The Shared Space Project

A joint initiative, by the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE) and the University of Bristol, is researching best ways of promoting community relations within RE lessons. The group comprises three university researchers and NATRE members who teach RE and the project is investigating whether ‘Contact Theory’ could be applied usefully to the RE setting. Developed by social psychologists, ‘Contact Theory’ promotes value in diversity and explains how individuals can interact meaningfully with their cross-group peers. The team are leading a national survey of teachers of RE and will develop a report, training resources and future recommendations for further work on this topic.

The Team:

Rachel Jackson Royal
Janet Orchard
Shelley McKeown Jones
Amanda Williams

The Project:

Despite growing racial diversity, cultural tensions persist in UK primary and secondary schools, so that understanding how to improve community relations is of urgent importance. One way of improving community relations is through promoting value in diversity, which can encourage individuals to interact meaningfully with cross-group peers (‘contact theory’). Young people spend a substantial proportion of their time in education; schools are an important setting for possible interventions. In particular, the RE curriculum is well-placed to promote positive community relations. However, insufficient attention has been given to capturing how, and why ‘good RE’ promotes community cohesion.

This information is of considerable interest to our partners NATRE (the subject association for RE in England) who provide support for practicing RE teachers and who effectively lobby policy makers. NATRE seeks to establish persuasive evidence that RE has a positive impact on interreligious and intercultural relations in the classroom. Using contact theory and attitude development as tools in the psychology of education will help to capture, explain, and provide examples of best practice.

What we need:

Calling teachers of RE, whatever phase!

Please complete our survey on RE teachers’ perceptions of diversity and pedagogical practice.

Survey link:

Thank you for your participation!

Our progress:




Aug 16

Develop Survey

Ethics cleared

Sept 16

Admin survey

Circulated around networks

Oct 16

Words beyond words Conference

Attend conference + begin to recruit research participants

Nov 16

NATRE Executive

Attend meeting + project update

Jan 17

Strictly Conference

Attend conference and continue to recruit research participants

Impact-related feedback

Jan - Feb 17

Analyse Survey Data

Compile, analyse initial data and summarise findings so far, continue to recruit participants;

Mar 17


Attend meeting + project + update

Mar – June 17

Develop teacher Resource

Work between researchers & curriculum developers takes place; compile and analyse final data and produce final report

June 17


Attend meeting + project + update

June- July 17

Pilot teacher Resource

Share report with NATRE;

Pilot resource + gather feedback from local NATRE groups

Aug – Sept 17

Revise teacher resource

Revise & post on websites

Can we prove that RE promotes good community relations

Handout PAGE 1
Handout PAGE 2