Report studies impact of Christian ethos schools

A major new report published today on the impact of schools with a Christian ethos argues that more research is required to determine their effect on pupils.

The report, published by theology think tank Theos and the Stapleford Centre, offers a comprehensive review of research over the last decade. It finds that a lack of evidence means very little can be concluded about the impact of schools with a Christian ethos upon their pupils. The launch of the report is especially timely given that nearly a third of maintained schools in England and Wales have a religious character.

In its review of existing research, the report finds that students at many schools with a Christian ethos generally display a more positive attitude towards religion and better spiritual health. In addition, there is some evidence to support the claim that students at maintained church schools achieve more highly. This is not due to their selecting pupils who are more likely to achieve. There is a real ‘school effect’. However, the report also concludes that the available research evidence is very limited.

In the absence of clear data, the report proposes a framework for future research which addresses three key areas: i) the nature and purpose of a Christian ethos school, ii) the relationship between a school's structures, processes and its Christian ethos and iii) the impact upon pupils attending the school.

Commenting on the report, Paul Woolley, Director of Theos said: "This report is a wake-up call for all those involved in the 'faith' sector of education. I strongly support Christian ethos schools, but if we're to properly understand the impact that they’re having on pupils, new research is essential."

Trevor Cooling, the report's Research Supervisor added: "Given the high level of investment in Christian ethos schools on the part of government, churches, religious organisations and parents, the lack of available evidence is a cause of concern. The report's key recommendation is clear. We need research which tells us exactly what difference is made by planned interventions in individual schools where those interventions are clearly related to the Christian ethos of the school. Only then will we begin to understand the impact these schools have on pupils."

The report was written by Dr Elizabeth Green, a graduate of Oxford University. She taught at secondary level for a number of years and holds an MA in Education Management from King’s College, London. Dr Green has just completed a DPhil in Education at Green Templeton College, Oxford.

Theos is a public theology think tank. It was launched in November 2006 with the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor.

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