The relationship between pupils’ spiritual development and school ethos: A survey of 10-11 year old children from a sample of primary schools in Northern Ireland

  • Ian William Ellis

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Using a conceptualisation of ethos as ‘experienced culture' this dissertation explores how school ethos is associated with the spiritual development of pupils. An ‘ethos scale’ is devised by mapping together theoretical models of school culture and spirituality. This new scale and an existing scale of spiritual well-being (used as a measure of spiritual development) are combined as a research instrument and applied to a random stratified sample of 907 children aged 10-11 years in 46 primary schools in Northern Ireland. Multilevel regression modelling is used to explore relationships between spiritual well-being and a number of explanatory variables including school ethos. Analysis shows that there is a relationship between spiritual well-being of pupils and school ethos. However, results show that the role of the school is small, with only 8.8% of the variation of spiritual well-being among pupils attributable to school-level variance. When differences in pupil intake characteristics (namely gender and level of church attendance) are controlled for, this variation reduces to 4%. Remaining differences between schools due to management type are shown to be accounted for by school ethos. The five aspects of the school ethos scale corresponding to themes within the model of spirituality used are evaluated and two are found to be contributing significantly, namely: ‘manifestations of spirituality in life’ and ‘distinctive responses to the natural and human world’. Implications for policy regarding school ethos and pedagogies relating to spiritual development are considered and areas of further study suggested.
    Date of AwardJul 2013
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Queen's University Belfast
    SupervisorPaul Connolly (Supervisor) & Claire McGlynn (Supervisor)

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