The project is located in the School of Education at the University of Brighton, one of the UK’s largest providers of education and teacher training. In the 2021 QS World University Rankings, Brighton featured in the top 350 institutions for Education and Training. Our research generates knowledge that advances social justice and fosters critical understanding of education in diverse cultures and complex worlds. We help shape future directions in policy and practice locally, nationally and internationally. We carry out innovative and participatory research and enterprise projects involving children, young people, adults, and those who work with them.
In recent years, diversity of religion and belief has been increasingly recognised within social and public policy debates as distinct from ‘race’ and ethnicity and as worthy of attention in its own right. Many countries have seen their populations become progressively more diverse in religious terms since the turn of the twenty-first century. In the United Kingdom, for instance, data from the Office for National Statistics shows that whilst the number of people identifying as Christian fell significantly in the period between the 2001 and 2011 Census for England and Wales, there were marked increases in respondents with no religion, and smaller but nevertheless notable increases in those from Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and other minority faith backgrounds.
Religious pluralism may present a number of issues and challenges for societies to grapple with, such as how the state can adequately accommodate for diverse religious needs within public service provision. The biggest challenges often arise in fields such as education, where participation is (relatively) compulsory for all religious and non-religious groups. Many schools (with and without a religious character) now find they are catering for a greater diversity of religion and belief amongst their pupils than was previously the case. As such, questions about how these groups should be provided for in schools have become much more common. Many of the judgements made in these cases have the issue of competing rights and interests at their core and cannot be fully understood without reference to citizenship.
Questions of citizenship arise concerning religious influences on access to schooling, the recognition and accommodation of religious and non-religious groups within schools, and the implications for pupil/parent identity and belonging. Fundamentally at stake is social justice and the extent to which educational arrangements privilege certain groups over others. Are there inequities in the extent to which different religious and non-religious identities are recognised through the types of schooling offered and the contents of the curriculum? How far are the interests of different groups accommodated in education through provision for diverse religious and non-religious needs? What are the effects of such arrangements on feelings of identity and belonging to school, community and society for members of different groups?
Possible Themes of Inquiry
- Recognition and accommodation of religious diversity within different national school systems
- Diversity of religion and belief in faith-based and secular schooling models
- Representation of diversity with religious education curriculum frameworks and materials
- Arrangements for marking or celebrating religious festivals in schools
- Provision for religious food, dress and prayer needs
- Comparative case-study approaches
- Documentary analysis of policy and/or curriculum materials
- Interviews with education officials, school leaders and/or teaching staff
- Surveys and/or focus groups with parents
- Discussion groups or paired interviews with school pupils
- Ethnographic observation of everyday practices in schools