Compare and Contrast the Aims of a ‘Secular' and a ‘Religious' School.

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Compare and contrast the aims of a ‘secular' and a ‘religious' school.

A school is ‘ a place where children go to be educated.'( Collins Dictionary 1991 pg 892), therefore is there any difference between a secular or a religious school, as surely, the main aim is to educate the children in accordance with the national curriculum and not in an accordance with a religion. However, if you are being educated with the concepts of a religion is this a negative thing? And is there any real difference between the set up of both schools as surely education itself derives from a religious background. All these ideas I will endeavour to explore in my following discussion.

I looked at two schools in the local area, both were girls schools, one being a religious school of Roman Catholic origin, named ‘Notre Dame School for Girls', and the other being a secular school known as ‘Devonport High School for girls. Initially, I didn't imagine that there would be an awful lot of difference between the two schools, however this wasn't the case. The first thing that I noticed, was the drastic difference in the results for GCSE students and A level results. DHSG had a 98% pass rate of pupils getting A-C grades whilst Notre Dame only had 63% of their pupils attaining A-C grades in their GCSE examinations in year 2004. There could be a number of reasons for this contrast, one of which could be that Notre Dame added an additional curricular time for religious worship or retreat, which or course took away some of the time set aside for more standard curricular, academic studies. This time of worship wouldn't be available to students at DHSG and so this extra time could benefit these pupils into gaining higher grades. Although it obviously depends on the aims of the school and whether more emphasis is based on intellectual understanding or spiritual growth, so really it is based on what the school wants to give its pupils, and whether grades actually have any standing in today's society. Another difference I was aware of, was that of the introduction, or Head Teachers aims for the school. DHSG's mission statement was very direct, and made no comment on spiritual growth or any kind of moral strengthening, but made clear the ‘aim is to educate girls in the fullest sense, so that on leaving school they have the ability to express themselves clearly, have responsibility and a belief in their own worth.' (introduction to DHSG Website). This aim made it very evident that girls were being sculptured into a way for the ever changing modern world so that they could confidently, and individually cope with its fast pace and inconstancy. Although there was no mention of faith, or spiritual building, this could be involved in what they mean by ‘belief in their own worth.' (DHSG website)

This introduction was very different to that of Notre Dame, where the Head teacher's first aim was as follows: ‘We are a community within the roman catholic tradition, striving to prepare young people for life and promoting Christian ideals.' (Notre Dame Mission Statement) This really surprised me as I didn't expect the schools first aim to be an announcement of Christian promotion, but on more of an educational aim. The idea of a ‘community' seems the focus of the aims, as of its numerous mentions in the mission statement. This differs from DHSG where their was a greater influence on individual, and unique growth, with each child. This sense of a community is a very religious and spiritual idea, and builds a sense of belonging into a child, perhaps one that they may lack from family or friends. This community idea relates to that of a church, where every member may feel part of a faithful, united family, however is this a good idea? As should a school replicate a church? Yet is this the aim of the school, to create a church like atmosphere, one where perhaps the child can feel safe and ‘express through work and worship'. This concept of a collective worshipping family...
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