Abstract of Professional Doctorate
Helen O' Connor

The Purbeck Review of Schools, initiated by Dorset County Council in 2008, resulted in the closure of the middle school in Swanage, leaving the town bereft of secondary education by July 2013. A community-led group, Education Swanage, founded a new school in the town, which opened in September 2013 as a free school, with a humanscale ethos. Although there was controversy about free schools at the time, there is no research to date about how personal values influence the founding of such a school. This research answers the question how did values influence the founding of The Swanage School?

This inductive research was informed by literature on the conceptualization of 'values' and the 'sacred' and delimited by theoretical insights from practical theology, living theory and human-scale education. The action research strategy, set within a paradigm of praxis, addressed how values influenced action in founding the school. Semistructured interviews, an online survey and a validation group were used to discover how values influenced practice.

The data revealed a variety of interpretations of the term 'values', which were most commonly alluded to as being central in guiding and informing everyday interaction in the world and relating to how humans respond to others whilst also being a reflection of personal identity. The research identified areas of practice where the interplay of intrinsic and extrinsic values was influential when operating in contradiction and congruence to affect change. Analysis of the findings enabled conclusions and propositions to be developed, which focused on how values influenced the process of moving from contradiction to congruence in order to enact change.

Values were a significant influence in the founding of The Swanage School. When values were contradicted they acted as standards of judgement and formed the basis of conversations which led to problems being solved and decisions being made. Concepts from the wider literature and the field of practical theology provided insight into how values can be defined and how their influence on action can be interpreted as an encounter with the sacred. The conclusion of this study and its contribution to knowledge is the explanation of how values influenced the founding of The Swanage School in the form of a living educational theory.

Key words: Values, sacred, influence, contradiction, intrinsic, extrinsic


You can download Helen O' Connor's Thesis for her Professional Doctorate in Practical Theology, in PDF format from here:

The full list of contents

Appendix One - Email Correspondence with Ruard Ganzevoort

Appendix Two - Paper One

Appendix Three - Paper Two

Appendix Four - Paper Three

Appendix Five - Timeline of Education Swanage

Appendix Six - Forecast Distribution of 11-16 Population in Purbeck

Appendix Seven - Ethical Consent Letter

Appendix Eight - Semi-Structured Interview Questions

Appendix Nine - Online Survey Questions

Appendix Ten - Validation Group Prezi. This a CD and in the hard copy submitted to Anglia Ruskin University

Appendix Eleven - The ES Rainbow

Appendix Twelve - Email Correspondence with ES Validation Group