Implementing a vision for Christian education ethos: the experiences of school leaders and a sample of pupils in two schools

PhD Thesis

Thomas, C. 2020. Implementing a vision for Christian education ethos: the experiences of school leaders and a sample of pupils in two schools . PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University School of Teacher Education
AuthorsThomas, C.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameDoctor of Philosophy

This thesis investigates school leaders’ experiences of Christian education ethos development in their schools, using interpretative phenomenological analysis. It comprises two studies. The first focuses on a secondary headteacher, new to headship, in a recently opened Christian Free School. The second focuses on a long-serving primary Church Academy headteacher. I use creative data-collection methods in both studies to elicit a small group of pupils’ views of their education within the school’s ethos.

I concluded that both headteachers experienced tensions in developing a Christian education ethos because of external pressures that limited their autonomy. The headteachers’ values were important in defining the vision for their schools’ education ethos, but both encountered challenges in their deployment. The Free School headteacher faced challenges from the governing body when negotiating a vision focused on excellence, justice and learning in a Christian manner. By contrast, the governing body’s vision implied a focus on Christian nurture and education about Christianity. The Academy headteacher experienced challenges in his conceptions of Church education from the Statutory Inspection of Anglican and Methodist Schools inspector, which ultimately realigned his approach to education ethos development.

I compared the data sets of leaders with those of pupils. I concluded that there was congruence between the headteachers’ intended school ethos and the pupils’ experienced ethos. Despite the headteachers experiencing internal struggles with their leadership identity, the pupils’ data indicated they understood the headteachers' values. They seemed persuaded that the headteachers’ values were in their best interests. These values helped them understand what their schools stood for and the expectations placed on them. It led to a powerful sense of belonging.

The thesis contributes new knowledge by developing significant insights into the complexities of headteacher leadership of Christian education. Such insights are not easily obtainable through other methodologies. Furthermore, the thesis develops a practical methodology, which school leaders can adapt to investigate the influence of their vision and espoused values on pupils’ school experiences.

KeywordsChristian education ethos; Implementation; Vision; Experience of school leaders; Pupils; Schools
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Deposited13 Dec 2021
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Related outputs

The Character Development Project Final Report
Cooling, T., Hulbert, S., Thomas, C. and Gregory, P. 2016. The Character Development Project Final Report. Church of England Education Office.