At a time when the faith-based identity of schools is facing serious challenges, the researchers undertook a longitudinal study of the relevant opinions, beliefs and values of student-teachers at a Catholic university campus in Australia. The focus of the current paper is on the responses of first-year students to a survey regarding their choice of secondary school, the purposes of schooling and the characteristics of Catholic schools. Relevant context are addressed including global education trends, the values and characteristics of Catholic education and relevant aspects of Australian schooling and youth culture. Regardless of religious affiliation, self-reported religiosity or type of school attended, providing a ‘safe and caring school environment’ emerged as the most important purpose of schooling and as a key reason for choice of school, while faith-based purposes and reasons received particularly low ratings. ‘Caring community’ was regarded as by far the most important characteristic of the Catholic school, followed by engagement in social justice programmes. The findings are briefly compared with parallel findings for teachers in Queensland Catholic schools.
British Journal of Religious Education / Vol. Article in press