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Christian Faith in English Church Schools

Research Conversations with Classroom Teachers


Trevor Cooling, Beth Green, Andrew Morris and Lynn Revell

Church schools are booming, becoming increasingly popular with parents across the world. However, research shows that teachers face considerable challenges as they try to offer a distinctively Christian education within a church school context. This book is the account of a qualitative research project investigating the joys and difficulties experienced in English church school classrooms. The research team spent a year working alongside fourteen teachers from Catholic and Church of England secondary schools, introducing them to What If Learning, a pedagogical initiative designed by an international team of educationalists to support teachers in developing Christian approaches to teaching and learning. The highs and lows of the teachers’ experience are documented in this book and the lessons that emerge are explored in detail. The findings of the project are highly significant for all those involved with church school education and point towards valuable new ways of thinking about Christian faith and learning.
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Chapter 2: What If Learning and Church School Education


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What If Learning and Church School Education

What if education was primarily concerned with shaping our hopes and passions – our visions of ‘the good life’ – and not merely about the dissemination of data and information as inputs to our thinking? What if the primary work of education was the transforming of our imagination rather than the saturation of our intellect? And what if this had as much to do with our bodies as with our minds? What if education wasn’t first and foremost about what we know, but about what we love?

— JAMES K.A. SMITH, 2009, 18

Church School Education: The English Context

Successive Acts of Parliament have recognized and confirmed a particular and unique arrangement of a state maintained system of public educational provision in England. The concept embodied in legislation is of separate but collaborating bodies in the form of Church, representing a voluntary interest, and the local education authority, representing the State. What has become known as the ‘dual system’ has its legislative roots in the Education Acts of 1870, 1902 and 1944, the latter being the most influential, and draws its intellectual rationale from an understanding, now incorporated into international human rights legislation, that parents, as the prime educators of their children, should be allowed to bring up their children in accordance with their religious convictions. More recently in England this concept of partnership between Church and State in providing...

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