Spirituality, Faith and Development in Schools and Community Life


Spiritual development has been present in the language of secondary schools for many years now. In England it became part of the inspection process in the 1990s. Yet, despite this history, there is still significant confusion as to what is exactly meant by the term.

The problem is, there is no one size fits all solution; the context of the school inevitably shapes the response. Yet, no matter how spiritual development is understood, it clearly embraces an important area of education, because who would want a spirit-less education in modern schools? Certainly, under the new OFSTED inspection framework (2019), inspectors consider the spiritual development of pupils via a number of acknowledged indicators including pupils’, “ability to be reflective about their own beliefs (religious or otherwise) and perspective on life,” as well as their “knowledge of, and respect for different people’s faith, feelings and values ” (School Inspection Handbook 2019, p.59-60). Spiritual development in an educational setting is relevant for all, but the following practice–based research views it through a Christian lens. It is underpinned by the assumption that spiritual development is an essential element of what it is to be human and is rooted in the Christian belief that all are made in God’s image, (Genesis 1:26). Hence, the role of Christian education is to enable all to reach their God-given potential and live life in all its fullness. (John 10:10)


Diocesan Leaders; School Leaders; Curriculum Design Leaders; Pastoral Leaders; Chaplains; RE Leaders; Teachers.

Lessons in Spiritual Development: Learning from Leading Christian- ethos Secondary Schools

The Lessons in Spiritual Development project investigated the ways that ten secondary schools with a Christian foundation, in England and Wales, influence the spiritual development of pupils. The project was an initiative set up by the National Institute for Christian Education Research (NICER), working in association with Warwick Religions and Education Research Unit (WRERU) at Warwick University.

It presents as case study stories which paint a picture of ten very different Christian-ethos secondary schools. Each of the schools has adopted a unique approach to prioritise students’ spiritual development. The stories are rooted in the concepts of hope, aspiration, and community. They highlight the benefits of providing opportunities to question and challenge faith; enhance scriptural literacy; actively promote Christian values and practices and all stress the essential need for time and space for reflection for students’ spiritual development in school.  

The strength of this research has been to listen to the views of the pupils and staff on what they perceive to influence the spiritual development in the context of their schools. The chapters in the book are written to give an opportunity for readers to appreciate as much as possible the insights offered by members of these schools.

A major implication of this research study was that developing a Christian ethos cannot be left to chance. It must be prioritised at all levels. Where spiritual development flourishes it is most often the results of decisions implemented after much deliberation and reflection.


An overview of available resources

Book image

All these resources relate to Lessons in Spiritual Development: Learning from Leading Christian -Secondary Schools.

Church House Publishing


Casson, A. and Cooling, T. 2019. Religious education for spiritual bricoleurs? the perceptions of students in ten Christian-ethos secondary schools in England and Wales. Journal of Beliefs and Values.

Francis, L. and Casson, A. 2019. Retaining young Catholics in the church: assessing the importance of parental example. Journal of Religious Education. 67 (1), pp. 1-16.

Francis, L., McKenna, U. and Casson, A. (2018) Christian ethos secondary schools in England and Wales: a common voice or wide diversity? Journal of Beliefs and Values. ISSN 1361-7672.


If you would like to arrange for a member of NICER to speak to you or your organisation about this area of work, email