Spiritual Development

Christian values can be a key marker of a church school when they pervade the whole of the school.

All members of the school community should have an understanding of:

What the core Christian values of the school are
What this means both in terms of individuals and of others

Coupled with this Christian Education is concerned with the development of people’s mind, body and spirit In a Church school the understanding of the human person and the concepts of spiritual development are grounded in the Judaeo-Christian tradition

“Spirituality was generally viewed as enriching individuals in their understanding of and ability to relate to, others and of society as a whole”. Education for Adult Life (SCAA 1996)

Many people assume that spirituality is to do with Religious Education or PSHE and therefore it tends to be put into those boxes. However, the truth of the matter is that it should influence all areas of education and life

The Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) in their discussion paper point out that “spiritual” is not synonymous with “religious”. All areas of the curriculum may contribute to pupils’ spiritual development. Spiritual development relates to fundamental questions about the meaning and purpose of life which affect everyone, and is not dependant on a religious affiliation.

“The term spiritual and moral development needs to be seen as applying something fundamental in the human condition which is not necessarily experienced through the physical senses and /or expressed through everyday language. It has to do with relationships to other people and for believers, with God. It has to do with the universal search for individual identity – with our responses to challenging experiences, such as death, suffering, beauty and encounters with good and evil. It is to do with the search for meaning and purpose in life and for values by which to live.” SCAA discussion paper

What do we mean by ‘development’ in spiritual development?

  • Plant – develops new shoots and grows in some measurable way
  • Debate – orator expands on a point or perhaps more usefully
  • Photography – an photographic image is ‘realised’ or ‘made visible’ on a piece of paper

Spirituality is an innate human capacity.

Spiritual development is not about becoming, more spiritual (in a measurable or expansive sense). It is about realising or becoming more and more aware of one’s natural, innate spirituality. This is sometimes a slow and gradual process, at other times there might be significant stages of realisation, which are part of the ongoing ‘developing’ process. Unlike the development of a photograph, people don’t reach a finished state of spiritual development, but participate in the ongoing process of spiritual realisation. If spirituality were something which developed or grew in a quantifiable sense, then surely adult would be more spiritual than children. Many would argue that children seem to be far more spiritually aware than adults, Perhaps as a part of growing older, the pressures of life can distract our distort our interests so that as adults, our spiritual awareness is dulled and we do not ‘realise it’ to the full.

Schools can provide children with openings for spiritual development

WINDOWS: giving children opportunities to become aware of the world in new ways; to wonder about life’s ‘WOWs’ (things that are amazing) and ‘OWs’ (things that bring us up short). In this children are learning about life in all its fullness.

MIRRORS: giving children opportunities to reflect on their experiences; to meditate on life’s big questions and to consider some possible answers. In this they are learning from life by exploring their own insights and perspectives and those of others.

DOORS: giving children opportunities to respond to all of this; to do something creative as a means of expressing, applying and further developing their thoughts and convictions. In this they are learning to live by putting into action what they are coming to believe and value.

It therefore makes sense that a Church School’s curriculum has strands permeating it like in a stick of rock of:
– Christian Values and
– Opportunities for Spiritual development

Key questions for the schools are:

How is the distinctive nature of our school reflected in the curriculum?

How does it permeate other aspects of school life?

What are the consequences of this for the learner (and staff and the wider community)?

How are staff inducted and supported so that they have a shared understanding of the distinctive nature of our school?

How does the schools environment support this?

Recommended further reading:

SMSC guidance Norwich 2015

SMSC Curriculum Examples

Spiritual Development WMD (article by Liz Mills)

Making Sense of Spiritual Development in Religious Observance and the Wider Curriculum by David Smith and Alison Farnell Stapleford Centre ISBN 978-1-90223447-2 http://www.stapleford-centre.org/

Nye R (2009) Children’s Spirituality: What it is and why it matters London:Church House Publishing

Opening Windows: Spiritual development in the Primary School through Religious Observance and the Wider Curriculum Compiled and Edited by Alison Farnell Stapleford Centre ISBN 978-1-902234-60-1 http://www.stapleford-centre.org/

Ortberg J (2010) The Me I want to be: becoming God’s best version of you Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan

SMSC advice across the curriculum: SMSC across the curriculum

Website: http://www.smsc.org.uk

Salisbury Diocese has some excellent resources to help you think about the variety of opportunities you provide for children: Spiritual and Moral

Thomas G (1996) Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Souls Path to God Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan

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