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Title: The nature and status of religious belief in contemporary Britain (with particular reference to the concept of 'truth') as reflected by acts of collective worship in a sample of Luton schools since the 1988 Educational Reform Act
Author: Cheetham, Richard Ian
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 1999
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The aim of this study is to produce a critical description and analysis of the understanding of religious belief (with particular reference to the concept of 'truth') which underlies the current practice of collective worship in schools. The research is based on a sample of twelve schools which makes no pretence at being random, but is broadly representative of state education in Luton between the ages of 5 and 16. The study was conducted primarily within the qualitative, interpretive tradition of social research, using the method of 'verstehen', and the 'grounded theory' approach of Glaser and Strauss (1967). The main sources of data were semi-structured interviews with teachers who lead collective worship, participant observation, and the relevant official documents. There was also a brief questionnaire. The research data was, in grounded theory terminology, 'saturated' with four major themes: inclusivity; freedom of choice and personal integrity; the location of the heart of collective worship in moral exhortation, individual reflection, personal spirituality, and 'worthship' rather than in traditional worship; and the powerful influence and leeway of the individual teacher. A critical analysis of these themes leads to the conclusion that the understanding of religious belief which underlies the current practice of collective worship in this sample of schools sees it as an individually chosen, private, practical guide to living - in the terminology of grounded theory this is the 'core category'. This has the conseqences that religious belief is also treated as relative and as subjective. It is further argued that the teachers are operating primarily within a liberal, rationalist understanding of both education and religious belief. This understanding is coming under attack from several directions and looks increasingly unlikely to be able to provide an adequate framework for collective worship in a genuinely plural and postmodern world.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Schools ; Morals ; Morality