Can you be a Foundation governor if you're an atheist?

(38 Posts)
inappropriatelyemployed Sun 03-Feb-13 21:23:49

Just that really. Do you have to demonstrate christian faih?

JoanByers Sun 03-Feb-13 21:39:20

I'm sure there are atheists working for the Church of England in numerous capacities, and I don't think it's a problem - unless they act against the Church.

If you are an anti-theist, that would be different from merely being an unbeliever.

Governors are supposed to 'set the Christian ethos of the school'.

www.churchofengland.org/education/national-society/staffing-governance/being-a-governor.aspx

Whether your atheism is a problem for that role would depend on whether IMO the Christian character of the school is a problem for you.

Rosevase Mon 04-Feb-13 06:50:24

But your job would be to preserve and nurture the religious aspect of the school, and your training will (probably) be run and organised by the Church.
Why would you want it, if you are an atheist?
(I think the answer would be no btw, as I can't see anyone nominating you if you are openly atheist).

Ronaldo Mon 04-Feb-13 06:54:15

The question raised in my mind is Why? If you are an atheist why would you want to be a governor in a school which upholds a specific set of principles based on a belief you do not share?

It has always seemed quite odd to me that anyone who holds a belief that God does not exist would want to be involved in a place where the basic belief is the antithesis of their personal " faith" .

Agnositic I can accept. Atheists I cannot understand ( and I know many atheists who seem to want to be around religion and are always meddling in its nature! I hope you are not one!!)

Ronaldo Mon 04-Feb-13 07:00:10

On a personal level - as a man who is about to send his DS ( precious or otherwise before anyone takes a snipe at my mentioning him) to a school with a distinct Christian ethos and foundation, I would expect that the governance upholds those Christian principles and believes in them even though I myself may not have a level of conviction (I am not religious but I would not describe myself as atheist).

inappropriatelyemployed Mon 04-Feb-13 07:14:36

Thanks. I completely understand.

I have been asked and I would be nominated despite my views. It is me who is asking the question about how appropriate it is for me to be a governor in this way.

I understand the thinking was that it was actually sufficient that I send my children to the school.

Rosevase Mon 04-Feb-13 07:25:02

Who has asked you? If I was a parent at the school, I would feel alarmed enough at both their judgement and your's in taking it (if you do!) and contact the priest or the bishop to raise my concerns.

Lots of atheists send their children to a faith school, but it doesn't indicate the parent's ability to promote the religious nature and nurture it. It just indicates that that school was your local one or the one you tho

Rosevase Mon 04-Feb-13 07:25:42

... Thought would do best for your children.

I would be concerned.

inappropriatelyemployed Mon 04-Feb-13 07:29:38

I think some Christian schools are much more inclusive than you suggest and see atheists more readily as a part of their world view precisely because of their Christian values which are real in practice.

This does not alarm me at all. Whether it is the right personal fit for me is another matter,

AnyFuleKno Mon 04-Feb-13 07:40:00

Hang on. Are we talking about a faith school here?

notcitrus Mon 04-Feb-13 07:45:36

My ds is likely to go to a CofE school - only one we're close enough to get in - and the head said that parent governors should reflect the community, in this case half the places are not reserved for Christians. I'm quite tempted to become a governor to help ensure the head's inclusive welcoming version of Christianity is what gets enforced, rather than a version I would have serious problems with.

I am currently a gov at a community school which may become a faith school if/when it becomes an academy.
I will be stepping down if that happens and withdrawing my children from the school as I believe education and religion should be separate, and I am atheist. I know that personally, I could not continue to support the school as a faith school and I would be a hypocrite to do so.

trashcansinatra Mon 04-Feb-13 08:01:31

There will be parent governor positions too, and you should be suitable for them if you have DCs at the school, but I think for Foundation you really should support the faith element.

Catsu Mon 04-Feb-13 08:01:44

We are non believers but send our children to a faith school.
We are incredibly supportive to the school and fully behind the ethos and morals that they run the school by.
My partner is a governer and does a lot for the school. I doubt most parents know that we aren't catholic tbh and surely it doesn't matter all the time he's giving up his time and energy to do a great job ?...

Ronaldo Mon 04-Feb-13 08:05:27

I'm quite tempted to become a governor to help ensure the head's inclusive welcoming version of Christianity is what gets enforced, rather than a version I would have serious problems with

This is precisely the attitude that frightens me. What about those who would have problesmw ith your version? They should go elsewhere?

If a school states its faith - be it Jewish, Islam or Christian,then in sending my child there I accept it. If I dont like it, I can always look for another school - secular schools are the majority in Britian today.

Rosevase Mon 04-Feb-13 09:55:08

Become a normal governor then, as a parent (if accepted). You should not be a Foundation Governor.

inappropriatelyemployed Mon 04-Feb-13 10:27:49

I think there is no one 'true' version of Christianity and the school is more interested in people who will support its inherent values: inclusivity, indiviudality, respect, caring.

This seems to be more important than whether people label themselves Christian which may not actually mean they practise any of this.

There are enough selective Christian grammars which are certainly not inclusive etc.

Your values are not the values of all Christians.

Ronaldo Mon 04-Feb-13 10:43:47

You sound as if you really want to do it - then, do it.

But at least you know know that not everyone will necessarily think you are the bees knees and some ( like me and another poster here) may raise an eyebrow or even do more.

inappropriatelyemployed Mon 04-Feb-13 11:23:49

No I don't 'really want it'. I am simply putting to you the explanation put to me verbally and in the documents relating to this position.

creamteas Mon 04-Feb-13 12:52:36

I strongly object to all faith schools and would prefer if they did not exist.

However, given that they do, I think it depends on the context. In some areas of the country, there are faith school (usually C of E) which do not have a selection on the grounds of religion, and in rural areas might be the only school serving an area. In which case I think the governors should reflect the community and include should not select on the grounds of religion.

Where schools do select on a religious basis, I can see the logic of having only religious governors.

MaggieW Mon 04-Feb-13 16:57:55

My DCs CE school Governors are Muslims, Catholics, CE - practising and non. Some of the CE ones, partic those acting as Church governors, aren't what I believe to be a good Christian model but, with regards to your question, I don't think it's a problem, nor would agnostic or atheist governors be, as long as they were all working for the same aim of doing the best for the school and its pupils.

titchy Mon 04-Feb-13 17:22:06

Of course governors can, and should, be of all faiths, or none, and all walks if life. Foundation governors though are specifically there to promote the schools Christianity and links with the church, something that IMO excludes non-Christians from holding that particular governor post. They should be appointed because their experience makes them suited to this role. Similarly a parent governor is appointed because their experience as a parent. You wouldn't appoint a non-parent to be a parent governor. Similarly you shouldn't appoint a non-Christian to be a foundation governor.

Pyrrah Mon 04-Feb-13 17:48:30

Ronaldo there are no secular state schools in the UK - there are some who managed to get away with the odd nod to god, but some community schools are considerably more religious than many faith schools as it comes down to the ethos of the HT.

Where I live it would be perfectly possible that the only school my DD is offered a place at is a full-on CofE primary. If that is the school that I am forced to choose then I fully intend to make sure that the school is equally welcoming to those of other faiths and those of none. My secular taxes and not the church coffers are paying for it after all.

Ronaldo Mon 04-Feb-13 18:41:55

Ronaldo there are no secular state schools in the UK - there are some who managed to get away with the odd nod to god, but some community schools are considerably more religious than many faith schools as it comes down to the ethos of the HT

There are more than a few schools who get away with a nod to God as you put it and in my book thats secular. of course officially this is a Christian country but to look at the comments here you would hardly think it.

I believe the humanist society is attempting to open a free school which will be secular. I am not sure it has the OK though.

Ronaldo Mon 04-Feb-13 18:45:43

My secular taxes and not the church coffers are paying for it after all

Are they really? You sure about that? It is my understandinf from working in cgurch aided and foundation schools that the Church adds more than a few pensce to support those schools.

For my own DS I have chosen an evangelical Church school because I am clear about where they stand ( as they are) and I dont want a school with a watered down ethos - despite my own lack of conviction. Of course DW and self will be paying for this school out of our own pockets - so the school doesnt have to serve God and mamon as in state education.

Tiggles Mon 04-Feb-13 19:45:22

Inappropriate, as a foundation governor you are there to represent the view of the church, not yourself. It is possible to do this if you are an atheist (I guess) but may be awkward.
As opposed to a parent governor who is there to represent their own views, not the views of parents in general.
Much of what a governor does is probably not unduly relevant to the church per se eg in terms of organising budgets or english/maths policies but some is e.g. admission criteria, RE policies, collective worship policies etc.

titchy Mon 04-Feb-13 20:21:21

Ronaldo - all schools have to have an act if worship of a Christian nature every day, even those not linked to any church, but run wholely by the lea. Those schools are not church funded at all - they are funded through general taxation. There is no requirement for these schools to have a foundation governor though.

That is what is meant when posters say we do not live in a secular state.

A voluntary aided school will have some church funds, though mostly they too are funded through taxation.

choccyp1g Mon 04-Feb-13 22:08:13

Do most voluntary aided schools get church funds in addition to the LEA funding?

inkyfingers Mon 04-Feb-13 22:35:50

Surely you will need to be nominated by the local church or the diocese? As far as I know it's not up for grabs to be a foundation governor. You may have to publicly endorse the Christian character of the school as well.

notcitrus Mon 04-Feb-13 22:48:47

Apologies for my earlier misleading comment - I misread foundation governor as any governor in a foundation school, as opposed to one of the foundation-specific governors. I'd happily be an atheist parent governor in a church school, but presumably wouldn't be asked to become a foundation one.

Which leads to the question why would they ask an atheist, and if it means they can't find any suitable governors who follow the appropriate religion, this suggests problems in the board of governors that need a committed governor more than religion?

In which case, having made my position clear, I'd have to consider it.for the good of the school. Though I suspect they'd prefer to leave the position vacant, as they usually do when they can't convince enough parents to become parent governors.

Ronaldo Tue 05-Feb-13 05:58:22

Ronaldo - all schools have to have an act if worship of a Christian nature every day, even those not linked to any church, but run wholely by the lea. Those schools are not church funded at all - they are funded through general taxation. There is no requirement for these schools to have a foundation governor though.

That is what is meant when posters say we do not live in a secular state

Secular - from the Latin, means temporal or worldly. Not belonging tothe religious or spiritual. Maybe if this is not what postersmean then they ( not me) need to get a grip of the English langiuage.

As for your comment - a worldly school ( secular) therefore is one not affiliated to religion. Ie any school who takes its funding from taxes or source not religious in nature (mamon not God to use the Biblical phrase).

In my experience (quite wide partly due to a stint on supply a short number of years back when I first retired) most state schools do not perform a " daily act of worship". At least not what I would call one and certainly not what any man of the cloth ( Vicar, Minister or Priest) would call one. What I witnessed was a collecting of pupils for a little community reading of school notices and some nod in the direction of things citizenship (or occassionally charitable as in doing good for others). Nothing overty religious ( or even remotely so in many cases) In somecases the collective " act"( and that is precisely what it is an act - put on - pretend) isnt even whole school .Its a dotted feast more akin to a form or tutor time.

Now I have got on the horse, I will ride it. I am not impressed either by the way in which state schools goabout teaching RE. I am even less impressed by the number of RE teachers who are self proclaiming atheists.; How can you teach what pbviously do not believe in, probably really dont fully understand and is essentially an anathama. In a worldly school that would be bad enough but in one porporting to have some connection to religion it should not be.

I am dubious and suspicious anyway of anyone who does not share a faith who insists on putting themselves in positions of leadership ( be it teaching or governance) when they do not share the principle or belief ( or vision) of what they are doing.

It stinks of horse meat in beefburgers and its the being sold as something it is not that I do not like.

I am not religiousbut I do have an open mind on such things. I do though believe that DC are best taught by those who know what it is they are teaching ( in RE it is faith and God, you should at least understand those things and accept the possiblity of them). In governance in a Church School,it is the vision of the church in its educational role.
It is not a role for an atheist.

Formyself I do not like watered down religion, ethics or philosophy. However I do believe it is important for a childto have
a) a good mo0ral compass - and religion should provide that
b) a good understanding and recognisiton of what religion ( in our case Christianity) is about. Notsome half baked semi theorised point of world inclusion and boo hurrah morality
c) I want my DS to understand HIS ( ie mine and my wife as in WASP) culture - and to be fully versed in understanding that from a life stance.

So I have chosen a school who can do that and woe betide anyone who wereto bring in a governor with a sloppy watered down view like those expressed by MN posters here.

There are many schools who take that worldly view and few who will give a religious one. Leave me and those like me SOME CHOICE.

Rant over.

titchy Tue 05-Feb-13 08:12:34

Sorry Ronaldo - I clean forgot who you were! <slaps wrist and won't respond to you again> grin

creamteas Tue 05-Feb-13 08:15:33

How can you teach what pbviously do not believe in, probably really dont fully understand and is essentially an anathama

Actually given that RE is supposed to be about all faiths, all RE teachers should teach what they do not believe in. What is the difference between an atheist teaching about Christianity and a Hindu teaching about Christianity? Neither will believe it will they?

Whether you think it is sufficient or not the requirement for a 'collective act of worship' means that no one really has a choice about religion in school. That is wrong

Ronaldo Tue 05-Feb-13 20:08:02

titchy, I could easily say the same but I do not believe it furthers any discussion to disparage or dismiss another poster

Often this is a big problem on MN as any comment which is seen by some as being counter to their view is too often dismissed with a personalised throw off. Either that or another oft usedmethod is to report the poster for " offence" ( which often here seems to be a code for "I dont agree with you, cant really think of a decent argument against and I dont want anyone who doesnt share my view to make a post"

Its the touchy feely only those who agree way...... the problem is that there are probably a lot of posters who might share a view such as mine but they become afraid to voice it. To be truthful I am sometimes afraid to voice it!

Its a good way of curtailing the airing of views you dont like and making it look as if everyone agres with you but underneath ,those who are not allowed to speak will think all the more . You can stiop people expressing their opinions, you cant stop them thinking - as too often oppressive governments and the politically correct have eventually found out.

Ronaldo Tue 05-Feb-13 20:10:42

Actually given that RE is supposed to be about all faiths

Yes it is about faith in God ( hence Theist , from the Greek theo ( God) - in whatever religious guise. It is not about no faith. Ifone wants to discuss God it would be a good premise to start from to belive in one.

Marni23 Tue 05-Feb-13 20:20:49

So do you have to be a Nazi to teach effectively about Nazi Germany?

Ronaldo Wed 06-Feb-13 05:25:18

So do you have to be a Nazi to teach effectively about Nazi Germany?

I think it is important to believe the Nazi's existed and to not suffer from holocaust denial if you are going to teach it.

Marni23 Wed 06-Feb-13 09:22:59

That Nazis existed and the holocaust happened is a matter of historical record. One doesn't need to share the beliefs the Nazis held which led to the holocaust in order to teach about it effectively.

That religion exists is a matter of record. One doesn't need to share the beliefs that sit behind religion in order to teach about it effectively.

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