What is TPE and why is it important?

One of the things I am sometimes asked by parents, especially if their child has just moved into the Upper School, is, ‘What exactly is this new TPE subject on their timetable?’ It’s a perfectly understandable question and, though I say that this stands for Theology, Philosophy and Ethics, a good deal more explanation is needed.

Despite the rather grand (and a little forbidding) title, TPE is a subject that I find that the children in Year 6, 7 and 8 engage with quickly and naturally. It builds on the Religious Education syllabus that is studied up to the end of Year 5 but broadens to attempt to answer challenging questions about, for example, the ultimate purpose of life, beliefs about God, the nature of reality, issues of what is ethically right and wrong, and what it means to be human.

The curriculum allows pupils to engage with some of the greatest thinkers in history, from ancient philosophers to 20th century moralists. We explore religious texts and beliefs that challenge the children’s preconceived ideas of life, identity and the world in which they find themselves. The aim is to give students the knowledge and understanding to ask deep questions and give them the tools and vocabulary to start to form their own answers to the complex questions that have occupied religious and philosophical thinkers for thousands of years.

Humanity has followed various religions and belief systems over thousands of years and developed a wide range of ethical codes of behaviour which underpin almost all aspects of life in the world today. Religious belief and philosophical thought inspire heartfelt commitment, and generate intense discussion and debate. For everyone who wants to learn about and understand the world around them, the nature of belief, and the actions it provokes, calls for serious consideration and genuine understanding.