The first phase of the project, the qualitative study, has taken place in twenty secondary schools across the UK. These have been selected to cover a variety of contexts (ethnic diversity and relative homogeneity, schools with a religious character and those without, localities with high levels of religious practice and those with low levels) across the four nations and London. London is included as a special case because of its size and distinctive patterns of diversity.
Qualitative researchers from WRERU have conducted semi-structured group interviews with three to six groups of around six students in each of the participating schools. These groups were selected from each school to ensure as far as possible a range of ages in the 13-17 age bracket and sufficient flexibility about the mix of gender, religious affiliation and ethnicity to access a wide diversity of views. Group interviews gave greater agency to the students as they responded to each other’s views on their shared context.
These group interviews have built up detailed pictures of young people’s thinking about religious diversity and the range and variety of positions they adopt in response. This phase is providing an exploratory basis and a detailed context for the quantitative phase. It has allowed hypotheses to emerge that will then be tested in the next phase by a UK wide survey. Thus the young people have had a voice in the research questions that guide the rest of the project.