Smart, Diane C.
Primary school assembly perspectives and practices: implications for pupils' spiritual development.
The Open University.
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Since 1988 the spiritual development of pupils has been a stated aim of the whole school curriculum. By 1994, OFSTEDs report into religious education and collective worship had identified the failure of collective worship in primary schools [more usually known as ‘assembly’) to contribute satisfactorily to pupils’ spiritual development. Using a case study approach, this present research has sought to reveal ways in which teachers’ perspectives on the spiritual and their assembly practices might impact upon pupils’ spiritual development. The current assembly practices at six Somerset schools were examined together with the perspectives that those taking the assemblies bring to that experience. Data from observations and interviews was analysed in relation to those activities deemed conducive by the inspectorate to the promotion of spiritual development. The same data was also analysed in relation to those factors which are seen to affect the selection of assembly elements and activities. The findings suggest that whilst assemblies may be perceived to contain many of the elements currently recommended for spiritual development, factors relating to assembly organisation, accommodation, practices and content could nevertheless in some cases be impacting negatively on pupils’ spiritual development. In addition, not only is the concept of the spiritual variously understood by both teachers and inspectors, but training for the development of pupils spiritually is not well established. The research raises questions about the suitability of current assembly practices for developing pupils spiritually. Furthermore it suggests that unless and until teachers and inspectors develop a more consistent understanding of the complex nature of spirituality and how pupils can best be developed spiritually, based on present and future research and adequate training, pupils’ spiritual development is unlikely to be well served by primary school assemblies
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