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Prayer spaces in schools: a subversion of policy implementation?

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Based on a major evaluation project, this article presents an emerging theme from research on the activities supported by Prayer Spaces in Schools, an organisation supporting ‘pop-up’ prayer spaces in schools across the UK and internationally. Evaluating the activities primarily in terms of their possible contribution to spiritual development, a number of important issues arose relating to policy on education and religion. This article focuses on how some engage with these prayer spaces as a way of reimagining and renegotiating educational policy. Based on data gathered from interviews with staff and students (aged 7–16) across seven schools in England, questionnaire responses from 555 students across 15 schools and feedback from two prayer spaces conferences, a hermeneutic approach is used to compare the interpretations of staff with those of students and the implicit positions of policy documents. This article explores various forms of policy implementation and how staff engagement with prayer spaces can be seen as a form of subversion, with staff tactically subverting policy implementation sometimes in order to promote the very intention of those policies – a form of what we refer to as subversive obedience.
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Keywords: policy; prayer; spiritual development; subversion; worship

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: York St John University, York, UK

Publication date: April 3, 2019

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