From education to employment

National survey reveals student and staff attitudes to faith and culture

More than two-thirds of students polled for a survey feel that colleges should provide for an individual’s faith needs.

Further, 66% felt a greater sense of belonging to a college that “actively encourages” dialogue between faiths and communities.

A one-day conference organised by the National Ecumenical Agency in Further Education (NEAFE) and Faiths in FE Forum (FIFEF), together with the Tribal Group, was held at the Lambeth Palace in London earlier this month, designed to “investigate” improving the spiritual, moral and cultural development of college students.

Moreover, it was an opportunity to discuss the findings of a new report on students” cultural, moral and religious attitudes. The national review has, so far, received 1150 responses from across the further education sector.

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of staff who responded feel that colleges and work-based learning providers “play a critical role in community cohesion”; yet respondents overwhelmingly rejected the notion of working with faith leaders to achieve this – less than 2% thought working with leaders and their communities was acceptable.

Some staff also responded by saying that they felt faith was a dividing factor in communities, and colleges “should not be seen to be taking a role in this field”.

Interestingly, 66% of students who responded to the survey felt that “colleges should recognise that values, beliefs and faiths (VBF) are important to some people even if they themselves do not consider VBF important in their own lives”.

Further, differences appeared in what staff thought students wanted, and what the students themselves wanted; both agreed that first on the list was a quiet room for prayer.

However, staff then thought a Chaplaincy and events/workshops would figure highly; students instead opted for “a college culture of respect and tolerance of difference”, followed by group discussions on VBF as part of tutorials.

Recommendations for the future include “consideration” into providing a prominent policy steer on VBF issues, whilst the new vocational diplomas “should recognise the need to ensure that young people are trained for employment in a pluralistic society”.

Francis Nicholson, Training Director at Tribal said:

“The report shows conclusively that giving credence to values has an impact on achievement and student satisfaction. Bill Rammell has gone on record as saying that he would like to see every college having a minister or faith leader as part of the student support function”.

Vijay Pattni

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