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Star signs turn off Christian boys

State school boys are more superstitious than contemporaries in independent Church schools - but they like their classmates more, according to new research.

Parents are also getting what they pay for when they buy a Christian education for their children, say researchers from Bangor university.

Boys at independent Christian schools are far more likely to believe in God and the resurrection, have positive attitudes towards church and religious education, and believe homosexuality and abortion are wrong.

But Professor Leslie Francis, director of the Welsh National Centre for Religious Education at Bangor, is concerned about how well-prepared they are for life in the secular world outside.

He drew on data about children's religious and moral values collected from 33,982 Year 9 and 10 pupils from 163 schools in Wales and England. He compared the findings for 136 boys from 19 independent Christian schools with those of 12,823 boys from non-denominational state schools.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the independent school boys were far more likely to believe in God (85 to 40 per cent), that Jesus rose from the dead (89 to 28 per cent), and in life after death (71 to 45 per cent).

They also had positive attitudes towards church, with 88 per cent wanting to get married in one, compared to 78 per cent of state school boys.

However, just over a fifth said church is boring, and only 29 per cent were in favour of a religious assembly every day.

Professor Francis, in an article for the British Journal of Religious Education, says: "Bible-based Christian teaching steers the believer away from superstition". Only 9 per cent of the independent school boys believed in their horoscope - compared to nearly half of state school boys.

But the independent school boys were no more law-abiding than their state-sector peers, and were not significantly more opposed to drug use.

And while they have more respect for their teachers and feel safer at school, they like their classmates less.

Professor Francis concludes that Christian parents may feel satisfied that they are getting what they paid for. But he questions how well their sons'

Christian education is preparing them for further education and work in a secular society.

Independent Christian schools and pupil values, British Journal of Religious Education, Volume 27, number 2, March 2005

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