California has 743 prisoners on Death Row

A slightly disorganised article on the Independent at least clearly lets us know that about 743 prisoners in the state of California (USA) are on Death Row but that California has only used the death penalty on 13 prisoners since 1978. Keeping all these prisoners on Death Row, they’ve been handed the death penalty in court but haven’t been executed yet, costs the American taxpayer $4 billion which is £2,820,377,320!

A useful fact within the article is that death row inmates are waiting longer and longer to actually get the death penalty because DNA is repeatedly proving that people deemed guilty in the past were actually innocent. Last year alone, six death row inmates were cleared of wrongdoing. It’s anyone’s guess how many more wrongly convicted murderers are still there.



Becky Watts’ dad “I’d pull the lever myself” if death penalty available

The father of murdered schoolgirl Becky Watts said in a Newsnight interview that if the death penalty was available in the UK he’d pull the lever himself to kill his stepson, so that nobody else would feel the guilt of killing.

He explained how his family had been completely destroyed and justice still hadn’t been done. “I don’t think I’ve had justice. If they were going to hang him I would pull the lever so nobody else would have that guilt,” said Mr Galsworthy.

Saudi Arabia – pilgrimage destination

In a couple of weeks Year 9 students will be studying about Hajj; the Muslim pilgrimage to Makkah in Saudi Arabia which all Muslims hope to achieve at least once in their lifetime as part of the 5 Pillars. We also mention Saudi Arabia a couple of times in our GCSE classes when we talk about homosexuality, human rights, non-secular governments, women’s equality, capital punishment and prisons. So I thought it was time we had an in-depth study point here on our WordPress.

Here is where Saudi Arabia is located in the world:


Meanwhile this maps shows some of the important cities in Saudi Arabia:


On the Lonely Planet travel website it says its an amazing and beautiful country but incredibly difficult to get in to. Weather wise in November –March there are cooler temperatures make daytime weather bearable and nights surprisingly chilly. Whereas from April –October the daily temperatures are above 40°C and there is high humidity along the coast. This is when the month of Ramadan will fall which shows how tough it must be for Muslims to fast. All year round the Red Sea has excellent diving visibility but in the summer mornings dives are best.

Climatograph arabian leopard

Last week the British Prime Minister was making proud comments about the UK selling huge amounts of BAE defence equipment to Saudi Arabia on the same day that the EU Parliament voted for an arms embargo on the country. Embarrassing! Embargo means an official ban on trade or other commercial activity with a particular country. The reason the EU aren’t happy with the Saudis is their bombing of the Yemen, which is just to the south of the country. Why the Saudis are bombing the Yemen goes back to the divide which Year 8 students learnt about within Islam: the Sunni and Shia denominations. Saudi Arabia is a Sunni Muslim country whereas the Yemen has just been taken over by a Shia group called Houthi rebels. Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies believe that Iran (Shia) is behind what’s happening in the Yemen and so want to stop the rebels taking power and control.

That was all hitting the news last week and bubbling along without many people noticing but today there’s been more headlines created by Saudi Arabia. A Saudi man has been found guilty and sentenced to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes for proclaiming his atheism on social media. I think what has been most offensive to the Muslim government in Saudi Arabia has been his criticism of the prophets and Qur’an; unforgivable in Saudi law. If you are an atheist in Saudi Arabia you are seen as a terrorist as their law defines terrorism as “calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based”.



Useful films to watch for GCSE RS

Here are just a selection of films Year 11 might try to watch over the holidays to help them think about topics in our RS GCSE.


Cider House Rules Honored with two Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actor, Michael Caine, and Best Adapted Screenplay, John Irving, THE CIDER HOUSE RULES tells a heartwarming story about how far a young man must travel to find the place where he truly belongs! Homer Wells (Tobey Macguire) has lived nearly his entire life within the walls of St. Cloud’s Orphanage in rural Maine. Though groomed by its proprietor, Dr. Larch, to be his successor, Homer nonetheless feels the need to strike out on his own and experience the world outside. Then, while working at an apple orchard, Homer falls for the beautiful Candy (Charlize Theron) and learns some powerful lessons about love.

Vera Drake In 1950, in London, Vera Drake is a simple woman of a low-class but happy family. She works cleaning upper-class houses; her beloved husband is a mechanic and works with his brother in a repair shop; her son is a tailor; and her daughter tests and packs electric lamps. The helpful Vera is a very good and cooperative woman, helping her sick mother, a handicapped neighbor and whoever needs her. She also induces miscarriages in women who do not want to have children, for no payment. When a woman has complications with her intervention and goes to the hospital, the police investigate the occurrence…

Juno A whip-smart teen confronts an unplanned pregnancy by her classmate.


I can’t find a decent quality trailer  so this will have to do for The Life of David Gale When anti-death penalty activist David Gale is convicted and condemned to death for the murder of a colleague, reporter Bitsey Bloom sets out to learn the story behind Gale’s crime. What she finds challenges her belief in Gale’s guilt and, finally, in the justice system.

Dead Man Walking A nun, while comforting a convicted killer on death row, empathizes with both the killer and his victim’s families. Here’s also the Reconciliation scene near the end of the film.


This 2004 film The Future of Food can be watched in its entirety on YouTube; offering an investigation of genetically engineered food which is in the shops without you realising it. I’m squeezing in these TV programmes incase the thought of watching a whole documentary is just too much to stomach: Horizon: Goats with Spider Silk and a very short trailer for Genetic Engineering Intelligent Babies.


Hotel Rwanda Nominated for 3 Oscars, including for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Don Cheadle) and Best Original Screenplay. Hotel Rwanda is  based on real life events in 1994 Rwanda, when hotelier Paul Rusesabagina attempted to save his fellow citizens from the ravages of the Rwandan Genocide. The film, which has been called an African Schindler’s List, documents Rusesabagina’s acts to save the lives of his family and more than a thousand other refugees, by granting them shelter in the besieged Hôtel des Mille Collines. Hotel Rwanda explores genocide, political corruption, and the repercussions of violence.

Fog of War A film about the former US Secretary of Defense and the various difficult lessons he learned about the nature and conduct of modern war.

The Unknown Known This time about the former United States Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, who discusses his career in Washington D.C. from his days as a congressman in the early 1960s to planning the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The Interpreter Political intrigue and deception unfold inside the United Nations, where a U.S. Secret Service agent is assigned to investigate an interpreter who overhears an assassination plot.


Japanese Man Freed after 45 Years on Death Row

Phew, 45 years is a long time to be on death row when actually you aren’t guilty. When we study about crime and punishment in RE and History GCSE’s we debate the reasons for punishment and the different types of punishment. Is capital punishment fair and should we re-introduce it in the UK?

Japanese man freed from death row

This set of 6 short videos studies how capital punishment has changed through History: