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.

outofthebox Thu 18-Jul-13 13:46:54

Well Jake- there is a local CofE school that is outstanding but it admits from reception -if- you are lucky and within the catchment and frankly, I don't really understand the difference between a christian and cofe school except now at least I know that I might be able to exercise statutory rights there which is helpful and important.... I need to explore this option for sept 2014... there is also the American school but at 25k per year- too expensive...

Sheshelob Thu 18-Jul-13 13:47:34

You can't demand that people who don't agree with you leave the discussion. It's not how MN works.

You do know you can't control everyone, everywhere, all the time, right?

sonlypuppyfat Thu 18-Jul-13 13:52:48

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

Morgause Thu 18-Jul-13 13:54:11

If you choose to send your child to a private Christian school then I think you have to accept that they may not make the sort of allowances you want them to - and I don't see why they should, frankly.

A state school has an obligation in law to allow for withdrawal from RE, I don't think private schools do. You chose a Christian school and I think it very hypocritical of you to then decide you want to withdraw your child from something central to the ethos of the school.

I'm an atheist so wouldn't sent my child to a Christian school either state or private. I can't understand why you are. Send your child elsewhere if your atheism is so important to you.

PandaG Thu 18-Jul-13 13:55:25

but a large % of state school are not Christian. Some are explicitly CofE, or Catholic, but the rest are not Christian at all. They do however have to provide an act of worship of a broadly Christian nature, which yes, you do have the right to remove your child from in a state school.

littlestressy Thu 18-Jul-13 13:55:49

I work in a state primary, we have assemblies which are moral/ethical in nature and at the end a school prayer. The children in my class who cannot join in with the prayer because of their religious beliefs either:
sit at the end of a row and leave the hall before the prayer (it is obvious it is coming) or
sit quietly and do not speak the words or bow their heads

All the children in my class stay in for RE lessons - whatever their own religious beliefs their parents are very clear that they are allowed to learn about other religions, they are not allowed to worship. Quite a crucial difference I feel, whenever I teach RE I am always very clear to say things like: "This is what Christians believe/this is what Muslims believe" etc

If they cannot stay in an assembly for a particular reason then they have to sit out for 10/15 minutes, sometimes they might overhear loud singing.

I think asking the school for your son to do extra G&T work with a teacher when he is out of assembly is a bit unreasonable - what if that teacher needs to be in assembly with their class? In our school, all teachers need to attend assembly.

piprabbit Thu 18-Jul-13 13:56:22

HE is home education - you can withdraw your child from school entirely and develop a curriculum to meet his needs, using tutors to fill in any gaps where you you might feel he needs more than you can offer yourselves (e.g. with his maths).

I think there is a topic on MN for people to talk about home education and quite a lot of support available to those who choose to go down that route.

Alternatively, do you have any local state schools without a religious affiliation? They may be more able to meet your needs, you certainly have a much clearer idea about the questions you could ask the HT to see if they are a fit. Don't get too hung up on OFSTED reports, an Outstanding school may be resting on their laurels while a Good school maybe really pushing themselves to improve. Also, there is a small amount of movement as families relocate etc. each year so it is worth talking to likely schools about their waiting lists as places do sometimes come up.

outofthebox Thu 18-Jul-13 13:58:53

titchy- you are right- I suppose if it were an American private christian school I wouldn't have dreamt of enrolling my son. I suppose for some reason I thought that the RE rule applied to all schools regardless of private or not since all were christian based anyway...

Ok well, I will have the same issues if he is enrolled at the state school in a years time... I suppose I will find out about the assemblies etc there.

Sorry folks, but the idea of separation of church and state are really fundamental to an American Atheist and the eseence of the American Constitution... I can't and don't want to defend my culture.... of course seriously this issue is having me think about "going back"- just please don't be rude about pushing that aspect.

exexpat Thu 18-Jul-13 13:59:18

By 'extreme/fringe' religious groups Being the only ones to withdraw from assemblies, I mean things like Jehovah's Witnesses, who have very strict rules about non-observance of Christmas etc, and Plymouth Brethren/Exclusive Brethren, who tend to avoid associating with anyone outside their own churches.

All the atheists, Jews, Hindus, Muslims etc I know let their children attend assemblies. They are usually a very wishy-washy, lets-all-be-nice-to-each-other sort of talk, possibly with a jolly song which may or may not mention god (you're more likely to get traditional hymns at private schools, by the way), and maybe something that could be interpreted as a prayer, to which the children are invited to add 'amen' if they feel so inclined.

Before making up your mind what to do, why don't you try to sit in on a few assemblies and RE lessons (if necessary in other possible schools too, for comparison's sake), so you actually know what you are objecting to?

TheFallenNinja Thu 18-Jul-13 14:00:24

I think you overestimate the actual impact of RE in schools, if it was that good the churches would be full every Sunday. You also run the risk of turning into forbidden fruit and isolating your child by YOUR wishes.

Belief comes from within, not from indoctrination.

outofthebox Thu 18-Jul-13 14:01:38

Yes there is a local free school which just opened this year... I should consider that if they don't do the prayer thing... Just happens to be on the other side of town in a congested highly trafficed area with no track record and lack of facilities to start, oy!

Sheshelob Thu 18-Jul-13 14:05:11

Playing the American card doesn't wash with me, I'm afraid. My parents are American and they never made it an issue. We are not christened and went to state schools with a whole range of kids from different cultures and religions.

If this were really that important to you, you would have done your homework and not sent your child to a private faith school. The information is readily available.

Are you unhappy here in general and looking for a reason to go home? That is how it sounds.

OhBuggerandArse Thu 18-Jul-13 14:05:50

Oh for goodness' sake.

Nobody is 'pushing' anything. What we are suggesting is that you open yourself up to finding out what life in the UK, and its very different approach to religion, culture and education, is really like.

If you're going to live here you may as well find out how the place works, rather than operating on the basis of preconceptions and misreadings.

You never know, you might actually end up enjoying the place a bit more.

kitchendiner Thu 18-Jul-13 14:05:51

Things may have changed nowadays but when I went to school the Plymouth Brethren children that were withdrawn from assembly were seen as "weirdos". We felt sorry for them.

We are athiests and wouldn't send our DS's to a Catholic School but they attend CofE Junior Schools were Xmas Plays are about Forgetful Fairies and Lost Camels. School are mindful of there being children from other religions there. Maybe you could organise a Jewish Humanist assembly to teach everyone what it's all about.

NigellaEllaElla Thu 18-Jul-13 14:06:11

OP It is a shame you can't see just how closed minded your views are. In my opinion there is a danger that you are solely teaching your child that no one can have differing opinions on religion, but that all should be respected, and that is what has caused a lot of problems in this world.

You can't choose it due to the fact it is an outstanding school but then expect them to provide alternative arrangements for your child, other than what they have already done. You knew when you put him there it was going to have some form of collective worship each day, if I felt as strongly as you do about it then I wouldn't have placed him there.

Our school has collective worship each day but often the themes and topics are things like Peace and Joy, they don't study passages from the bible. It is a very small school but there is a Hindu family there and those children are not excluded from collective worship, their parents embrace the school and its ethos but are clear about their beliefs being one of many.

I know some of that is what has already been said but I guess my over riding message would be that if it is a C of E school and you chose it then yes you are within your rights to request your son is removed from Collective Worship but you are totally out of order for expecting the staff to do something structured with him. Also, I believe you are doing so much damage by having him excluded and I truly believe he won't thank you for this. Finally, if you are seriously suggesting your child shouldn't even be able to hear Collective Worship and what they are singing about etc then I suggest you get some ear defenders for him instead of expecting the staff at a school you chose to come up with the answers for you.

piprabbit Thu 18-Jul-13 14:06:37

I was taught to sit with my hands in lap, look at my thumbs and think about what I was having for tea while everyone else was praying. My parents felt that I should be respectful of other people's prayers even if I wasn't participating.

titchy Thu 18-Jul-13 14:08:24

Unfortunately the UK is not a secular society - the Queen is head of the church and of the state. In principle I thkink we should we secular.

However the one advantage not being so has is as exexpat says, assemblies and other communal 'worshipping' type activities are so watered down and wishy washy as to not be remotely worshipful at all. Whereas I'd guess that in the States any school that purports to be Christian is definately going to be, as they are making a decision to be so, whereas no-one gets to make that decision here, so we go with the lowest common denominator of 'worship' that offends no-one. Except outraged atheist Americans of course grin

steppemum Thu 18-Jul-13 14:10:13

Ok, I think you really need an explanation of the different schools:

private school - is not bound by any of the national curriculum rules, and is not required to do most of the things a state school does.
You choose the school based on what you want eg there are private schools who believe in freedom of expression to the extent that children don't actually go to any lessons (extreme example to make the point)
By choosing a christian private school, you are choosing a christian education. The head is being accommodating in these circumstances.

Cof E school, This is a state school which is supported by the local Church of England Diocese. To all intents and purposes they are a state school, but they are explicitly christian in ethos. There may have the local vicar doing assemblies, and they may be more direct with their RE education.

State school, no christian affiliation, but bound by education act which says that assemblies should be broadly christian in nature.

Very, very few children are withdrawn. Typically it is only Plymouth Brethren; Jehovahs Witnesses, and similar groups who withdraw their children. Hence the comment up thread about 'extremists'

Most Muslim, Hindu and Sikh children for example, do not withdraw.

Most teachers are not Christian and are at pains to make assemblies etc more ethical and less religious. Most teaching is about people who they are and what they believe, rather that 'teaching' christianity.

exexpat Thu 18-Jul-13 14:11:23

The UK has religion in all schools, but it seems to put people off church, if anything. The UK population is highly secular, with less than 10% of adults regular churchgoers. The US separates church and state, but religion seems to have a central role society and politics - apparently more than 40% of the population are regular churchgoers.

outofthebox Thu 18-Jul-13 14:12:01

Sheshelob- I kind of like living in Europe... Good travel options. Well- ya see the opposition in this thread? An atheist kid in a Brit. school shouldn't have to be subjected to it when he says- I don't believe in a god- I won't take part in god related activities -AND PPL WILL RESPECT THAT!- . It is not an issue in the USA. This is something I had to deal with in the past 10 yrs until I had my son start school.... at least I know what I might be getting us into..

TeenAndTween Thu 18-Jul-13 14:12:13

At DDs school there is at least one child who is a Jehovahs Witness. As such this child does not celebrate / participate in Christmas or birthdays.

In the class room there is a list up (presumably prepared in discussion with his parents) of things he does not / would prefer not to do, and giving alternatives.
e.g. Does not paint Chritmas paintings, can paint winter paintings.

When his class (yrR) were preparing for nativity, he went into Nursery or Year 1. When his class sing happy birthday, he went into the adjacent quiet room to draw/play. (Note he could still hear the singing).

I think it is OK to ask for reasonable adjustments for your religion, but unlikely this can be done without your child (or others) noticing or commenting. You would have to provide a good commentary at home as to why you are wanting your child to be excluded from these things.

I do not think it is reasonable to expect withdrawl time to be spent on additional teaching. Teachers will either be in assemblies etc, or will be using time as preparation time. The best you can reasonably expect is to be supervised by TA / office staff, and for your child to be working/playing independently.

Additionally, a private school may well feel you need to 'buy in' to its ethos and may feel that if you want your child to be treated differently you should find an alternate school. You would find that a state school more set up to accommodate differences, whether on religion, or additional needs.

Finally you need to understand the difference between RE and Worship. RE is important to understand different faiths. It would not (imo) to be right to withdraw a child from RE, even if you withdraw from worship.

outofthebox Thu 18-Jul-13 14:14:00

exexpat- nothing wrong with incorporating your beliefs or non beliefs into your daily
-personal- life.... I respect that. It just a problem having to be subject to it all on a daily basis against your will...

amistillsexy Thu 18-Jul-13 14:15:19

outofthebox you do know you're living in a Christian country, don't you? That our Queen is also the Head of the Church...of England? The clues are right there for you.
It seems that you looked around for a fee paying school, in the mistaken belief that if you pay enough, you get go dictate. In our local fee paying schools, the Headteachers would soon put you right. You're paying for the privilege of their expertise and experience, not so you can tell them what to do.

Have you considered just letting this school do what its best at, and letting them just get on with educating your child along with all the others ? or is he much too special to be lumped in with all the rest?

OhBuggerandArse Thu 18-Jul-13 14:15:44

This is getting boring now.

Please, out of the box, for the love of whatever secular humanist belief system you can stomach, read what people are saying with a bit more openness and attention!

Nobody is opposing you.

We are trying to get you to see that your framing of the issue does not make sense in the context of the culture you are living in.

amistillsexy Thu 18-Jul-13 14:16:42

Mega X-posts...bloody phone! grin

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