Religious Ethos Doesn’t Raise Standards
Faith schools in the news, again. This time in the Church Times. To quote:
A report published yesterday by Theos, a think-tank, and the Stapleford Centre, found that there was little evidence to support the widely held view that a Christian ethos made a difference to pupils.
This should be of no surprise to anyone who has followed the topic, but it is good to see a religious think-tank admitting it. The – often real – differences between faith schools and their community rivals is due to the ability of the FS to select its pupils. There is also – and I am complicit in this – the self-selection by parents. This has been gone over many times, so I don’t want to re-hash it.
The article is interesting, however, for some of the other statements:
There was some evidence that students at … schools with a Christian ethos generally displayed a more positive attitude towards religion and better spiritual health. But the available evidence for either was “very limited”, the report said.
Leaving aside what “spiritual health” is and whether it actually means anything at all, it is interesting that this pushing of a Christian Ethos (or we might say “indoctrination”) is having little effect on the attitudes of pupils. I can think of two possible reasons for this:
- The report concerns new academies with a Christian background. These are likely to be run by a mainstream Church – probably the CofE – and as such are less likely to be engaged in aggressive indoctrination. Many CofE schools in my experience are not particularly “churchy”. It would be interesting to compare with Muslim or Roman Catholic schools
- The proselytizing of the schools may actually have a negative effect. I have heard Christopher Hitchens remark that religion in schools is a great way to produce atheists. Again, this is anecdotal, but it would be good to see further research.
It will be interesting to see if this story has any political impact.