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Stephen G Parker

Director - CERRL; Professor - Education

Stephen G Parker

About Research


Stephen Parker is Director of The Centre for Catholic Education, Research and Religious Literacy (CERRL) and Professor of Education and Religious History. He joined St Mary’s in May 2023 from the University of Worcester, where he was Professor of the History of Religion and Education, a long-serving research lead and, formerly, Head of Postgraduate Studies in Education. Prior to this, Stephen has taught across sectors of education, from Primary to Sixth Form, as well as being a Diocesan RE Adviser and lecturer in Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Chester.

Prof Parker is a historian of education in the 19th and 20th century, especially on multiple aspects of the history of religious education. His current research is focused upon religious education on radio and television, religious broadcasting, and the promotion of the public understanding of religion, childhood, religion, and catechetical reform in the mid-20th century and RE teacher professionalisation. His book, Religious Education: a broadcasting history is to be published by Oxford University Press in due course.

As Director of CERRL, Stephen leads and facilitates colleagues across the remit of the centre’s activities – internally and externally.

Over the next few years, he is looking to develop the University’s and centre’s strategic responses to the ongoing developments in Catholic education, while establishing CERRL as an international hub for research in Catholic and religious education. More broadly, he intends to ensure that CERRL’s activities and courses continue to promote inter-religious dialogue and learning.

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Research profile

Research funding

Prof Parker has received significant funding for his research from several prestigious funders, including the Leverhulme Trust and the British Academy. Presently, he is pursuing research funded by the St. Peter’s Saltley Trust and the Society for Educational Studies. His past and present funded research projects include: ‘The hidden history of curriculum change in Religious Education in English schools, 1969-1979’; ‘Faith on the Air: a religious educational broadcasting history’; and ‘From Religious Education teacher to Religion and Worldviews teacher: past and present perspectives and future needs’.

Past and present research students

Stephen has thus far supported seven doctoral researchers towards the completion of their PhD. He would be pleased to receive enquiries about supervision in any of the following areas:

  • history of education in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries
  • Catholic education and Catholic religious education
  • educational media and the history of educational technology
  • international and comparative histories of religion and education and religious education
  • the churches, state, and education
  • faith and supplementary schooling
  • religious education: history, philosophy, policy, practice, and pedagogy
  • childhood and religion
  • the history of Sunday schooling
  • religion in the Second World War
  • the history of Christianity in Britain in the 19th and 20th centuries
  • theories and theologies of education
  • history of religious education, curriculum, pedagogy, and texts.

He is currently supervising the following doctoral researchers internally and externally:

  • Adel Adaha – the influence of ACT on people’s wellbeing
  • Jeremiah Adebolajo – British Muslim convert experiences of education
  • Leigh-Anne Beattie – Former church building use by community groups
  • Kelvin Beechey – the interwar histories of the Christian Science and Seventh Day Adventists
  • Suzanne Jabarian – Vocabulary learning
  • Karl Jones – Curriculum in computing education
  • Jane Owen – 16-19 year olds, wellbeing and education.
  • Alan Morgan – Entrepreneurial education
  • Catherine Place – leadership in schools and teacher wellbeing
  • Nicholas Rogers – Music education
  • Yan Yang – motivation for foreign language learning.

Select Publications

  • Parker, S.G. ‘Religious Education and the Re-Christianization of Western Europe in the Long 1950s: A Missed Opportunity?’ in Lamberigts, M, Pizzey, A and Schelkens, K. eds.(2023) Vatican II after 60 years: developments and expectations prior to the Council, Belgium: Brepols.
  • Parker, S.G. ‘Catholic Education’ in Harris, A. (2023) Oxford History of British and Irish Catholicism (Vol. IV) 1914-present. Oxford: OUP.
  • Schweitzer, F. Simojoki, H., Freathy, R and Parker, S. (2022) Improving Religious Education Through Teacher Training: experiences and insights from European countries, joint contributing editor with Friedrich Schweitzer, Henrik Simojoki and Rob Freathy. Munster: Waxmann.
  • Parker, S.G., Freathy, R. (2020) The Church of England and religious education during the twentieth century. In Rodger, T., Williamson, P., and Grimley, M. (eds) The Church of England and British Politics Since 1900. Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer.
  • Parker, S.G., Allen, S., Freathy, R. (2020) ‘The Church of England and the 1870 Education Act’, British Journal of Educational Studies 68(5), 541-565.
  • Strhan, A., Parker, S.G. and Ridgely, S. (2017) The Bloomsbury Reader in Childhood and Religion. London: Bloomsbury Press.
  • Doney, J., Parker, S.G., and Freathy, R.J.K. (2017) Enriching the historiography of Religious Education: insights from oral life history, History of Education, 46(4), 436-458.
  • Parker SG, Freathy R, Doney J (2016). The Professionalisation of Non-Denominational Religious Education in England: politics, organisation and knowledge. Journal of Beliefs and Values: Studies in Religion and Education, 37(2).
  • Freathy R, Parker SG, Schweitzer F, Simojoki H (2016). Conceptualizing and Researching the Professionalization of Religious Education Teachers: Historical and International Perspectives. British Journal of Religious Education, 38(2), 114-129.
  • Parker, S.G. (2015) Mediatising childhood religion: the BBC, John G. Williams, and collective worship for schools in England, c.1940-1975, Paedagogica Historica: international journal of the history of education, 51(5), pp. 614-630.
  • Freathy, R.J.K., Parker, S.G. (2013) Secularists, Humanists and religious education: religious crisis and curriculum change, 1963-1975, History of Education: journal of the History of Education Society, 42: 2, 222—256.
  • Parker, S.G., Freathy, R.J.K. (2012) Ethnic diversity, Christian hegemony and the emergence of multi-faith religious education in the 1970s, History of Education: journal of the History of Education Society, 41: 3, 381–404.
  • Parker, S.G., Freathy, R.J.K. (2011) Context, Complexity and Contestation: Birmingham’s Agreed Syllabuses since the 1960s, Journal of Beliefs and Values: Studies in Religion and Education, 32: 2, 247 – 263.
  • Freathy, R.J.K., Parker, S.G. (2010) The necessity of historical inquiry in educational research: the case of religious education, British Journal of Religious Education, 32: 3, 229 – 243.
  • Parker, S. G. (2010) 'Teach them to pray Auntie’: Children's Hour Prayers at the BBC, 1940-1961, History of Education: journal of the History of Education Society, Vol. 39: 5, 659-676.

Other articles


External Involvement

Stephen is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Beliefs and Values: studies in religion and education and Editor-in-Chief of Brill Research Perspectives in Religion and Education. He is Founding Editor and Series Editor, Religion, Education and Values, Peter Lang (AG). He is editorial board member for Practical Theology (2003-), History of Education Researcher, (2014-), Religions (2020-) and British Journal of Educational Studies, (2022-).

Stephen has been a member of the Peer Review College of the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council since 2013. He is current Past-President of the History of Education Society, UK.

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