Accessibility statement

Becoming Citizens of 'Post-Secular' Britain: Religion in Primary School Life


About the project

The ‘Becoming Citizens of ‘Post-Secular’ Britain: Religion in Primary School Life’ project is funded by the Leverhulme Trust from January 2022 - December 2024. The research team is based at the University of York, the University of Sheffield, and the University of Surrey.

The question of how schools should prepare children to be citizens of diverse, multifaith societies is an ongoing feature of liberal democracies in the Western world. While there have been numerous studies of religion and education oriented towards issues such as the content and practice of religious education, we know little about how ideas about religion, citizenship and national identity become interrelated through everyday practices in schools, or what this means for children’s sense of belonging in wider society. 

Using child-centred and participatory research methods, our project aims to explore how primary school children (aged 7-11) in different parts of the UK understand what it means to belong to different communities (including their local and school community), and how this relates to religious or non-religious beliefs and values. We will also be looking at what kinds of ideas about citizenship, national identity, and religion children encounter in everyday school life and more local forms of community and belonging.

Through the project, we hope to find out more about the significance of religion, beliefs, and values in how schools foster ideas of community and being a good citizen, and to understand children’s views on these issues. This will give us a better understanding of how children learn to be citizens and enable us to develop recommendations to help to ensure that all children (whether religious or non-religious) feel fully included in school community life.


Who are we?

Principal Investigator

Dr Anna Strhan (University of York) (

Anna Strhan is a Reader in Sociology at the University of York. Anna’s broad research interests lie in the study of religion, culture, education, childhood, and space/place. Her work draws together approaches from sociology, anthropology, and philosophy to explore how religion and belief, ethics, and values interact with the social world.


Dr Peter Hemming (University of Surrey) (

Peter Hemming is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Surrey. He has a background in sociology, education and human geography, and has conducted previous research in this area. Peter’s interests include the sociology of religion. childhood and youth studies, sociology of education and qualitative methodologies.

Professor Sarah Neal (University of Sheffield) (

Sarah Neal is a professor of Sociology at the University of Sheffield. Sarah has a strong qualitative research background and her work explores the relationships between ethnicity, race and multiculture; community, belonging and in/exclusion; and rural and urban spaces.

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Dr Joanna Malone (University of York) (

Joanna Malone is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of York and has a background in anthropology and sociology and in qualitative research. Joanna’s interests include the relationship between religion and non-religion in people’s lives, the life-course, and ageing.

Advisory Group

The research is supported by an Advisory Group which helps to advise and oversee the direction of the research. Our advisory group is made up of:

  • Katy Dent - Education and Learning Consultant at the Faith & Belief Forum
  • Farah Elahi - Head of Community Engagement at the Greater London Authority and Trustee of the Runnymede Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation
  • David Lundie - Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Glasgow 
  • Sarah Mills - Reader in Human Geography at Loughborough University 
  • Daniel Moulin-Sto┼╝ek - University Lecturer in Education at the University of Cambridge
  • Line Nyhagen - Reader in Sociology at Loughborough University
  • Stephen Pett - National RE Adviser at RE Today
  • Martha Shaw - Associate Professor in Education at London South Bank University
  • Yvette Taylor - Professor of Education at the University of Strathclyde
  • Carol Vincent - Professor of the Sociology of Education at UCL Institute of Education

Activities and outputs


Conference presentations

  • Strhan, Anna, Joanna Malone, Peter Hemming, and Sarah Neal. 2023. ‘Exploring the Place of Religion in Children’s Peer Relationships.’ British Sociological Association Annual Conference, University of Manchester, April 2023
  • Malone, Joanna, Anna Strhan, Peter Hemming, and Sarah Neal. 2023. ‘Citizenship and the Place of Non-religion in Everyday School Life,’ Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network Conference, University of Ottawa, June 2023
  • Strhan, Anna, Joanna Malone, Peter Hemming, and Sarah Neal. 2023. ‘Becoming Citizens of “Postsecular” Britain: Religion in Primary School Life,’ British Sociological Association Sociology of Religion Study Group Annual Conference, University of Bristol, July 2023
  • Strhan, Anna, Joanna Malone, Peter Hemming, and Sarah Neal. 2023. ‘Mapping the Contours of Citizenship, Religion and Education in “Postsecular” Britain,’ American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, August 2023
  • Hemming, Peter, Anna Strhan, Joanna Malone and Sarah Neal. 2023. ‘Religion and Citizenship in Primary School Life: The Significance of Place.’ RGS-IBG Annual Conference, Royal Geographical Society, London, August 2023.
  • Anna Strhan, Joanna Malone, Peter Hemming, and Sarah Neal. 2024. 'Shifting Contours of Religion, Education, and Citizenship in Contemporary Britain.' British Journal of Sociology Inaugural Conference, LSE, April 2024.