

Why our students like this course

‘It challenges you to evaluate your previously held assumptions and ideas…’

'An extremely beneficial A Level, as it hones and sharpens your analytical skills.  It challenges you to evaluate your previously held assumptions and ideas by introducing you to contrasting arguments from great thinkers from different eras.  It also enables you to gain insight into what motivates people to think and act as they do.  It provides the opportunity to question the integrity of one’s own values and actions and so develop objective critical thinking.'

Entry Requirements
GCSE’s in Religious Studies, or Philosophy and Ethics are valuable but not essential.  No religious beliefs are required, in fact a range of beliefs enhance the quality of discussion in the lessons.

Exam Board

Course Structure 

Y12 Half Term Paper 1: Philosophy Paper 2: Ethics Paper 3: Developments in Christian Thought
Autumn 1

Ancient philosophical influences (Plato and Aristotle)

Soul, mind and body

Normative Ethical Theories: Natural Law, Situation Ethics

Autumn 2

The Existence of God: Philosophical Arguments for and against

Normative Ethical Theories: Kantian Ethics and Utilitarianism

Spring 1

God and the World: Religious experience, and the problem of evil

Applied Ethics: Euthanasia, Business Ethics

Spring 2    

Human nature, death, and the afterlife

The person of Jesus Christ

Summer 1    

Knowledge of God through natural and revealed theology

Summer 2    

Christian moral principles and action

Recap, revision, and mock examination preparation


Y13 Half Term Paper 1: Philosophy Paper 2: Ethics Paper 3: Developments in Christian Thought
Autumn 1

Theological and Philosophical Developments on the nature of God and the concept of eternity

Ethical Language: Meta Ethics

Significant Ideas: Conscience

Autumn 2

Religious Language: Negative, Analogical or Symbolic

Twentieth Century Perspectives

Developments in Ethical Thought: Sexual ethics

Spring 1    

Religious pluralism, theology, and society

Spring 2    

Gender theology and society


The challenge of secularism, Liberation Theology and Marxism

Summer 1

Examination preparation: Retrieval and revision and examination skills focus.

Examination preparation: Retrieval and revision and examination skills focus.

Examination preparation: Retrieval and revision and examination skills focus.

Summer 2 Examinations Examinations Examinations


Revision Resources 

Our revision advice is available via each class' Google Classroom

  • 12B-PL Ethics Teacher CNE: yzpj3sr
  • 12BPL - mbnkqgz

Where does this subject lead me? 

This subject is very well thought of by universities.  Students often study the A Level alongside History, Politics, Sociology and English.  Those studying sciences find Philosophy and Ethics supports written and verbal communication.  Students can go on to study Philosophy or Theology at university and will benefit from it in medicine, law, education and politics.   

Further Advice

A Level Religious Studies FAQs

How is the course examined?

You will sit three exams at the end of the two-year course (summer of year 13). The exams are in Philosophy, Ethics and Developments in Christian Thought. In these exams you will have a list of four essay questions and will be tasked with completing three of them.

Component Marks Duration Weighting
Philosophy of religion (01)  120  2 hours  33⅓% 
Religion and ethics (02)  120  2 hours  33⅓% 
Developments in Christian Thought (03)  120  2 hours  33⅓% 

How am I assessed in this subject? We assess your progress by giving you essay-based questions. Essays are out of 40 marks and you are awarded marks for demonstrating knowledge (AO1) and analytical skills (AO2). You will need to be able to present a flow of argument that accurately explains ethical theory and philosophical argument in relation to and bring balance, highlighting your perspectives through careful and critical analysis.

How much work will I need to do each week? You have 9 hours timetabled over a two-week period for lessons with your teachers. There is a good deal of reading required for this course and that means you will need and are expected to attend classes prepared. That means reading the textbook and any additional materials your teacher may deem necessary or helpful to you prior to coming to the lesson. You will also be required to commit to completing any homework set, and you may need to add extra time to your independent study. As a rule, and at a minimum, for every hour spent in the classroom you will need to spend an hour outside of the classroom.

Do I need to have achieved a specific grade in RE to take this subject?

Whilst it is very useful to have a background knowledge in Religious Studies, we do not ask specifically for a certain grade in this topic. However, it is imperative that you are competent in essay writing and scholarly reading constructing a coherent written argument, analysing key ideas and arguments, and reaching a justified conclusion.

Is this course based in Christian teaching?

The main religious focus of the course is the Judaeo-Christian philosophical and theological approaches to God and the world. There is opportunity to discuss other world views, but this is general focus of the course.

What careers benefit from the study of Religious Studies?

Law, Lecturing, Teaching, Journalism, Publishing, Local Government, Marketing, Civil Service, Psychotherapy


  • Good interpersonal skills: It is very important within Philosophy and Ethics to develop life skills that you will use every day to communicate and interact with other people, both individually and in groups. These include empathy and compassion, intrigue and questioning skills as well as a critical and philosophical approach to key ideas and opinions.
  • Team working: Throughout Philosophy and Ethics you will work collaboratively with groups of students in order to achieve goals.
  • Problem solving: Philosophy and Ethics focuses upon discovering, analysing and solving problems especially dealing with current ethical issues or finding solutions to philosophical questions.
  • Time management and ability to work to deadlines: These are very important within Religious Studies. The course can be very demanding so you must organise your time sufficiently in order to cope with the requirements.
  • Good verbal and written communication skills: A lot of time during Religious Studies is spent discussing and debating important questions, developing an open mind and listening skills as well as mature language and providing you ways to support your ideas. Written skills are intensely developed throughout the year with specific focus on written language, essay writing skills and development of a written argument.
  • Analytical skills: Philosophy develops the ability to gather information (often through research), articulate, analyse, solve complex problems and make decisions based on the research or information found.
  • Independent learning: A key skill in Philosophy is developing students’ ability to think, act and pursue their own studies autonomously, often through independent work and research.

Is there enrichment to in-class learning?

There is an annual trip to Emmanuel College, Cambridge University, to attend a series of lectures, organised by Academy Conferences. These lectures are presented by esteemed and published scholars and philosophers and focus on the enrichment of the A Level course.

Contact a Teacher 

If you have any subject specific questions that you'd like to ask.  You are very welcome to contact the relevant Head of Subject.  To find their email address click on Teaching Staff.  For general enquiries, contact the 6th Form Team.

Induction Resources

Watch the presentation below to help you prepare before starting the course in September.

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