Some of our Year 9 Religious Studies students have submitted entries to a national competition run by The National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE).  The competition is entitled, "Lessons that make a difference", and invites students to reflect on a Religious Studies lesson which has had an impact on them. Here is an extract from an entry from one of our Year 9 pupils:

Recently, I went on holiday to Istanbul, the capital city of Turkey.  Over 90% of its population is Islamic which meant there were mosques at every corner. I visited the Hagia Sophia, an amazingly designed mosque built in 537 AD.  I covered my hair and took off my shoes and entered through the Imperial Gate.  I was speechless.  This building was unlike any I’d seen before.  It was huge and lined with hundreds of lights, its dome 180 feet high. I could understand why people might feel awed and inspired in such a beautiful and vast building. I was able to recognise features of the mosque which I had learned about in RS, for example, the minarets and the separate areas for men and women to pray.  I also went to the Topkapi Palace where some of the holiest relics of Islam are displayed, I saw Mohammed’s swords, an impression of his footprint and some hairs from his beard.  These are contained in the Pavilion of the Holy Mantel, which is a place of pilgrimage for Muslims.  As I walked around it the muezzin recited the call to prayer.  It was very atmospheric, and I was glad I had learned about it in my Religious Studies lesson, as I could understand what I was seeing and the significance it had for Muslims.  Overall, my Religious Studies lesson opened my eyes to the faith and culture of Islam, and this in turn enriched my trip abroad at half term.  I now realise that what I learn in a classroom in West London can be relevant to the world at large. One thing I will never forget is walking around the Grand Bazaar, an enormous covered market with over 4000 stalls.  As I was looking at the jewels and rugs, I heard the distant call to prayer and all the shopkeepers came and laid their prayer mats down and took a few minutes to kneel and say their prayers.  It made me think of when we do the ‘pause’ at St James and the importance of a few minutes of mindfulness throughout the day.