withdrawal from RE/Collective worship AND Gifted/Talented

(643 Posts)
outofthebox Thu 18-Jul-13 12:08:20

Hello.

I have searched this forum but have been unable to find a specific discussion on the experience parent have had when withdrawing their children from RE and Collective Worship.

We are Jewish Humanist (Atheist) and I object to my son being involved with prayers or any kind or being in a christmas play- nativity involvement is specifically out of the question.

We are also American so my husband and I never had to deal with feelings of exclusion regarding the above issues because religion is not allowed in public schools YEY! We don't really understand the RE system and my first child is just turning 4.

His school has assembly every morning. From what I understand, it is usually of an ethical theme which is terrific, yet it follows by a prayer at the end and then once a week there are hymns and once a week there are relgious plays of a nature which has not yet been made specifically clear or to me.

The school headmistress has not offered any solutions or plans except to say we'll deal with it. This last school year, my son was taken out from practicing for school christmas songs but I know he felt sad about being separated from friends as he was only brought into another room to play with playdough and overheard everyone but him practicing. I'm not sure that overhearing practcing is consistenet with honoring re withdrawal rights. Also as the school is a christian private school run by cognate, I'm not sure if they have the ability to do what they want vs a state school.

My initial thought is to just bring my son to school 15 minutes "late" each morning so he won't even know what he is missing - of course if there is an awards day or something I don't know how this would be handled. The headmistress really gave me the indiciation that in circumstances like this, she wouldn't know what to do either- yet I think the school has a duty to come up with some accomodations doesn't it? In regards to being "late" it was communicated to me that my son might in future be marked "late" which would interfere with the attendance policy.. don't know what to do about this.

Finally, on top of it all, my son is listed as gifted for reading and math. This past school year I was just thrilled because the wonderful year 2 teacher met with him once a week and encouraged him. I thought that just maybe,. if the school is going to give support here, that they do so when my son would otherwise be in RE or collective worship as he might not feel excluded specifically. I get the feeling that while that one teacher was thrilled to offer up her time, the headmistress really doesn't want to ask her staff to sit with my son and would rather pressure us to confirm or leave. We are not the type to just bow under pressure-

SO! With all of the above in mind- any tips? What has your experience dealing with withdrawal been like? How to deal with a headmistress or ensure your rights are enforced?

Thanks so much.

exoticfruits Wed 24-Jul-13 10:21:55

I think there are 3 arguments because I don't like the way RE is put with collective worship, as if they are the same.

I don't think that collective worship has a place in schools, but it isn't something that bothers me greatly- I will leave others to fight that one.
I can think of other things in education that bother me more.

However I think that RE teaching is essential otherwise you end up with very ignorant people. You can't understand current affairs, history, art, literature, architecture or different cultures without it.
You also end up with rude and insensitive people if they have no respect for the views of others and think they can just ride roughshod over them.

LizzyDay Wed 24-Jul-13 10:51:43

Totally agree re RE exoticfruits. Education and worship are not the same thing.

Also agree with you when you say "You also end up with rude and insensitive people if they have no respect for the views of others and think they can just ride roughshod over them." To me, having Christian worship by legal default in state schools is doing exactly that. There must be barely a school in the country where 100% of pupils are from Christian families. And, as evidenced by this thread, taking children out of worship in schools isn't seen as a great option as it alienates the child who is taken out.

goonIcantakeit Wed 24-Jul-13 12:39:33

but I think all those arguments are not answering the OP's question which was, what are people's experience of withdrawal?

Surely such a question is a reasonable one that deserves answers rather than pages of flaming with very few practical answers.

Why are we so troubled by someone who has settled principles? After all, we do have safeguards in place to protect these people (in the state system). We put those safeguards in place because, presumably, we felt their stance deserved respect.

Maybe we all just enjoyed having a very different debate - is withdrawal a good idea?

LizzyDay Wed 24-Jul-13 12:59:53

I guess there aren't that many people who actually do take their children out of worship in schools even if they don't agree with it.

Probably a variety of reasons - not wanting to alienate the child, or be marked out as 'difficult', perhaps even sometimes not realising that it happens, after all schools don't tend to advertise what goes on in assembly. If it's a faith school then obviously you'd expect it, but there are lots of misconceptions that 'non-faith' schools are worship-free.

MidniteScribbler Wed 24-Jul-13 13:01:43

goon I think that you can't argue for withdrawal when the fact is that the OP has sent her child to a private religious school and is now demanding he not partake in something that is fundamental to their ethos. If he were being sent to a state school, then the argument has merit.

I can't send my child to a muslim school and demand that he be fed a bacon sandwich for lunch. There would be an outcry of people saying that if I were so determined to feed him pork products during school hours then I should have selected another school.

exoticfruits Wed 24-Jul-13 13:10:50

I agree with MidNiteScribbler - even if I sent to another school I wouldn't withdraw because it instantly becomes a far more interesting subject - anything upsetting your mother must make it worth exploring!

goonIcantakeit Wed 24-Jul-13 13:35:35

I'm trying to make a "don't agree with you but shall defend to the death your right to say it" point..... I won't disclose my own "faith status" or opinion on the wisdom of withdrawal because it isn't relevant.

at the end of the day, the OP didn't know about the private/state divide. That's not an offensive stance, it's just lack of knowledge - knowledge she now has.

But if she has a settled principle, she doesn't need to argue for withdrawal - she has that right. So why the need to attack, to say that anyone exercising that right is wrong? When the Jehovah's Witness families in our school withdraw, they don't debate it, they just withdraw. We don't consequently sideline them or their children and nor do our teachers, even though their faith tenets are not exactly mainstream....

So I think the responsibility cuts both ways. Yes, parents have a responsibility to familiarise themselves with the culture around them, but society has a responsibility to accept that some people have strongly held beliefs and exercise rights accordingly - there's no need to attack them for what they see as the natural consequence of those beliefs.

MidniteScribbler Wed 24-Jul-13 14:01:27

Goon, had she merely asked for her child to be excluded from the religious portion of assembly and singing practice, the she would not have got the reaction she did. It was the fact that she doesn't want him to be even able to overhear some singing and expects him to be given private one on one tutoring during that time which got everyone offside (plus some very over the top comments about religion and the UK vs the US.

rabbitstew Wed 24-Jul-13 14:30:04

But goonIcantakeit, the OP had been allowed to withdraw her child from the assemblies and hymn practice. Nobody had put any obstacles in her way - she, however, felt that it was unacceptable that her child could still hear the other children singing whilst he played with playdough: the time should be taken up giving her ds G&T lessons, instead. Do the Jehova's Witnesses at your school demand 1-1 G&T lessons for their children during assembly and removal far enough away from assembly that they don't hear anything that's going on???

GrimmaTheNome Wed 24-Jul-13 14:56:55

Gosh - sorry, it was late, I apologise for that remark. I've just never seen the sort of threads you describe, maybe I'm lucky/careful which ones I choose to look at. But I have been on lots of good threads with regular posters who are muslims.

exoticfruits Wed 24-Jul-13 15:11:45

They are not going to be taught if they are withdrawn- staff are most likely in assembly- at least some of the week. They are with whoever is available to look after them.

goonIcantakeit Wed 24-Jul-13 18:00:33

rabbit, no, they don't demand it.

I think that, for them, it doesn't feel like a choice. It's something that happened when they were kids and so their kids do it too. It's a cause of anxiety for them, but they don't feel they have a choice......

We for our part "get" that feeling. I think that the parents and school partner well to help the little v girl get some level of education during the times she is out of class (quite a lot, when you include the birthday issue, add in RE lessons, assemblies, etc).

outofthebox Mon 29-Jul-13 21:00:06

Update:

Wow- such a huge thread!

I am thrilled to say that he Headmistress was willing to think out of the box. She will be moving my son into the nursery during nativity play practice and we are allowed to come "late" on the 1 assembly day he would have had. Since he is not really of school age yet I suppose she can be more flexible. Especially since I am not required to even put him in school for another year.

She said that she would never relegate my son to the hallway or admin office as it is an unkind thing to do, so she would def. see if my son could be put in other classes going forward. This would be a fantastic solution for us, since if my son remains at a high level in math and reading, he could ideally be put in a higher grade class for the timeslot.

So for now, we will see what the upcoming year brings. But we will be definitely putting my sons name down for our local state school.

I still can't get over that someone would even ever suggest to a jewish person that they should have their child take part in a nativity play where jesus is proclaimed the son of god and all... don't people know that Jews are quite firmly against all of that???Ttotally out of line and rude and oppressive.

HarumScarum Mon 29-Jul-13 21:57:58

I'm an atheist and my parents are atheists and my kid is an atheist. All of us have taken part in nativities (including my dad who was actually a muslim before he was an atheist) without compromising our own beliefs. It's very much along the same lines as taking part in a play about fairies without actually believing in them, in the UK.

VerlaineChasedRimbauds Mon 29-Jul-13 22:43:49

I don't understand why you can't regard the Nativity play as "drama". That's what it is for the children: it's acting out a story - that's all. They have fun.

"totally out of line and rude and oppressive?" "don't people know that Jews are quite firmly against all that?". Against all what? I thought you were an atheist? Surely it's just another (untrue) religious story to you? Do you believe everything that religious Jews believe? Presumably not. So why on earth should it be worse to suggest to an atheist Jew that they could take part in telling this particular story than any other myth? Why is rude to suggest that an atheist need not worry about it?

Your stance, as a self-defined atheist, seems really, really weird.

LittleBearPad Mon 29-Jul-13 22:44:36

My BIL was a shepherd in the nativity play as a child. He's a Muslim.

Really OP for someone who's an atheist and therefore doesn't believe in any form of religion including, by definition as an atheist, Judaism - you are fairly focused on what Jews do and don't believe. Surely you don't give a fig as its all made up anyway...

GrimmaTheNome Mon 29-Jul-13 22:54:53

I'm an atheist who was happy to let my child participate in nativities etc - from a christian background. I don't think it takes much knowledge of history over the centuries to work out why a jewish person - religious or not - might feel entirely differently. That story had profound consequences, for good and ill.

BadgerB Tue 30-Jul-13 05:50:08

I can completely understand that a religious Jew would keep her children clear of Nativity plays and such like - but an atheist? Why?? As people have said above, if it's all fairy stories anyway where's the harm?
OP, when your DS is at state school will you withdraw him from celebrations of Eid, Diwali - and Hannukah, as well as Christmas? If so he will be spending a lot of time out of class

BadgerB Tue 30-Jul-13 07:13:19

Seriously, OP, I would suggest you question closely the state school you choose before you register your DS. If, as seems to be the case, you are in a multi-ethnic area, there will be any number of religions celebrated with drama, singing and so on. Will you withdraw him from all of them or is is it only Christian 'myths' you have a problem with?
What do you do about Christmas and Easter? Are Father Christmas and chocolate eggs OK, or do you do the American thing of calling everything 'holiday'?

Grimma - it was the crucifixion story rather than the nativity which had such a terrible impact on european Jewry.

The OP's son is going to find religion a fascinating and forbidden mystery!

exoticfruits Tue 30-Jul-13 07:28:34

When you say that you have put down your son for the local state school I do hope that you have read the explanations that there are NO secular state schools in England. Make sure that you have Googled 'collective worship and the law'.

exoticfruits Tue 30-Jul-13 07:30:06

I agree with Badger that excluding a child makes it a fascinating and forbidden mystery- anything that upset my mother would be something exciting to explore!

craftycottontail Tue 30-Jul-13 07:44:42

Or it just makes the child miserable. As a strong Christian my mother insisted I was excluded from things like Halloween celebrations and learning about things like Diwali (sp?). It just made me feel different and miserable, and embarrassed about the fuss my mum made. I would never inflict that on my child. Why are many adults so scared to let their children experience life and trust them to make their own decisions?

exoticfruits Tue 30-Jul-13 07:53:14

They are scared they will make a different decision to the one they have brought them up to have, craftycottontail, and so they censor anyone who is telling them anything different.
I can't understand the obsession that your child must have your views and beliefs. You bring them up in a certain way, because it is what you believe in, but you have to realise from the start that they are not you and they are free to make their own judgements. The safest way is to know all the options.

exoticfruits Tue 30-Jul-13 07:54:13

And to assume they are intelligent and get them to question everything and everyone- starting with you.

GrimmaTheNome Tue 30-Jul-13 08:47:54

>Grimma - it was the crucifixion story rather than the nativity which had such a terrible impact on european Jewry

obviously but they aren't exactly unrelated. TBH I think it would be better for the OPs kid if he was allowed to participate - he's in a different country, exploring the cultural differences could add to the experience - but I really don't think its hard to understand why she might feel as she does. Rather than people telling her that her stance is weird, it might be more helpful to accept that's her starting point and then maybe help her explore whether she can/should overcome her qualms? [smile}

>And to assume they are intelligent and get them to question everything and everyone- starting with you.

Couldn't agree more with that! And the more information they have, the better they can do this.

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