This September we're doing some research on local youth spirituality in partnership with local schools. Working with RE staff I've put together a questionnaire that fulfils several aims and will produce outcomes that benefit both the school and us as a local youth mission organisation.
The questionnaire is based in part of the Essex agreed syllabus for RE which is titled 'Learning from religion' and examines seven aspects of shared human experience. Using six of these aspects (the self and being human; relationships and community; the natural world and the universe; spiritual experience; morality and ethics; questions and beliefs) and adding a section of our own relating to Christianity, I've produced a 35 question survey which RE staff will get all students in Year 8 (12 yrs. old) and Year 10 (14 yrs. old) to complete as part of their RE lessons in September. Four final questions will enable us to gauge the level of involvement of students in local church or Christian run activities. We have three schools on board for this pilot year which, from the two year groups, will yield a sample size of about 1300.
Asking students to consider their own response to questions about spirituality and morality has been warmly welcomed by schools as it helps to fulfil the requirements of Ofsted for Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development - something schools are examined on but have few resources and little time to deliver.
As well as fulfilling this SMSC requirement, the survey will provide RE staff with a clearer idea of what their students believe. We will have a better idea of the nature of belief of the young people we see, which in turn will help us as we respond to invitations to work or speak in schools. Our intention is that this will become an annual survey, including several other schools that have expressed an interest in taking part. An interesing bonus is that this will potentially give us one measure of the spiritual impact of visits by the team, particularly following high profile 'schools weeks'.
In all of this our main hope is to encourage young people to think through spiritual issues, and for us to be better informed about their beliefs. But it is only additional information, and no substitute for the face to face work that we continue to do to incarnate the mission of God among young people.
We've got some number crunching to do... more news soon!