Students who follow a religion do better in the classroom … even if they are not attending a school of faith

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Pupils who follow a religion do better in class … even if they don’t study in a faith school, new research finds

  • Religious children as young as 14 usually pass more GCSEs than their peers
  • The difference is on average more than a third of an extra GCSE
  • The benefit seems to come from faith itself rather than schools of faith

Teens who believe in God are likely to get better exam results than those who don’t, a large study finds.

Children as young as 14 who say that faith is important in their lives usually pass more GCSEs than non-believing students.

The difference is on average more than a third of an extra GCSE.

Teens who believe in God are likely to get better exam results than those who don’t, a large study finds

The research, based on questionnaires completed by more than 8,000 teens, said the benefit appears to come from the religious belief itself and has nothing to do with whether a student attends an academically strong school of faith.

Nor is it related to self-confidence, work ethic, sociability, or the sense of control young people have over their lives – qualities often associated with children from stable, well-income families.

The findings, collected by Lancaster University researchers and revealed at a Royal Economic Society conference, will provide food for thought for parents eager to get their child into a high-quality, faith-based public school.

The report said, “Faith is more important than the faith of the institution.”

Researchers said there is some evidence that students with spiritual faith do well at A level and are more likely to join a selective Russell Group university, but their grades are not robust enough to prove this.

Children as young as 14 who say that faith is important in their lives usually pass more GCSEs than non-believing students

Children as young as 14 who say that faith is important in their lives usually pass more GCSEs than non-believing students

However, the findings do show, they said, that teens who attend faith schools are more likely to have religious beliefs when they reach the age of 25, and that faith schools fare better than other high schools in a range of non-academic measures, including suppressing bullying and obtaining parental approval.

The evidence adds to the mystery of why religious belief appears to be beneficial. Welfare surveys routinely show that Christians and believers of different faiths are happier and more confident than others.

The findings are taken from the government’s National Pupil Database and from the Next Steps survey that has been tracking students at 650 schools since 2004. In the survey, the students were asked, “How important is your faith to the way you live your life?”

The academics looked at students aged 14 to 25 and focused mainly on Protestant and Roman Catholic Christians. The thinking of Muslim students was disregarded because almost all professing religious beliefs – only 20 said they were not believers – and as a result no effective comparison could be made.

Researcher Andrew McKendrick said that teens “who are more faithful succeed more and get better grades at GCSE. There is also some evidence that academic test scores at age 18 and the chances of attending college are also positively affected. ‘

He added, “We find great effects on GCSE attainment – one third of an extra pass for the believers compared to the infidelity. That’s big compared to the average of six steps. ‘

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