Press Release

13 March 2014

What if PE can help students learn to be an encouraging coach as well as a determined competitor? What if Design and Technology lessons taught pupils how to serve the community? What if learning map projections was about promoting fairness in the world?

The phrase, ‘What if’, is commonly asked in many aspects of life. The question usually refers to looking at past events and wondering whether if circumstances had been different things would still be the same today? However, recent research looks to use this phrase for the future of learning by asking: What If fundamental Christian virtues were implemented in Church schools to change the pupils’ experience of education?

The What If Learning project is a distinctively Christian approach to learning developed by an international partnership of academics and teachers from Canterbury Christ Church University, Transforming Lives UK, The Anglican Education Commission Australia and The Kuyers Institute USA.

With one third of schools in England being Church schools, the What If Learning project aims to allow teachers to introduce ways of encouraging pupils to question how their everyday learning in different subjects can be shaped by Christian ethos.

Trevor Cooling, Professor of Christian Education in the National Institute of Christian Education Research at Canterbury Christ Church University, has worked with Church schools across the country, including in Canterbury and Rochester dioceses, to show how the project can be used in schools.

The project can be used by primary and secondary schools to provide a supportive teaching structure, or to simply form the basis for idea generation that may just spark creativity around homework or projects.

Professor Cooling said: “The exciting thing about the What If approach is that it is focused on the core activity of schools, namely learning. Teachers in Church schools can now develop their own distinctively Christian approach to pedagogy.

“As an academic and former school teacher I am delighted to see academic research making such a practical contribution to Christian education in schools.”

Matthew Tate, who is studying for a Doctorate in Education at Christ Church, is also the Head Teacher of Trinity School in Sevenoaks, the only free school in the UK led by churches of different denominations. The school opened in September 2013 and joined more than 170 free schools in England that have opened in the last two years.

Matthew has applied the What If approach to his school and has found that the fundamental principles and values in the style of teaching have been adopted with open arms by the pupils. Matthew said: “I wanted the ethos of the school to be in everything that we do here and not just in assemblies and tutor groups.

What If Learning provides a way of looking at the curriculum to ensure it has academic rigor whilst allowing us to think about the contribution the curriculum has to developing children spiritually and morally.”

“We have found it accessible for teachers without faith too, as they can see how this approach allows us to develop empathetic, compassionate students with leadership skills that as a teacher and a school we are proud of.”

Full information about What If can be found at

Notes to Editor

Canterbury Christ Church University

Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.

With nearly 20,000 students across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.

  • 94% of our most recent UK graduates were in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.
  • We are the number one choice for local people looking to study at university in Kent (2012 UCAS).
  • We are one of the South East’s largest providers of education, training and skills leading to public service careers.

*2011/12 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey


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Last edited: 14/12/2018 22:16:00