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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 8: Theological Issues for the Churches


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Theological Issues for the Churches

A Fundamental Challenge

In Chapter 2, we noted the aspiration of both the Church of England and the Catholic Church that their schools should provide a distinctive education for their students. The Church of England’s Chadwick Report referred to this as a ‘brand’ (Archbishops’ Council, 2012, 3). In the Catholic system it is often described as the ‘Catholicity’ of the school (Casson, 2013), which Professor of Catholic Education Gerald Grace (drawing on Pierre Bourdieu) defines as ‘the distinctive spiritual, religious and cultural habitus in which the presence of God is encountered’ (2002, 207).

In this research, our intention was to explore whether the What If Learning approach ‘worked’ in the sense of offering our fourteen teachers a constructive and intelligible way for them to implement this aspiration for distinctiveness. The insights that we gained suggest that the approach does appear to work when teachers understand how being distinctively Christian is directly relevant to their core professional responsibility of promoting learning in their subject discipline. Classroom examples of this were offered in Chapter 4. However the approach does not appear to work when the teachers are unable to integrate the aspiration to be distinctive with their conception of their professional role as pedagogical leaders in their different subjects. This was discussed in detail in Chapter 5. Our conclusion is that this presents a theological challenge for the two Churches, because teachers who...

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