• Spiritual formation in secondary education: An investigation into how children use collective worship within secondary education

      Graham, Elaine; Llewellyn, Dawn; Birkinshaw, Stephen J. (University of Chester, 2018-09-03)
      The past thirty years has witnessed significant changes in the practice of collective worship in UK schools, although the statutory requirements relating to collective worship have not changed since 1988. Predominantly, collective worship in schools is managed and delivered by adults. However I became aware, from my professional context and practice as a chaplain in a faithbased urban secondary school, little attention has been given to the ways children actually experience and make use of collective worship. The aim of my research has therefore been to gain a more child-centred perspective on collective worship, and to generate a deeper understanding of how children might use collective worship to reflect on their relationships and life experiences. My research methods reflect the aim to privilege the children’s voices: the primary data source comes from children’s own accounts of participating in collective worship, using a longitudinal qualitative method across four years. Using a definition drawn from Hay and Nye (1996, 2006) and Hyde (2008), the study employs thematic analysis to interpret the data using the framework of spirituality as relationship with God (or Transcendent), self and other (including people and the world). The results revealed in this study show that children construct collective worship as a sacred space in which they are able to reflect on their own understandings of God, faith and the world. Crucial to this process is an emerging sense of self and its connection with these relationships. Through critical reflection within collective worship children encounter a particular dynamic that I have identified as reluctance-permission-opportunity. I therefore argue this dynamic underpins a child’s evolving sense and awareness of faith and relationship with God, other and self, and represents aspects of a three-dimensional model of spiritual reflection and maturity. The study concludes that the sacred space of collective worship is actively constructed by the children, building on the established frameworks offered by the statutory provision of school-based collective worship. The constructed sacred space of collective worship is – for the children – precious, set apart, revelatory, special and life-changing. As such there is a sense of ownership by the children of this sacred space. This thesis suggests new approaches to researching and understanding children’s spirituality as well as implications for professional practice. It represents a contribution to knowledge by advancing a more nuanced understanding of children’s spiritual development than currently exists. The notion of a three-dimensional dynamic also offers a contribution to theoretical understandings of the concepts of spiritual formation. The findings of the research are seen as having implications for professional practice in collective worship by arguing for a child-centred approach to critical spiritual exploration and reflection, and therefore to the design and provision of collective worship.