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Dr Bill Gent

Bill Gent has education degrees from Oxford (1973), Birmingham (1982) and Warwick (2006) Universities. It was during his time as a teacher in Birmingham that he developed a particular interest in issues connected with collective worship in schools. Having published in this field, he became a popular speaker at conferences, working closely for a time with Professor John Hull. He moved into advisory work in Redbridge, Outer London, in 1988 where he was able to develop his approach to religious education, writing a number of books for teachers with his wife. His experiences as an Ofsted-trained inspector also kindled an interest in spirituality in education, particularly in finding the right vocabulary through which professional dialogue might take place. His contact with the local religious communities in Redbridge eventually provided a focus for his doctoral research. Using fieldwork and life-story methods, he carried out research into the supplementary education provided by a large Redbridge mosque, including a detailed investigation of a particular group of boys who were undertaking hifz (memorising the Qur’ān). In 2006, Bill became editor of REsource, the journal of the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE).

Since retiring from full-time local authority work in August 2008, Bill divides his working time between:

  • continuing with his reading and research into aspects of Islamic education, particularly Qur’anic memorisation and recitation. He has given papers at a number of international conferences and gave a lecture on ‘Inside the world of British mosque supplementary classes’ as part of the 2009 public lecture series organised by the Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK at Cardiff University (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGq2W6SDAtc). He has also carried out a further research project into the roles and lives of huffaz (those who have memorised the Qur’ān) within the English Muslim community

  • editing the Resource journal (and its successor Professional REflection) for which he was awarded the prestigious Shap Award in 2012 in recognition of its valuable contribution to religion in education;

  • taking a lead role in a number of national initiatives such as, in 2012, chairing the expert panel during the opening phase of the RE Council’s reviews of RE in England;

  • serving on a number of organisations. He is a member of the NATRE Executive, an advisory board member of the charity Compassion in Education, and is an associate member of the International Seminar of Religious Education and Values (ISREV);

  • acting as a language- and proof-reader for a number of publishers, including Waxmann in Germany;

  • developing international links. He is a member of an international group of researchers with an interest in how Muslims young people relate to both Islamic and state educational systems, and also hosts two groups of Norwegian university students who visit Redbridge schools and places of worship twice each year;

  • speaking at conferences and running workshops on current issues relating to religious education and related fields;

  • contributing to school improvement as a governor of a special school and a trustee of a multi-academy trust in north-east London;

  • reviewing and peer reviewing for a number of journals.

    Selected publications

    Gent, B (1984) ‘Resources for the arterial assembly: a review article’ in British Journal of Religious Education, 6:2, 1984, 98-102

    Gent, B (1989) School Worship: Perspectives, Principles and Practice, Derby, Christian Education Movement

    Gent, B (1993) ‘Worship and assemblies’ in Erricker (ed), Teaching World Religions, Heinemann Educational, 30-33

    Lovelace, A & Gent, B (1995) Teachers’ Handbook to Breaking the Mould: A New Look at School Worship, London, BBC Education

    Gent, B & L (1997) Curriculum Bank Religious Education: Key Stage 1, Leamington Spa, Scholastic

    Gent, B & L (1997) Curriculum Bank Religious Education: Key Stage 2, Leamington Spa, Scholastic

    Gent, B (2000) ‘SACREs & the Learning Society’, REsource, 23:1, 16-19

    Gent, B (2002) ‘Spiritual Development & School life: Finding the Words’, REsource, 24:2, 4-7

    Gent, B (2003) ‘School Improvement & the Life of the Spirit’, REsource, 25:3, 12-16

    Gent, B (2005) ‘Intercultural learning: Education and Islam – a case study’ in Jackson & McKenna (Eds), Intercultural Education and Religious Plurality, The Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief, 43-52

    Gent, B (2006), 'The Educational Experiences of British Muslims: Some Life-Story Images', Muslim Education Quarterly, 23: 3 & 4, 33-42

    Gent B (2011) ‘But You Can’t retire as a Hafiz: fieldwork within a British hifz class’, Muslim Education Quarterly, 24: 1 & 2, 55-63

    Gent, B (2011) ‘The world of the British hifz class student: observations, findings & implications for education & further research’, British Journal of Religious Education, 33:1, 3-15

    Gent, B (2013) ‘Muslim Education and the Hifz Process: Some Images & Issues’ in Miller, J, O’Grady, K & McKenna (Eds) Religion in Education: Innovation in International Research, 26-40 (New York & Abingdon: Routledge)

    Gent, B (2014) ‘Hifz & Huffaz within the Islamic Tradition: religious, cultural & educational considerations’ in Parker, S G, Freathy, R J K, & Francis, L J (Eds), History, Remembrance & Religious Education (Oxford: Peter Lang)

    Gent, B (Forthcoming) ‘The Hidden Olympians: the role of huffaz in the English Muslim community’, Contemporary Islam: Dynamics of Muslim Life

    Gent, B (2015) ‘Words of Wisdom over Time’, RE Today, 32: 2, 10-11

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