Quaker Studies

An Ethnographic Investigation of a British Quaker School: Belief, Values and Cohesion

Quaker Studies (2018), 23, (2), 255–276.

Abstract

This ethnographic study of a British Quaker school asks: ‘How is Quakerism expressed in this school?’ It considers the experiences of staff and students collected through reports during interviews and focus groups, and through lesson and general observations. The article distinguishes between formal and substantive rationality, finding that while the literature shows that many schools are run on formally rational principles, the data collected shows that a school influenced by Quaker values can resist some of the negative impacts of formal rationality. The article addresses some of the concerns of the group ‘Quaker Values in Education’, set up to work towards an education system in line with Quaker values; this school resisted or rejected the enforcement of practices on teachers by superiors, excessive assessment and militarisation. While Quaker values were seen by respondents to be important in the daily life of the school, the religious beliefs of Quakerism were not. Quaker values were related by respondents to low levels of hierarchy and a calm working environment for staff, and gentle discipline procedures for students. Meeting for Worship is analysed as a ritual that creates cohesion and has the power to communicate the values of Quakerism to those present.

An Ethnographic Investigation of a British Quaker School: Belief, Values and Cohesion

Abstract

This ethnographic study of a British Quaker school asks: ‘How is Quakerism expressed in this school?’ It considers the experiences of staff and students collected through reports during interviews and focus groups, and through lesson and general observations. The article distinguishes between formal and substantive rationality, finding that while the literature shows that many schools are run on formally rational principles, the data collected shows that a school influenced by Quaker values can resist some of the negative impacts of formal rationality. The article addresses some of the concerns of the group ‘Quaker Values in Education’, set up to work towards an education system in line with Quaker values; this school resisted or rejected the enforcement of practices on teachers by superiors, excessive assessment and militarisation. While Quaker values were seen by respondents to be important in the daily life of the school, the religious beliefs of Quakerism were not. Quaker values were related by respondents to low levels of hierarchy and a calm working environment for staff, and gentle discipline procedures for students. Meeting for Worship is analysed as a ritual that creates cohesion and has the power to communicate the values of Quakerism to those present.

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O’Reilley, M. R., The Peaceable Classroom, Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers, 1993. The Peaceable Classroom Google Scholar

Ofsted, School Inspection Handbook, London: Ofsted Publications, 2015. Google Scholar

Panjwani, F., ‘Towards an overlapping consensus: Muslim teachers’ views on fundamental British values’, Journal of Education for Teaching 42/3 (2016), pp. 329–40. ‘Towards an overlapping consensus: Muslim teachers’ views on fundamental British values’ Journal of Education for Teaching 42/3 329 40 Google Scholar

Pattison, S. A., Spiritual Capital: an inquiry into the values that provide meaning and purpose to staff in Quaker schools. EdD. The University of Hull, 2010. Available at: >https://hydra.hull.ac.uk/resources/hull:4490> [Accessed 01/02/2017]. Google Scholar

Quaker Values in Education, Every person is precious – a foundation for Quaker action on education. 2014. Available at: >http://www.qvine.org.uk/> [Accessed 11/04/2017]. Google Scholar

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Quakers in Britain, The Unseen March: questioning the militarisation of education in schools. 2015. Available at: >http://www.quaker.org.uk/our-work/peace/challenging-militarism-1/the-unseen-march> [Accessed 01/03/2017]. Google Scholar

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Taylor, C. and Robinson, C., ‘Student voice: theorising power and participation’, Pedagogy, Culture and Society 17/2 (2009), pp. 161–75. ‘Student voice: theorising power and participation’ Pedagogy, Culture and Society 17/2 161 75 Google Scholar

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Walker, P., ‘British Quaker “prepared for jail” after allegedly trying to disarm Saudi Arabia-bound fighter’, Independent, 1 February 2017. Available at: >http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/british-quaker-activist-sam-walton-pacifist-disarm-saudi-arabia-fighter-jet-bae-uk-yemen-a7555246.html> [Accessed 30/03/2017]. Google Scholar

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Weber, M., The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, London: Allen and Unwin, 1930. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism Google Scholar

Woods, P. A., ‘Rationalisation, disenchantment and re-enchantment: Engaging with Weber’s sociology of modernity’, in Apple, M. W., Ball, S. J., and Gandin, L. A. (eds), The Routledge International Handbook of the Sociology of Education, Abingdon: Routledge, 2009, pp. 121–31. ‘Rationalisation, disenchantment and re-enchantment: Engaging with Weber’s sociology of modernity’ The Routledge International Handbook of the Sociology of Education 121 31 Google Scholar

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Apple, M. W., Can Education Change Society? Abingdon: Routledge, 2012. Can Education Change Society? Google Scholar

BAE Systems, Help for schools, colleges and community groups. 2018. Available at: >https://www.baesystems.com/en/careers/careers-in-the-uk/getting-ready-for-work/help-for-schools-colleges-and-community-groups> [Accessed 1 November 2018]. Google Scholar

Best, S., ‘Adolescent Quakers: A Community of Intimacy’, in Dandelion, P. and Collins, P. (eds), The Quaker Condition: the sociology of a liberal religion, Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008, pp. 192–215. ‘Adolescent Quakers: A Community of Intimacy’ The Quaker Condition: the sociology of a liberal religion 192 215 Google Scholar

Bruce, S., God is Dead: secularization in the West, Oxford: Blackwell, 2002. God is Dead: secularization in the West Google Scholar

Chadderton, C., ‘The militarisation of English schools: Troops to Teaching and the implications for Initial Teacher Education and race equality’, Race Ethnicity and Education 17/3 (2014), pp. 407–28. ‘The militarisation of English schools: Troops to Teaching and the implications for Initial Teacher Education and race equality’ Race Ethnicity and Education 17/3 407 28 Google Scholar

Collins, P., ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a “Ritual”’, Journal of Contemporary Religion 20/3 (2005), pp. 323–42. ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a “Ritual”’ Journal of Contemporary Religion 20/3 323 42 Google Scholar

Dandelion, P., A Sociological Analysis of the Theology of Quakers: the silent revolution, Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press, 1996. A Sociological Analysis of the Theology of Quakers: the silent revolution Google Scholar

Dandelion, P., ‘The Creation of Coherence: the “Quaker Double-Culture” and the “Absolute Perhaps”’, in Dandelion, P. and Collins, P. (eds), The Quaker Condition: the sociology of a liberal religion, Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008, pp. 22–37. ‘The Creation of Coherence: the “Quaker Double-Culture” and the “Absolute Perhaps”’ The Quaker Condition: the sociology of a liberal religion 22 37 Google Scholar

Davies, L., ‘Educating against extremism: towards a critical politicisation of young people’, International Review of Education 55/2 (2009), pp. 183–203. ‘Educating against extremism: towards a critical politicisation of young people’ International Review of Education 55/2 183 203 Google Scholar

Department of Education, Promoting fundamental British values as part of SMSC in schools departmental advice for maintained schools, London: DfE, 2014. Promoting fundamental British values as part of SMSC in schools departmental advice for maintained schools Google Scholar

Durkheim, E., Education and Sociology, Toronto: The Free Press, 1956. Education and Sociology Google Scholar

Enslin, P. and Ramirez-Hurtado, C., ‘Artistic Education and the Possibilities for Citizenship Education’, Citizenship, Social and Economics Education 12/2 (2013), pp. 62–70. ‘Artistic Education and the Possibilities for Citizenship Education’ Citizenship, Social and Economics Education 12/2 62 70 Google Scholar

Freire, P., Pedagogy of the Oppressed, New York: Continuum, 1970. Pedagogy of the Oppressed Google Scholar

Goodwin, M., ‘British Values? Pupils should be questioning the rule of law’, The Guardian, 11 November 2014. Available at: >https://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/nov/11/british-values-pupils-question-rule-of-law> [Accessed 2 March 2017]. Google Scholar

Green, E., ‘Discipline and school ethos: exploring students’ reflections upon values, rules and the Bible in a Christian City Technology College’, Ethnography and Education 4/2 (2009), pp. 197–209. ‘Discipline and school ethos: exploring students’ reflections upon values, rules and the Bible in a Christian City Technology College’ Ethnography and Education 4/2 197 209 Google Scholar

Hallam, J., Egan, S. and Kirkham, J., ‘An investigation into the ways in which art is taught in an English Waldorf Steiner school’, Thinking Skills and Creativity 19 (2016), pp. 136–45. ‘An investigation into the ways in which art is taught in an English Waldorf Steiner school’ Thinking Skills and Creativity 19 136 45 Google Scholar

Halstead, M. J. and McLaughlin, T., ‘Are faith schools divisive?’ in Gardner, R., Cairns, J. and Lawton, D. (eds), Faith Schools: consensus or conflict? Abingdon: Routledge Falmer, 2005, pp. 61–73. ‘Are faith schools divisive?’ Faith Schools: consensus or conflict? 61 73 Google Scholar

Hardy, I. and Lewis, S., ‘The “doublethink” of data: educational performativity and the field of schooling practices’, British Journal of Sociology of Education 38 (2016), pp. 1–13. ‘The “doublethink” of data: educational performativity and the field of schooling practices’ British Journal of Sociology of Education 38 1 13 Google Scholar

Hemming, P. J., ‘The Place of Religion in Public Life: school ethos as a lens on society’, Sociology 45/6 (2011), pp. 1061–77. ‘The Place of Religion in Public Life: school ethos as a lens on society’ Sociology 45/6 1061 77 Google Scholar

Hemming, P. J., Religion in the Primary School: ethos, diversity, citizenship, Abingdon: Routledge, 2015. Religion in the Primary School: ethos, diversity, citizenship Google Scholar

Hoskins, B. and Crick, D. K., ‘Competences for Learning to Learn and Active Citizenship: different currencies or two sides of the same coin?’ European Journal of Education 45/1 (2010), pp. 121–37. ‘Competences for Learning to Learn and Active Citizenship: different currencies or two sides of the same coin?’ European Journal of Education 45/1 121 37 Google Scholar

Ipgrave, J., ‘Conversations between the religious and secular in English schools’, Religious Education 107/1 (2012), pp. 30–48. ‘Conversations between the religious and secular in English schools’ Religious Education 107/1 30 48 Google Scholar

Johnson, H., ‘Living Your Values: exploring the “hidden” culture of a voluntary-controlled Quaker school’, Journal of Beliefs and Values 22/2 (2001), pp. 197–208. ‘Living Your Values: exploring the “hidden” culture of a voluntary-controlled Quaker school’ Journal of Beliefs and Values 22/2 197 208 Google Scholar

Johnson, H., ‘Quaker Schools in England: offering a vision of an alternative society’, in Woods, P. A. and Woods, G. J. (eds), Alternative Education for the 21st Century: philosophies, approaches, visions, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, pp. 65–82. ‘Quaker Schools in England: offering a vision of an alternative society’ Alternative Education for the 21st Century: philosophies, approaches, visions 65 82 Google Scholar

Lacey, P. A. and Sweeney-Denham, S., ‘What Is the Role of Quaker Education in a Time of Terror?’ Journal of Religious and Theological Information 5/1 (2002), pp. 49–59. ‘What Is the Role of Quaker Education in a Time of Terror?’ Journal of Religious and Theological Information 5/1 49 59 Google Scholar

McCormack, M. and Anderson, E., ‘“It’s Just Not Acceptable Any More”: the erosion of homophobia and the softening of masculinity at an English sixth form’, Sociology 44/5 (2010), pp. 843–59. ‘“It’s Just Not Acceptable Any More”: the erosion of homophobia and the softening of masculinity at an English sixth form’ Sociology 44/5 843 59 Google Scholar

Moreton, C., ‘Rowan Williams: I didn’t really want to be Archbishop’, The Telegraph, 27 April 2014. Available at: >http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/features/10789740/Rowan-Williams-I-didnt-really-want-to-be-Archbishop.html> [Accessed 02/03/2017]. Google Scholar

Newton, N., ‘Schools for Wellbeing – the Educational Significance of Quaker School Culture’, PhD, University of Bristol, 2017. ‘Schools for Wellbeing – the Educational Significance of Quaker School Culture’ Google Scholar

O’Reilley, M. R., The Peaceable Classroom, Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers, 1993. The Peaceable Classroom Google Scholar

Ofsted, School Inspection Handbook, London: Ofsted Publications, 2015. Google Scholar

Panjwani, F., ‘Towards an overlapping consensus: Muslim teachers’ views on fundamental British values’, Journal of Education for Teaching 42/3 (2016), pp. 329–40. ‘Towards an overlapping consensus: Muslim teachers’ views on fundamental British values’ Journal of Education for Teaching 42/3 329 40 Google Scholar

Pattison, S. A., Spiritual Capital: an inquiry into the values that provide meaning and purpose to staff in Quaker schools. EdD. The University of Hull, 2010. Available at: >https://hydra.hull.ac.uk/resources/hull:4490> [Accessed 01/02/2017]. Google Scholar

Quaker Values in Education, Every person is precious – a foundation for Quaker action on education. 2014. Available at: >http://www.qvine.org.uk/> [Accessed 11/04/2017]. Google Scholar

Quakers in Britain, Quaker faith and practice: the book of Christian discipline of the Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain, London: Quakers in Britain, 5th edn, 2013. Google Scholar

Quakers in Britain, The Unseen March: questioning the militarisation of education in schools. 2015. Available at: >http://www.quaker.org.uk/our-work/peace/challenging-militarism-1/the-unseen-march> [Accessed 01/03/2017]. Google Scholar

Smith, S., ‘The Spiritual Roots of Quaker Pedagogy’, in Dalke, A. and Dixson, B. (eds), Minding the Light: essays in Friendly pedagogy. New York: Peter Lang, 2004, pp. 5–20. ‘The Spiritual Roots of Quaker Pedagogy’ Minding the Light: essays in Friendly pedagogy 5 20 Google Scholar

Stavrianakis, A., ‘In Arms’ Way: arms company and military involvement in education in the UK’, ACME: an international e-journal for critical geographies 8/3 (2009), pp. 505–20. ‘In Arms’ Way: arms company and military involvement in education in the UK’ ACME: an international e-journal for critical geographies 8/3 505 20 Google Scholar

Sukarieh, M. and Tannock, P., ‘The deradicalisation of education: terror, youth and the assault on learning’, Race and Class 57/4 (2015), pp. 22–38. ‘The deradicalisation of education: terror, youth and the assault on learning’ Race and Class 57/4 22 38 Google Scholar

Taylor, C. and Robinson, C., ‘Student voice: theorising power and participation’, Pedagogy, Culture and Society 17/2 (2009), pp. 161–75. ‘Student voice: theorising power and participation’ Pedagogy, Culture and Society 17/2 161 75 Google Scholar

Voas, D. and Crockett, A., ‘Religion in Britain: neither believing nor belonging’, Sociology 39/1 (2005), pp. 11–28. ‘Religion in Britain: neither believing nor belonging’ Sociology 39/1 11 28 Google Scholar

Walker, P., ‘British Quaker “prepared for jail” after allegedly trying to disarm Saudi Arabia-bound fighter’, Independent, 1 February 2017. Available at: >http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/british-quaker-activist-sam-walton-pacifist-disarm-saudi-arabia-fighter-jet-bae-uk-yemen-a7555246.html> [Accessed 30/03/2017]. Google Scholar

Watson, A. and Rowe, D., Experience and Faith in Education: contemporary essays from Quaker perspectives, London: Trentham Books, 2018. Experience and Faith in Education: contemporary essays from Quaker perspectives Google Scholar

Weber, M., ‘Science as a Vocation’, in Gerth, H. H. and Wright Mills, C. (eds), From Max Weber: essays in sociology, Abingdon: Routledge, 1919, pp. 129–58. ‘Science as a Vocation’ From Max Weber: essays in sociology 129 58 Google Scholar

Weber, M., The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, London: Allen and Unwin, 1930. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism Google Scholar

Woods, P. A., ‘Rationalisation, disenchantment and re-enchantment: Engaging with Weber’s sociology of modernity’, in Apple, M. W., Ball, S. J., and Gandin, L. A. (eds), The Routledge International Handbook of the Sociology of Education, Abingdon: Routledge, 2009, pp. 121–31. ‘Rationalisation, disenchantment and re-enchantment: Engaging with Weber’s sociology of modernity’ The Routledge International Handbook of the Sociology of Education 121 31 Google Scholar


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Author details

Alton, Matt