Research Projects

Research Projects

Current and past research projects.

Current Projects

Past Projects 

Little research has been undertaken investigating the influence of Christian-ethos secondary schools on the spiritual development of their students. This research project aims to redress that situation by investigating the nature of the spiritual influence of ten leading Christian-ethos schools and generating case studies of those schools that others can draw upon. Christian-ethos schools are those that aspire to be distinctively Christian whilst serving a diverse student population from Christian and other religious backgrounds, and those of no religious affiliation. The term ‘ leading’ describes schools that have been selected to participate in the project based on the presentation made in their application as to how they approach the spiritual development of their pupils and evidence as to the success of their approach. The research will tell the stories of how these schools promote the positive spiritual development of their students. 

This two-year research project (2014-16) is an initiative set up by the National Institute of Christian Education Research (NICER) at Canterbury Christ Church University, working in association with Warwick Religions and Education Research Unit (WRERU) at the University of Warwick. 

For further information, please contact the administrator:

Elizabeth Melville -

Ten Leading Schools Project Update
Research Consultation Day 15th September 2015 at University of Warwick

What Features of Christian ethos secondary schools contribute to the spiritual development of students?

This was the question that the Ten Leading Schools (TLS) research team (National Institute of Christian Education Research (NICER), Canterbury Christ Church University, working in association with Warwick Religions and Education Research Unit (WRERU), University of Warwick) set out to explore in a research consultation day with over forty representatives from Ten Leading Christian-ethos secondary schools and a number of other interested key figures from the field of Christian education... read more »

A unique national research project to investigate the impact of a distinctively Christian ethos on pupils’ learning has been launched by the National Institute for Christian Education Research (NICER) at Canterbury Christ Church University.

Professor Trevor Cooling, Director of NICER at Canterbury Christ Church University, said: “This will be the only piece of national research to investigate the impact of secondary schools systematically implementing a distinctively Christian ethos in their approaches to teaching and learning. The Church brands its schools as distinctively Christian but research-wise we need to know the impact this has on students, schools and the classroom.

“The research will entail intensive work with up to five secondary schools from various locations around the UK which are sponsored by Christian organisations, including the Church of England.

“By working with staff on developing their understanding of the distinctively Christian ethos of their school and at how it might influence their approach to learning and teaching, we'll then be able to assess the impact it has on staff, students and parents."

The overall aim is to generate evidence that assesses the impact of the Christian approach to teaching and learning developed by Transforming Lives, a previous three-year research-based development project into a Christian approach to teaching different subjects. A training toolkit for teachers and student teachers will also be created.

Downloads for schools wishing to particpate:

'Learning for Life: Exploring Core Values' has been the largest single contribution to date in the UK to the field of character education, involving responses from over 70,000 participants, in a coherent exploration of the subject of character across all the phases of education and into employment from pre-school to post-graduate (3yrs – 25 yrs). The research data was gathered by interview, questionnaire, focus group and group discussion.

The study has sought to contribute to the widening debate on the development of character and character education; competence without character is unlikely to survive under stress. Know-how without values can be a dangerous thing and qualifications without the quality of self- knowledge ill prepares individuals for modern life. 'Learning for Life' provides much needed evidence and insights on what should now become the objectives of education.

For further information and to download the Learning for Life research reports please visit the Learning for Life website.

The aim of this research was to examine the way Christian student RE teachers understand the relationship between their faith and professional issues in relation to objectivity and the neutral teaching of RE in the classroom. Read more

The data was collected from three universities with a Christian foundation in the South of England. The main findings of the project were that:

The majority of all student RE teachers believe that pupil knowledge of their faith or personal beliefs can be problematic in the classroom and that the majority of Christian RE teachers said they would either not share their faith with pupils or do so under qualified circumstances.

The majority of Christian student RE students thought that sharing their faith could be unprofessional and the majority of agnostic or atheist students believed that sharing their lack of belief or their questions about the validity of faith could be appositive contribution to the lesson.

Summary of recommendations from the research:

  • A secular, atheist or agnostic belief position in the classroom should be recognised by all students as an identifiable belief position rather than as a neutral stance.
  • Christian student RE teachers may need support in relation to their faith in terms of their experiences on school placements.
  • All student RE teachers may benefit from being encouraged to problematise and critically reflect on key assumptions about the nature of objectivity and neutrality as a way of considering a wider range of pedagogies in the classroom.

Download a PDF of the report Christian student RE teachers, objectivity and professionalism

In England, the academic success of many Anglican schools has been highlighted, in recent years, by Ofsted Reports and by DfES Performance Tables. There is a perception among many parents and the media that levels of academic achievement in some Anglican schools are higher than those in local education authority schools. Read more

Differences in pupil admission policies are often perceived as the principal cause of achievement variations between different kinds of school and consequently some have suggested that Anglican schools may do better because they attract better-educated pupils from more economically stable families; that they are guilty of 'skimming the cream' – that they exercise a degree of academic and social selectivity bias in admissions. In short, that they are guilty of social exclusion. The evidence in support of these arguments is often anecdotal and potentially unreliable. This research studies the academic performance of Anglican schools and tries to understand the reasons for their perceived success or failure.

Download a PDF of the report Statistical Survey of the Attainment and Achievement of Pupils in Church of England Schools

The aim of this research was to explore student teachers' attitudes towards character education and their experience of values and character education on their courses and in school. Read more

The main findings from the project are summarised below:

  • Student teachers consider the task of influencing the values and behaviour of pupils as integral to the role of the teacher before they begin their training.
  • The majority of students are aware of some input on their courses in relation to this area but training and discussion about character or values is not uniform between courses or institutions.
  • Student teachers believe that there are a variety of factors whose influence on pupils’ values is greater than their own. Despite this belief student teachers persist in the perception that teachers should be involved in values and character education.
  • There is a difference between the approach to values education between students completing a teacher training course at a Christian institution and those at a non Christian institution.
  • The majority of student teachers think their role is to encourage pupils to form their own values, however they also think that pupils should be encouraged to accept the ethos of their school and that there are common values shared by society more generally.
  • Student teachers’ views on values education are sometimes contradictory.
  • There is no common practice in relation to the formation of pupils’ character or values education in schools in relation to teacher training. The majority of student teachers in this study experienced and observed character and values education whilst the minority did not.
  • The majority of students in both institutions thought that there should be greater provision of opportunities to study character education on their courses 

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Last edited: 21/01/2020 11:14:00