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3 Things we’ve Learnt from Teachers about… Religious Attitudes

When it comes to faith, teachers prefer to keep it personal, says Laura McInerney...

  • 3 Things we’ve Learnt from Teachers about… Religious Attitudes

1 | Teachers, like most people, aren’t religious

Like the rest of society, most teachers (61%) say they don’t belong to a specific religion. The British Attitudes Survey tells us that around half of everyone in the country feels the same.

Among teachers who do identify as being in a faith, the most common denomination is Anglican (16%) followed by Catholics (8%). You might think this would mean that CofE schools find it easy to attract teachers from their faith.

However, Anglican schools only have a fraction more Anglican teachers than secular schools.

Catholic schools, however, have about half their teaching staff identifying as Catholic. (For the purpose of this analysis we excluded religious schools that aren’t CofE or RC because there aren’t enough for the numbers to mean anything).

If this trend continues, religious schools could find themselves struggling to recruit, as most non-believers say they would prefer never to work in religious school if given the choice.

2 | Secondary schools rarely offer daily collective worship

Despite all state-funded schools having a legal requirement to make pupils do a daily act of collective worship (which should be of a broadly Christian nature unless the school applies for exemption), almost no secular schools do it!

Even Anglican schools only do it around half the time.

How can we have a law that everyone ignores? Easy! It is tough to police, given that nobody has set out exactly what collective worship involves.

Around 70% of teachers felt that ‘silent reflection’ was an adequate form of collective worship – and that didn’t vary too much among different groups.

Religious teachers felt the same as non-religious teachers.

Plus, there aren’t any real consequences for failing to follow the law. So, it’s likely to fritter away without too much fuss, although some parents are now challenging the rule within the courts, so perhaps we will get a judgement either way soon!

3 | Teachers don’t want religious selection

Academic selection is not allowed in English schools, but pupils can be selected on the basis of their faith. Often this involves a complex set of rules in which parents are expected to have attended church or taken part in certain voluntary activities.

Teachers are largely against the practice.

Just 36% of teachers who are actively religious, 20% of those inactively religious, and only 4% of those who are non-religious, believe it should continue.

Teachers are also concerned about the way children from non-religious families are sometimes forced to attend a faith school because there are no other places available in the local area.

Only 23% of teachers felt it was acceptable for a child from a non-religious family to be allocated a place against their will at a Catholic school.

And even fewer (17%), felt it was acceptable for children from a Christian family to be allocated a place against their will at a Sikh school, as happened back in 2015 in Leeds.

For more snappy insights like this, and to be part of the panel, please join in via the free Teacher Tapp app – available to download for iOS and ANdroid. You will learn something new every day.


Laura McInerney is an education journalist and co-founder of Teacher Tapp. Download the app for free via the App Store on Apple and Android. Follow her on Twitter at @miss_mcinerney.

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