National Institute for Christian Education Research (NICER)

Ten Leading Schools – Project Update.


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 (see notes below).

The key objectives of the TLS research consultation were:

  • to profile the public impact of the current research, which aims to improve Christian-ethos secondary schools approach to the little understood area of spiritual development
  • to bring together the ten Christian-ethos secondary schools that are working with us as co-researchers, to explore and consolidate with them, what has been learnt from the research

Professor Leslie Francis (Director of WRERU) opened the day with a warm welcome to the University of Warwick and an introduction to the TLS research project. Dr Ann Casson (Research Fellow at NICER) presented the qualitative research strand, highlighting some of the main themes that are emerging from the generation of data in the ten Christian-ethos secondary schools:

  • Spiritual leaders/role models in school
  • Provision for a time for reflection in Collective Worship and Religious Education
  • Creation of Christian environment and inclusive communities
  • The place of prayer and encounters with the Christian scriptures

Professor Leslie Francis presented the results of the quantitative survey which had taken place with all year 9 & 10 students in the Ten Leading Schools in spring 2015. He set this research in the context of wider studies that have taken place over the last 30 years. The findings show that the Ten Leading Schools represent,

a good mix of Christian-ethos secondary schools, working in a wide range of different contexts and across a wide range of students. Some of these schools are clearly working effectively with students well-grounded in Christian beliefs and values, while other schools are working effectively with students drawn largely from non-Christian backgrounds.

The conclusion from the survey data is that there is great diversity within the Ten Leading Christian-ethos secondary schools, yet overall they are making a positive contribution to the positive spiritual development of students.

One of the key objectives of the day was to consult with our partners in the Ten Leading Christian-ethos secondary schools and key figures in the field of Christian education. In small group discussions the areas of particular interest from the research interim findings were identified: spiritual leadership; question of implicit or explicit Christian-ethos; involvement with the wider Christian community; the value of the sense of community within schools; pupils’ relationship to God; diversity of Christianity within the schools; encounters with Christian scriptures in school; how great RE makes all pupils think about their sense of meaning and purpose in life; and the significance of RE & Collective Worship.

Some interesting opportunities and challenges provided by the research project were highlighted:

  • The value of networking and the prospect for future collaboration
  • The opportunity to take time out to reflect on spiritual development in school
  • The need to question more deeply approaches to spiritual development
  • The challenge to recognise the importance of the induction in the school values for all staff and for school leadership in this area
  • The need to explore a greater variety of opportunities for spiritual development
  • The importance of listening more to the student voice
  • The challenge to provide space in school for all pupils to explore & develop spirituality, a space for student’s personal clarification and expression of identity and purpose

The feedback from the afternoon workshops was very positive, indeed, many of the non-school based delegates expressed an interest in further collaboration with the TLS research project.

The final findings of the project will be published in 2016.


For further information on the Ten Leading Schools Research project please contact the administrator: Elizabeth Melville –

The Ten Leading Schools research team would like to thank their partners the Ten Leading Christian-ethos secondary schools for their on-going support of the research: Abbey Grange Church of England Academy, Leeds; Archbishop Tenison’s C.E. High School, Croydon; Bishop Justus Church of England School, Bromley; Bishop Luffa School, Chichester; Blue Coat School, Oldham; The John Wallis Academy, Ashford; The Nottingham Emmanuel School; Oasis Academy Coulsdon; St Joseph’s Catholic & Anglican High School, Wrexham; St Mary Redcliffe & Temple School, Bristol.

The following organisations were represented at the consultation day: Bible Society, CARE for Scotland, Catholic Education Service, Christian Schools Trust, Church of England Education Office, Manchester Church of England diocese, Oasis Learning Community, Politics & International Studies (PAIS), University of Warwick, RE Today services, Scripture Union, Warwick Religions & Education Research Unit (WRERU), University of Winchester, Youth For Christ.

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