Faith in the Nexus

How do church primary schools facilitate opportunities for children’s exploration of faith and spiritual life in the home?

The Faith in the Nexus research project has identified the fruitful ways in which twenty church primary schools (working in collaboration with churches and other interested stakeholders) facilitate opportunities for the exploration of children’s faith/spiritual life in the home.

The research findings emerged from research focus group interviews with 450 participants (pupils, parents & staff), and an online survey with 1000 participants across 20 church primary schools in England.

Research team: Dr Ann Casson, Dr Sabina Hulbert, Dr Mary Woolley & Prof Bob Bowie

What are the key findings?

A flourishing Nexus of school, church, and home:

  • Nurtures relationships between individuals & institutions
  • Encourages spiritual leadership
  • Offers time and space for reflection
  • Provides a safe space to talk of faith & spiritual matters or ask challenging questions
  • Gives a sense of belonging to a local Christian community

In the home:

  • Children are often the dynamic initiators of conversations about faith or spirituality
  • The stimulus for these conversations includes activities, curriculum, and worship in school
  • Parental attitudes to these conversations varied: some parents struggled with how to respond to these initiatives; others avoided or closed conversations down through lack of knowledge, confidence, or fear of indoctrination

Church primary schools encouraged more faith interactions in the home when:

  • Active connections between church and school were sustained
  • Opportunities for spiritual leadership roles for pupils were provided
  • Space and time for reflection were available
  • The RE curriculum focused on questions and Christian concepts

Parents’ confidence is increased when the church primary school:

  • Encourages talk about spiritual matters
  • Offers encounters with faith & beliefs, and visits to church
  • Explicitly communicates Christian values, beliefs, and practices through a variety of media – newsletters, websites, signage, and displays

Characteristics of positive relationships between church and school:

  • Invitational worship
  • Celebration of festivals
  • The presence of the minister in the school
  • A sense of belonging and connection to the church community and building

What needs to change?

We now have more knowledge about the relationship between multiple factors, such as faith-based admissions criteria, school, church, and diocesan strategies, and the presence of fruitful faith conversations, prayer, and other practices in the home environment.

There is a need for:

  • Greater awareness and understanding of the value of the church school relationship and school approaches that encourage children to explore faith in the home
  • All Christian educators and ministers to prioritise facilitation of faith exploration in the home

We believe that changes can be made by targeted and effective dissemination of the key findings to significant influencers and animators through a sustained campaign that is integrated with stakeholder activities and strategies, in particular Growing Faith in the Church of England.

Report cover image

Download the final report

Report cover imageIn 2016, Theos published this report by Olwyn Mark which explored the passing on of faith from parents to their children.
Passing on Faith offers an excellent background and context to the Faith in the Nexus report.

Download this report