withdrawal from RE/Collective worship AND Gifted/Talented(643 Posts)
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.
I grew up atheist, and attended school assembly and RE lessons perfectly happily. I learned a lot from them - culturally, intellectually, musically - but never felt compromised or as if I was expected to conform in terms of my own belief. On the whole RE lessons in schools don't teach 'this is true', but 'this is what some people believe'.
Your child's belief systems will come from you and his own exploration and development, not from school; I would be inclined to relax about both assembly and lessons, myself.
Why did you decide to send your son to a Christian school when you clearly don't agree with its ethos?
OP I am certain I must have misunderstood your post - because it strikes me as being at the upper end of extraordinary.
There are three things you say that make your position a little difficult to understand:
1) You don't really understand the RE system
2) Your child is at a Christian (private) school
3) You object to your child being within hearing of other children practising for Christmas songs
It might be helpful if you could say how long you have lived in the UK (?) And why your child has been sent to a school directly in opposition to your beliefs....
Presumably you knew you knew you were choosing a CHRISTIAN school for your son. If you don't like it find somewhere else!
I think if you chose a Christian school you knew what you were getting into but thought you'd have your cake and eat it.
DS attends a C of E state primary and the teaching is all of the 'some people believe' type and in RE they have looked into Judaism (visited synagogue) & Sikhism amongst others. He'll still tell you he hasn't been christened and doesn't believe in any god. You trust yourself to instil your family values/beliefs, your child to form his own opinion or you get a new school. YABU.
A school assembly of a 'broadly Christian' nature is compulsory but many schools focus on spiritual or ethical (rather than religious) topics.
Those children who wish to be excluded should be able to sit out for the first part (missing any hymns or religious songs) but join in towards the end for any announcements or awards. The school is not under any education to provide an alternative lesson, your children will just sit outside for the ten minutes or so that the assembly is going on.
As the singing will involve the whole school, and be quite loud, and I don't see how you can insist that your child doesn't hear this.
The RE curriculum is really interesting, and I suggest you google it. I can't understand why anyone would want to exclude their child from learning about other cultures and religions.
FWIW we are an atheist family and my children have always chosen to attend assemblies and Christmas concerts. If I insist that they be excluded, and make the decision for them, then I am no different from those religious families who decide what religion their child will be at birth.
My children tell me that they sing the songs because they enjoy them, but do not say the prayers or bow their heads.
I am an atheist, and am bringing my children up to make up their own minds. They started out in a US-influenced international school, so no religion at school, but have been in the UK system since they were aged 8 and 4 respectively.
Despite my lack of belief, I did not feel the need to withdraw them from assemblies. I would much rather that the 'collective worship' requirement was abolished (I am a member of the National Secular Society and support their campaign on this) but I think that withdrawing children from assemblies is just making too big an issue of it, and does isolate them from the communal life of the school.
Most of the time assemblies are not very religious (it depends largely on the school and the individual head), and when they are very religious, my children just found them laughable - their old primary school had the local children's minister in once a week, and she tried way too hard to be 'down with the kids', to the extent of trying to squeeze connections to bible-based lessons out of High School Musical and so on. I think most of the children sat there cringing with embarrassment - they certainly weren't converted.
Schools know that the majority of children do not come from Christian families, so although they are obliged by law to have nominally Christian assemblies, in practice they are fairly secular. Even Catholic and Church of England schools sometimes have a majority of Muslim or Hindu pupils, very few of whom are withdrawn from assemblies, as far as I know. The only families who generally seem to insist on withdrawal are Jehovah's Witnesses, who don't want their children getting an alternative view of religion.
Even nativity plays these days are often only loosely connected to the bible story - the one my daughter was in was called something like 'The very hopeless camel' and Mary & Joseph were virtually bit-parts...
My children are now 14 and 10, and both identify as atheists, but still sing hymns in school assemblies. Obviously I talk to them about religion, and make sure that they don't feel obliged to pray or accept anything they were taught as fact; they are both quite confident and assertive enough to be open about their lack of belief at school.
Although I oppose religious assemblies, I actively support RE lessons in school, as these days they cover all major religions and are meant to be taught in a neutral rather than doctrinal way (this doesn't apply in Catholic schools etc). I think it's important for children to learn about religion, just so they understand world events a bit better.
Sorry this probably isn't very helpful to you, if you are dead set on withdrawing your child, but you might want to rethink whether it is really necessary - all British schools are to some extent religious, but they seem to produce very large numbers of atheists (unlike the secular US school system) so I don't think you need to worry about your children suddenly 'catching' religion.
The other strategic reason for going is that a good knowledge of bible stories (including 'Old Testament' which presumably you wouldn't have such an issue with) is pretty much a pre-requisite for an understanding of Western canonical literature. Getting a child-friendly introduction through assembly = short cut to literary appreciation...
<Still reeling from discovering that I needed to explain the Parting of the Red Sea to second year Uni students in my medieval literature class>
Thanks everyone, but I really wanted to hear from moms who have actually withdrawn their child.
For the atheist moms out there- as your parents were more likely to be christian or catholic etc, of course you would have no objection because things like christmas are part of your culture. They are NOT a part of a jewish culture. Primarilly, jewish humanists rally against what we view is hypocrisy and strive to live an authentic life- just personal views we expect our son to incorporate.
Re the christian school- it is listed as outstanding and is fairly local. I am not looking to change the school, just excercise the statutory rights... this discussion is for figuring out how to do so...
We are American ... We don't really understand the RE system and my first child is just turning 4.
This says it all.
We Brits don't make a big deal of religion. We have a 'live and let live' approach. Chillax!
However, I think your antipathy to nativity plays is misplaced. It would be like me going to the US and banning my DC from participating in Thanksgiving. It tends not to be overly religious (it is, but it isn't, in a typically muddled British way) but is one of those cultural moments that bond people together. I suggest that you rent a copy of the film Love Actually to see what nativity plays mean to us. (lobsters IIRC )
My DD was Mary (twice!) but has grown up to become atheist. DS was Father Christmas (I don't remember him being in the bible!).
also - for others- we have the same problem originally described, -no matter which school we choose-. Whether CofE, or even a Jewish school... so having selected a christian school initially really has no bearing on the original question.....
Unfortunately, I think you won't find many people on here who withdraw their children because, as I mentioned, the only families in the UK who tend to withdraw their children are members of extreme/fringe religions who don't want their beliefs challenged. None of the Hindu or Muslim families I know do, and obviously Christmas, the bible etc are no part of their culture either.
I don't have a problem with my children sitting through assemblies and thinking critically about them, and I don't think that makes me a hypocrite.
'Christian school... outstanding... not looking to change the school'
x posted with your second post but I still stand by it.
Still reeling from discovering that I needed to explain the Parting of the Red Sea to second year Uni students in my medieval literature class
This is the sort of thing I mean. RE as cultural history is important.
things like christmas are part of your culture. They are NOT a part of a jewish culture.
Um, do you wander around with your eyes shut at Christmastime then? It's a bit hard to avoid.
Senua- that comment is totally insensitive to the basic tenants of judiasim vs christianity....
Also, I don't quite understand your objection to RE lessons - why is it a bad thing to learn about religion, when it is such a fundamental part of world culture, good and bad (art, literature, wars, terrorism etc)? I see RE lessons as very important in helping children understand the world they are growing up in.
judiasim versus christianity.
I repeat. Live and let live. There is no "versus"
I'm sorry for sounding a bit dim but what on earth is an authentic life? And perhaps you are finding it hard to find anyone to help you is because no one withdraws their child from assembly. Perhaps the school could put a sound proof booth up so know one would have to listen to a hymn.
If you feel that strongly, why are you sending your child to an overtly Christian school?
We're atheist, we have no problem with the boys having RE lessons as a lot can be learnt about society through them (and DS1, also in year 4, quite firmly believes that it's all nonsense, anyhow, but it would be up to him what to believe, as far as I am concerned). No way would we send him to a private school that is overtly Christian, though. Your choice of school reflects that you did have a real choice.
Ramadan, Diwali and Thanksgiving aren't part of my culture but my life is enriched by knowing that they exist.
RE is religious education, it's a different thing from indoctrination or worship. Even in my DCs Catholic school with real live nuns they have a 'some people believe' approach to Catholicism and study another faith in depth every year.
As far as I know private schools aren't under any obligation to make special arrangements but the bottom line is you can't have it both ways. You can't choose a private Christian school, want him separated and then say it's sad for him to be separated from his friends. Nativity plays are fairly culturally important in the UK, a Christian school isn't going to abandon them.
I am an atheist mother.
I didn't withdraw my children from anything because I prefer them to understand the religions of others, learn tolerance and also that singing a song or hearing a prayer doesn't mean they are worshipping.
Senua- that comment is totally insensitive to the basic tenants of judiasim vs christianity....
Which, as an atheist, you surely don't care about?
exexpat- that is interesting... really. Extremists.. hmm. Even at the American school here, they teach RE because it is a requirment and well, there are a lot of "bible belters" around who don't mind the lack of separation between church and state.
well... anyway, we are withdrawing and so surely some people have excercised their rights and don't understand why people are being oppositional vs helpful. It is not as if I am going to change my mind just like they are not going to change theirs because someone challenged their beliefs...
I also prefer them to make their own minds up about religion.
OP - It is misleading to talk of statutory rights here. The statutory right to withdraw a child from collective worship etc is one that applies in state schools. An independent school is free to set its own policy and be as accommodating (or not) as it chooses.
Soupdragon.. except the aspects of jewish culture which I embrace as a humanistic jew. Senua comment is like asking muslims to eat pork, well, because everyone does it- just fit in man....
Sorry, that was snarky.
Look, I think what is going on here is not a religious issue but cultural dissonance. It is hard to come from the States, where religious matters are genuinely bound up with people's belief and practice, to the UK where religion is on the whole treated lightly and belief doesn't really come into it for most people.
Comeinto... really... I didn't know that... so all rights re religion are nil? I've really need to investigate that more!
I don't think anyone would think you should change your mind but you are a bit blinkered if you think everyone should change for you
Well no, because the pork thing is a religious requirement. And you aren't religious.
Culture and religion are different things.
I may have read this wrong as I'm trying to work out where the G&T fits in with your issues but, are you expecting teachers at the school to do one-to-one G&T extension work with your DS while your DS is withdrawn from religious activities?
I ask because you mention one teaching giving up her time and compare her to the HT not asking staff to sit with your DS. I'm sure your DS will be supervised adequately, but I'm not sure the school could or would tailor a staffing timetable around one child's religious and G&T needs.
nfortunately, even the best schools require children to fit into the school, rather than the school fitting with the child. It maybe that HE would suit you and your child as you would be able to tailor the content to meet your specific needs.
DH and I are the atheist offspring of atheist parents, btw. For us, Christmas is merely a break from the normal pace of life, with food and presents making up for a whole day of the shops daring to be shut.
Yes, you do need to do some research.
The legal requirement for a daily act of worship of a broadly Christian character is one that comes from whichever Education Act (the 1944 one, I guess). Where private schools hold a Christian assembly they are doing so through choice, presumably because that is what oarent's like and want and so it is part of the "package" that they sell and you buy.
It sounds to me as if your head teacher is willing to be flexible, at least up to a point, but perhaps more as a matter of goodwill than anything else. As far as I can see, there would be nothing to stop the school from saying that they will make no alternative provision for your child because they are under no legal obligation to do so.
And to be frank, go easy on the argument that even overhearing children singing hymns is too much. Your position as a buyer of education services gives you some clout (it seems to me) in saying what you do and do not want, but insisting that your child should even be out if earshot of hymn singing does make it sound as if you fear he will be 'contaminated'. If he is a humanist like you, it will just be a (lovely harmonious) noise to him.
If it is a specifically private Christian school that you chose to send your dc to, then they don't have to accommodate your wish to withdraw your dc from RE. They are allowed to set their own policy. In fact it sounds like they have been quite helpful so far. If this is such a big issue for you I think you need to be looking for another school who can comply with your requests - but make sure you ask the questions before your dc starts!
Personally, I think it is better to teach your child about what some people believe and that some people consider X an act of worshipping their god. Explain that he is free to see them as just general thoughts (most prayers are basically promoting good values and are applicable to all once you mentally remove the god aspect) and he could think about how to apply the basic ideas to his own life. If you do not believe in a god, seeing other people worshipping does not mean you are participating as the belief isn't there. What it does teach is how to sit quietly whilst others get on with something that is meaningful to them and how to be tolerant of other people's beliefs
Christmas stories and other religious songs are just that - songs. I have seen children of many religions and cultures join in with the christmas performance at our primary.
I often wonder whether people think their child will somehow be contaminated by witnessing religion. I can understand how it may be against someone's religious beliefs but if you have no belief in god and thus no religious requirements then surely it's just words and songs?
I do think that you are overreacting about your son being able to hear his friends practising their songs - seriously?
ouryve- I don't really know the difference between an "Overtly Christian" school-vs CofE or any other school in this country since they are all church related.... Academically they are a good school ... I am genuinely quite surprised to hear that "no one pulls their children from assembly" especially at prayer time.... really....
I still don't know what an authentic life is
Oh, is it a private school? I think I missed that. In that case, it is entirely up to the head teacher and the school what allowances or arrangements are made.
If it is a state school, your rights are explained here. I don't think keeping your son out of earshot or arranging G&T extra sessions during assembly would be anything you could insist on, frankly.
Your child is in a private school...you have a choice and you CHOSE a Christian school. ...and are now whining about them teaching...er...Christianity.
Is there no other school locally where you might have more say. I just feel that in a Christian school you are asking for trouble tbh, of course your DS is going to feel excluded from what his friends are doing and that is a bit sad.
Senua comment is like asking muslims to eat pork, well, because everyone does it- just fit in man....
No. Senua's comment is saying that it is not a big deal in this country. Strip away your cultural baggage.
You are making mountains out of molehills, which is why none of the posters here are rushing to help you.
If authentic life = real life then surely your child encountering other religions, cultures or points of view would qualify? Unless you wish him to go around blindfolded with his fingers in his ears singing 'la la la' in case a viewpoint contrary to your own seeps in? I'm fully behind the idea that anyone who wants their child to be removed from assembly should if they wish, but you've chosen to send him to a Christian school - it cannot be that surprising that the content is of a Christian nature.
Soup- pork is not religious it is cultural and dietary good common sense given all of the parasites hisorically contained by pork etc. but I am not going to discuss this further.. I have asked specififically for assistance with an issue- if you want to to debate go elsewhere.
Thanks piprabbit for actually trying to deal with my issues.. what is HE? Also, I was just asking if a private school has to provide G&T services or is this optional as well just as they don't have to make statutory religious accommodations (which I learned via this discussion)?
Yep really! It's not that we're all British stiff upper lip about it - we're not! We're mostly just well, meh, about religion in general and don't really view school assemblies as a particualry religious thing to do, even if prayers are mumbled and hymns sung.
I went to a private secondary that was technically Christian although not affiliated to any particular church. There was about 1000 pupils and roughly 10 were withdrawn from assembly. They stood in the corridor at the back (along with latecomers) in earshot, and came in at the end for 'notices' then left with their class. I suspect if any parent had requested additional lessons for their child during assembly then they would have been told to take a running jump. Nobody (to my knowledge) was withdrawn from RE due to the rather obvious difference between doing something and learning something but I imagine that arrangements would have been made to do something like sit in the library and read or something rather than getting extra 1-2-1. The school must have been broadly accomadating as I remember one Jewish family leaving early on Fridays during winter.
How many years are your children likely to be at this school?
I would be very careful about demanding special treatment based on a misunderstanding and misinterpretation of what actually goes on in schools; your card will get marked very quickly, and you may need goodwill and understanding for more important issues in the years to come.
I don't think people are being oppositional to you; they are (quite gently, I think) trying to point out the lack of clarity and cultural understanding, and the inconsistencies, in your approach. There have been some very useful things said, and they're worth thinking seriously about.
Read back, and sleep on it before you do anything?
It is listed as outstanding...
OP I'm still struggling....
Is it even vaguely possible that one of the reasons the school is listed as outstanding is because of its specific ethos and culture? That its provision of presumably high quality assemblies and RE lessons adds a great deal to the overall quality of education?
Real life it sounds like a very shallow life if you don't want to know what other people believe in I'm a very devout Christian and I have a very good Muslim friend but I wouldn't be a very good friend to her if I didn't know what she believed in would I.
The point of a private school is that it is NOT state - and therefore there is NO statutory provision for anything! I would guess the roots of the word statutory and state are the same which might give you a bit of a clue....
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...
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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..
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.
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...
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?
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.
Mega X-posts...bloody phone!
It is fine for a child (or their parents) to say "I don't believe in god".
It is also fine for them to say "I will not participate in any form of religious activity", state schools will try to accommodate that.
But I'm not sure what purpose it serves to say "I will not be taught about other people's beliefs", I think it is a core part of education to learn about what motivates vast swathes of the world's population.
It's not against your will if you have chosen the school
Teen- that doesn't fly when the RE is 51% in favor of christianity- it is not at all balanced... 51% in favor of 1 religion means subtly, that it is preferred and favored and kids do get that message especially if they are not of christian lineage. Can't really explain what it feels like to have a Christmas play vs a Holiday play that recognizes all holidays around that time of year or other aspects of atteding any school with a preferential religion.
i think happy- it is against ones will since all schools teach RE and have a broadly christian assembly.
But OP the flipside is that it teaches tolerance, in the main. It really isn't brainwashing, as our church attendance stats will attest. It isn't the same as in the States. I went to a C of E primary school where I played Moses and parted the Red Sea made up of Muslims, Jews, Atheist and Christians. There was even a Druid.
If all you like about the UK is that it is a convenient transport hub, you are truly missing out. I love that I grew up here and not the States. The whole world is here, but without the nationalism and political stiffness of the states.
Dip your toe in. Really. It is great here.
Children can stay in the school hall during assemblies without actively participating, if they want - they don't have to sing or pray. No one tries to force them to believe, and they are certainly free to declare that they are atheists. It really is not like attending a church service.
Can I say again, why don't you go and sit in on a few assemblies to see what they are like?
I seriously don't know what all of the objectors here would do in the reverse situation where you sent your child to an American state school since RE is not taught and there are no assemblies... would you object?
You are not going to get what you want from this thread because the school has zero obligation to accommodate you (as well as the fact that you sound horribly pushy).
Firstly, I am Jewish by descent but agnostic by religion. I went to a catholic prep school, attended RE, even the odd mass. Guess what? I made my own mind up, but enjoyed the education which, as someone above has said, is good general English Lit, even if you reject the faith bit. I am now (still agnostic) married to a practicing Christian. By a bizarre quirk of fate, our children will be going to a local Jewish school because it will be a good school and convenient to us. My wife has no objection to our children learning Hebrew or going to Jewish prayers (although we may revise this later). We have confidence in our children in finding their own way towards a faith (or non faith) which suits them, guided by a variety of influences.
Finally, private schools can (pretty much) do what they like. There are more applicants than places to every good private school. The only "right" that you can "enforce" is to send your children somewhere else.
My only tip, given your attitude, is that private schools are quite responsive to substantial financial donations. If you are able to build a new facility or donate enough to finance a few bursaries/scholarships (think £100k +), I suspect your whims may be accommodated.
Well it's been a long time since I read anything as ridiculous as this OP!
You send your kid to a CHRISTIAN school, but you are objecting to the Christianity bit?!
For goodness sake get over yourself love and chill out - you are in England now.
As other posters have said, it's not normal to withdraw DCs from assembly and RE, it would just cause upset.
I have helped a school which had JW pupils and they were withdrawn from assembly and RE. Some of their parents came in and taught/supervised them.
It was an appalling idea, their DCs were isolated from their peers and the little girl in our class was in tears at not being able to join in with Christmas activities.
I'm an Atheist and religion everywhere drives me nuts, but that's Britain. There is wishy washy Christianity woven into every thread of society. It immunises us against evangelical beliefs and underpins our liberal society.
OP what are you afraid will happen if your child hears prayers or religious singing?
If I sent my DCs to an American state school with no RE and no assemblies, I would be just as content as sending them to a British state school that does teach RE and have
slightly religious assemblies.
I like to think that, as a parent, I am the primary moral influence in my child's life.
I seriously don't know what all of the objectors here would do in the reverse situation where you sent your child to an American state school since RE is not taught and there are no assemblies... would you object?
Why on earth would we? We'd take up the schooling offered, as offered, and experience it as part of getting to know and understand the culture we would be living in.
Which is basically all that anyone has suggested that you do.
exexpat- a headteacher would let me sit in on an assembly? I didn't even know I could ask...
Ya know, I went to check out the local hebrew school to enroll my son in for afterschool for cultural reasons- and I couldn't do it! Same issues with prayers, bloody torah stories etc.... so difficult.
Damn those jewish school and their, relgious stuff
Speaking as a child who was withdrawn from assemblies/RE lesson in primary school, there's no way i would subject my own child to this. I remember being made to sit in silence with just a handful of others and missing out on memorable presentations/shows because of it.
My DC go to a broadly Christian school and readily join in despite the fact that i am an atheist. I teach them at home that they should respect other people religions/befiefs but that they should make up their own minds as to what they believe in.
There are a number of children at their school who are Jewish/Muslim and who will go to the assemblies but not bow their heads in prayer or join in with the hymns, as there are parents who attend various occasions and do likewise.
I understand that you don't want your child brainwashed into being a Christian but don't you feel that you imposing your views on him is not much better?
Give him the chance to learn and he will find his own path.
OP - I don't share your wish to live a life completely free of religion, but I do understand it. So I am still struggling to comprehend why you opted to send your child to a Christian school when the vast majority of private schools in the UK have no religious affiliation. Perhaps your error was in assuming the UK is like the USA - in significant ways, it isn't. Or perhaps your error was in not appreciating why private schools are often termed independent schools - they are independent of government control and most education legislation does not apply to them.
Essentially, what you are trying to do now is to renegotiate the contract between you and the school for the education if your child. The headers her sounds as if she is open to that and I hope you can find a mutually acceptable solution. If not, you may do better in a state school - even in a C of E school - where you will have statutory rights, however you choose to enforce them.
Did you actually ask them if your DS could attend Hebrew School, without the annoying religious bit?
<boggles a bit>
We Brits don't make a big deal of religion. We have a 'live and let live' approach. Chillax!
Which Brits? Cromwell? Northern Ireland? Partition? The Exclusion of Jews from England and Wales?
Op, I do have experience of children being withdrawn from RE. My ex had to sit outside the classroom door during RE/Prayers/whatever. It made him feel different - but this was many years ago (I'm old), his father had escaped the Holocaust, he already knew he was different.
exexpat, I find your statement about 'only extreme/fringe religious groups' most insulting.
This did worry me when my children started school. I was lucky - that school had no prayers to withdraw them from. Luckily, many state primaries tacitly ignore the 'broadly Christian' in the Education Act.
But Op, you won't get much sympathy if you choose a private CE school then complain about religion!
littlestressy, I wish all teachers were as respectful as you. I also have experience of a young child asking questions about the Nativity play and being told 'Jesus is the son of God'. Not, 'some people think Jesus is the son of God'.
OTOH, if only some people believe Jesus is the son of God, then why are we doing a Nativity play? Try explaining it to a five-year-old! There is no legal separation of church and state here. I wish there were. The law has yet to catch up with the reality of a multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-religious society.
You have chosen a private Christian school which is under no obligation to allow you to withdraw your child from anything. They are under no obligation to provide your child with extra tuition at a time of your choosing. You chose that school. You could choose a state school and they would be under obligation to let your dc withdraw from assembly but you didn't so you can't now pull the 'against your will' card.
All school teach RE. It's considered to be important in the UK to understand where people are coming from. We also have lots of nice picture and books and stuff that would be baffling without a basic foundation in religion generally and Christianity specifically.
What OldBeanbagz said.
Mixing doesn't mean assimilating. Britain is diverse and liberal, so you will be accepted as long as you accept others, which sadly you are not doing.
I'll say it again: you are missing out. And so is your child.
If RE were not taught at school, I would do my best to give my children a reasonable understanding of all the main religions, using books, the Internet, news stories etc. in fact I pretty much do this anyway - we have several children's books about religion in the house, despite being atheists - but the school RE teacher probably knows a lot more about it than I do, and they also get trips to mosques, synagogues, gurdwaras etc. Do you really not want your children to know anything about religion?
I wonder, if there were RE lessons in US schools, could it have prevented incidents like the ones where turban-wearing Sikhs were murdered in the wake of 9-11 because ignorant mobs thought they were Muslim?
OP - the difference between UK and US culture regarding religion is enormous, and I think this is why you are facing confusion. In most of England at least, apathetic agnostics or atheists are the vast majority, even though many might say they are Christians, meaning that the religious place they never bother going to is a church rather than a synagogue or mosque.
So someone in your position comes across as someone in the majority wanting special treatment, because in this culture, the minimal amount of religion in most Christian schools (private or state) is viewed only as a tradition that no-one expects you to believe. Refusing to let a child be in a nativity play sounds just as odd as refusing to let them act in say the Jungle Book because animals can't really talk!
Many adult UK atheists view school religious content as inoculation against religion - it's not really on the radar even of organisations like the British Humanist Association, who campaign against religious discrimination in school admissions. If I was raising my family in somewhere in the US where religion got accepted in the public schools, I would feel exactly as you do (I'm technically American), but here it's not an issue for me. I don't know of anyone who's ever opted out of school assembly other than some Jehovah's Witnesses - all non- Christians just sit quietly and ignore.
And Christmas/New Year's is more like Thanksgiving and secular for most people - including many Jews and Muslims judging by ads for kosher and halal turkeys and local teens in hijab with Santa hats...
Where on earth are you, OP, that all your school choices are affiliated to a religion?
Have you looked at local community schools?
By the way, I find your putting 'bloody' before Torah very rude. Have you no respect for anyone else's views?
I think that your comment about 'A 4 year should be able to say the don't believe in God and be respected' actually highlights your lack of understanding of a british school.
If you asked a group of kids, many of them would say they didn't believe in God. The teacher may even tell the children that he/she doesn't believe in God.
Most of the people on this thread are NOT christians. Most of them have pointed out that they are atheists.
Many of them would not blink an eye if their kids were at an American school with no religion.
You talk about the nativity play and nothing else about the other celebrations at that time of year.
In dcs school they did a nativity, they also celebrated Hannukah, and Diwali, and when Eid falls in December, Eid as well. You seem to see the christian stuff, and not notice the rest
(or maybe that is because you are at a christian school, which may well choose not to do the rest as it isn't obliged to, being a private school...)
Larry- yes I'm admittedly pushy... hey think New Yorker- no prob there. Yes I get now that the private school doesn't have to do anything- learned it on this thread.
Bugger- yes well religion is personal not cultural. Although I suppose an argument can be made that the Queen is the head of British culture which centers around her religion and is therefore cultural in that way. Just want to avoid my son being bullied for being a strict atheist and only saying what he believes, believes what he is saying etc. I'd be quite hypocritical if I just went with the flow like that...
American Atheists fights to protect the absolute separation of religion from government and raise the profile of atheism in the public discourse.
Since 1963, American Atheists has been taking the principled and uncompromising position that our government should give no special treatment or preference to religious belief. Through lawsuits, innovative public relations campaigns, and education, we are working to normalize atheism and allow more and more people to set aside religious belief and superstition.
OP, I am an athiest, and my kids go to the CofE school at the end of the road. They have visited mosques, synagogues, gudwarahs and Hindu temples as part of RE lessons.
They say the school prayer each morning in assembly which is basically a few words about caring for each other and working hard, they have a church service once a term which some parents attend. Most of their mates are moving on to the CofE high school - mine will be going to the local Non church high school.
My 11 year old started a long conversation yesterday about science/god etc, and without any prompting from me, he has figured out the principles of athism.
He still does have an understanding of the Christian faith, and lots of others too.
Open your mind OP and relax! Us UK athiests are a lot less anxious than our US counterparts. You really are making a big deal about nothing, and undoubtably pissing off the school big time!
sorry amistillsexy... I meant some of the literally bloody stories... not to be taken in context the way you put it...
I get that you come from an american background and therefore the american way of dealing with education and religion is very important to you as that has been ingrained within you since you were at school.
What would you think if I were to live in the US for a year and send my British kids to an american school for a year, and asked for them to be withdrawn from pledging allegiance to the flag every day and to make sure that they couldn't hear anybody else do it, as they are British rather than American? And furthermore, ask that they get a teacher to give them a G&T session while they are at it? Would you think it was perfectly reasonable or that they should just sit there politely and
daydream listen in but not join in, or that they should join in as it's joining in with the school and it's an american thing? Or something else?
Also I'm not clear if you don't want your kids going to RE lessons because they will learn about lots of different religions (and there may well be a session on Humanism and/or atheism too) and you don't want them to learn about any religion or because you think that in an RE class they are actually learning to become christians. Also - when I was at school we spent quite a bit of time learning about stories from the old testament - so as a Jewish humanist would you want them to learn about these stories as part of their education - do you see them as general background cultural education that are things that you would expect them to learn if you were back in the US?
I think that you need to try to get your head around the fact that in the UK religion, as others have said, really isn't the big deal that it is in the US. Whilst nominally we are a Christian CofE country, these days many more people are culturally CofE than practising, devout christians. We enjoy christmas and easter and the nice bits (often involving lots of chocolate) and so on - but it's much more cultural than religious for most people
In the US, people know the religious beliefs of their politicians, it's a big thing. Over here - irrelevant. It's a big thing for you to say that you are a Jewish Humanist/Atheist. Over here - people aren't really bothered about religion to the point that they don't even really bother to think about if they sort of believe something but are just too lazy or busy to go to church or if they believe there is nothing at all and are atheist. I'm not describing this very well, but it really is a big difference and thus colours why things that are a big deal to you and blindingly obvious because of your background, are really no big deal here, whereas when I visited an American school many years ago, they were horrified when I just sat politely whilst they did the pledge to the flag and didn't say anything - for me, I was being polite whilst they were doing their thing, for them it was seen as being rude and snubbing their culture and beliefs and America.
WHich is why people are trying to encourage you to stop, and just think about the culture of the country you are in for a moment, and see how it affects what you are making assumptions about the assemblies and RE lessons - and see if you can see that actually you're much more likely to end up here with kids with a good background knowledge of all religious beliefs, ethics, morals etc but who are atheist, than in the states where there are a lot of staunchly religious people around!
We don't really do religion free schools in the UK. My suggestion would be to find another school that has a higher percentage of children from non Christian backgrounds, so that your child would be one of several who doesn't take part in collective worship. The only problem is that if you find somewhere where quite a few children are withdrawn from Christian worship, the school may have made provision for alternative worship so that there would be Jewish prayers, Muslim prayers etc.
Yeah OP, re your last post - newsflash, you are not IN America now.
Just want to avoid my son being bullied for being a strict atheist and only saying what he believes, believes what he is saying etc.
This right here ^^ is the measure of how totally you are misreading the situation. There is no way in which any assembly or RE lesson would enable this to happen - they are about finding out about and respecting the beliefs of others.
cotton - no I'm not, but it is local to me. Are you in Cobham?
Another atheist here who sent my kids to a CofE school because it was right for them
I ignored the religion stuff.
By year 5 they were both atheists
as NO CHILD IS BORN WITH A RELIGION
they choose their own religion when they are old enough
the more of a fuss you make about it, the more your DS will want to find out and get involved
the UK is the most secular country in the world : because we all get force fed a bit of God at school and many of us realise its all fairy stories
the best way
I'm near there - when you mentioned the American school and the Free School it made me think that might be where you were talking about. You have quite a good choice of private schools in the area so if your current choice can't accommodate you then you should be able to find somewhere which will do, or is at least less Christian oriented.
Pushy isn't going to get you very far here. Politeness is key. People won't have a problem with your views, but they will sure as hell have a problem if you are rude.
Presumably American Atheists are fighting to separate religion from American government.
The equivalent organisation here would probably be the Humanist Society, who do great work.
Luckily, I have never come across anyone in the UK being bullied on an individual basis for being atheist or agnostic - because not believing in god is a mainstream opinion. However, bullying does happen when children find something 'different' about another child. In your DS's case he won't be stand out as different because he is atheist, but he will stand out if he is excluded from joining in with his classmates in some activities.
I think the only way that you will be satisfied that your child will not hear about, see displays about, or learn about religions is if you home educate him. Then you can get someone to tutor him on top of that to nurture his g&t-edness. You can't dictate to a school how they structure your day or drag members of staff out of assembly to do exactly what you want.
Atheists/agnostics are the norm here, and I have never heard of anyone being bullied for being an atheist. My DCs now go to nominally Christian private schools (having been at a CofE primary) and they are absolutely open about their lack of belief. It really is not an issue in the UK.
I understand things are very different in the US, where atheists are seen as untrustworthy, you stand no chance of being elected to public office if you are openly atheist etc. Things are very different here - I don't think any of the leaders of our main political parties go to church.
As for bullying, all you need to do is teach him to respect other people's beliefs. There's nothing wrong with 'I believe x' but if he goes around telling other children they're wrong in their beliefs it won't matter if he's atheist, Jewish, Muslim, Christian or Hindu, you'll be called in. As would the parents of any child who said that to your DS.
I have three DCs - at one point during their school careers I had a devout christian (her best friend was evangelical) a staunch athiest and a Hindu (ditto best friend was Hindu and my dc really really liked the idea of re-incarnation)
they are all now adults and none of them hold the beliefs they held then - they are however all open minded and tolerant of a wide diversity of religious beliefs. They may, or may not, end up believing the things I believe, or the things their father believes - but whatever belief they have will be will informed and freely chosen. I am not a christian and their father follows a more 'new age' path. I have very close connections with the Jewish community so do understand some of issues around disentangling culture and religion that you are talking about - but that holding onto some of the cultural aspects of Judaism while not believing in a deity is pretty much what you are experiencing now WRT the kind of christianity that happens in assembly and nativity plays etc. It's as important to us as not eating Pork to you, it's a part of who we are as a nation.
Many years ago I was an RE teacher - it's a really interesting subject to teach as kids are brilliant at challenging ideas cutting through crap. We DO treat religion as something important to understand about here and because there is no separation of church and state it's important to understand that too. The best RE teacher I ever knew was an athiest of Jewish descent BTW - inspirational!
"Bugger- yes well religion is personal not cultural."
I don't think you have a religion, judging by the website of UK Jewish Humanists. Surely religion implies belief. You have a bunch of rituals you like to follow so that you can feel "Jewish". I do not believe in God (certainly not the traditional judao-christian deity) nor do I follow any rituals, yet I feel "Jewish" due to my genetic and cultural inheritance.
I respect others' faith, however I do find it hard to respect your non-faith. How can you strictly not eat pork when you don't believe in God and recognise that the ban came from dietary reasons. I really struggle with this logically. How can you observe religious festivals which depend on faith to have meaning and yet have no faith? Maybe I am digressing from the thread, and don't mean to cause offence, but I really struggle with where you are coming from.
Back to the thread, have you considered bribery (AKA sponsoring a few bursaries or financing new playing fields)? As long as your son is balanced and says what he believes (as opposed to trotting out parrot fashion what you believe) it is highly unlikely that he will be bullied in any decent school. I would worry about that in the highly unlikely event that it happens.
PS : another Yank here :
I know how dysfunctional the US school system is by excluding the religious so they home educate or go private and never mix with those of other beliefs and so become more and more intolerant
Only in the US could you have parallel college systems like Philadelphia Bible University which teaches nurses from a creationist standpoint
the UK system of muddle along together is a much better bet
especially the state bit
there are even openly Atheist politicians here - cannot imagine THAT in the presidential race
and if you are in private and only now reading the prospectus ....
Zipzap- yes exactly!!!!! Yes yes- ... very important. In the US, if you were to say you were atheist in a school you'd get a huge opposition and likely be bullied. Yes, I am mostly concerned that the 51% christian is mainly teaching how to become christian although the biggest part are the prayers whilst ethics lessons sans the word "god/lord etc" are very very welcome. If the RE teaching were a bit more fairly distributed, then I'd be a lot more ok with it.
No you would not expect to learn any religious stories in school at all if you were back in the USA it is up to the parents to provide this and I don't see religious stories as cultural.
RE: Pledge of Allegience- I TOTALLY agree with you- a person should not have to say the word "god"- it is wrong based upon our constitution and something AA have been battling for years. I actively used to refuse to say the pledge for that reason and just stood out of respect. I also don't think someone should HAVE to say the pledge of allegience if they really don't feel that allegience. Maybe they shouldn't even have to be present for it necessarilly as it is a bit of brainwashing isn't it, but I can't even tell you what a huge unpatriotic act like that would be treated like by peers and parents.....
It's weird that America, which on paper has separation of church and state, has politicians that are God this and God that, need to be seen to attend church to be electable and has public policy (abortion) dictated by Christians.
This story, for example, would be unimaginable in the UK: Atheists as untrustworthy as rapists. I think you are carrying a lot of cultural baggage with you.
I don't see religious stories as cultural.
welcome to Europe dearie
lol - what you don't get about the whole pledge of allegiance thing is that most (many?) brits would have no problem with the God bit - but WOULD hugely object to their child pledging to a flag and a foreign country - Its just not what we do.....
With all that very helpful cultural context, I find it even more bizarre that you chose a Christian school for your son. Outstanding OFSTED trumps all belief, huh?
Oh. One more thing. You are not in America.
Do you have any British friends?
Where does this 51% Christian in RE come from? Not my dc's experience in their c of e state schools...
Religious stories are cultural. They're woven through literature.
I think many people in the UK also would like to see the separation between church and state in state schools (myself included) and are somewhat irritated that in some rural areas such as where we live there is no viable choice of a non-church school. However, private is different - you have bought the right to choose the school's underlying ethos - as I understand it there are also private christian schools in the US. This is why I think we find it very strange that you have chosen as you have (and why you may feel you have got little support and sympathy).
Hi Talkinspace... yes there are a few good points there although it doesn't really exclude the religious except for biology and maybe for the lessons on the big bang... It is otherwise all inclusive! I wonder if the religious ppl can just choose to be absent from those classes. Well they have tons of private schools to accomodate the religious don't they and of course in many central states there is the battle that is the afterschool biblestudy program. I kind of think that the state not taking a stance and promoting a single religion is a good thing. Like I said, the Brit system of muddling along might be more palatable if there was not that "preferential" treatment to christianity........
Hey my son is just north of 3.5 - like I said, I expected to have the same issues no matter what school I sent him to...
I understand where you are coming from and I too believe that religion should have no part in school life other than as a topic, same as history or geography.
More importantly I want dd to make her own mind up and for that she needs to be exposed to various religions.
I have always maintained that by teaching about religion the way we do, in the state school system, we have avoided (in mainland UK) many of the excesses of religious belief and attitude that you have to endure in the US. Most RE here is taught as an academic subject and should be taught be qualified people in exactly the same way as any other academic discipline.
Exactly what Catsrus said. It's the pledging to a flag that seems bizarre and ludicrous.
diplo- yes I understand that private doesn't have to accomodate me and can make arrangements to work with the other options but still have the same issues in a state school although.... the acceptance of atheists is not what I expected to hear...
Yes I don't think atheists get such a bad rap here as most Brits aren't churchgoers. I do think you are worrying about a situation that just isn't going to happen - that's why most people on this post are being incredulous - they're not trying to wind you up, it's just that Britain isn't like this with religion.
Also by not allowing your son to learn about any other religions, I feel you are behaving similarly to religious parents who force their kids into their religion and don't allow them to explore other possibilities. I'm sorry but he's 4, he doesn't have his own religious beliefs (or non-beliefs) yet, his only beliefs are directly from you. Let him develop his own beliefs as he grows. Everyone (even the Muslim lady in question) smiled indulgently on my bus this morning when a really little kid (maybe just 3) piped up "Mummy, why does that lady have a scarf on her head? It's TOO HOT for a scarf!"; but a teenager asking those kinds of questions because they've had no religious education is another matter entirely.
I think the fact that has been repeated over and over on this thread - that devout Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus do not withdraw their kids from RE and in the vast majority of cases not from assemblies either - should tell you something. Please listen - we're not lying!!!
catsrus- maybe in recent times... but the jews were expelled from the UK in the 1800's... expelled... this is an example of what can happen as a marginalization of opposing reigious belief.
the acceptance of atheists is not what I expected to hear
Ask. Find out. Listen to people (those on this thread would be a good start).
Stop viewing the world through American glasses.
So - now you understand that being an atheist isn't an issue in the UK, will you consider sitting in on an assembly and maybe relaxing your principles a little?
Oh and when we lived in the USA for 2 years, my younger brother refused to pledge allegiance every morning, I did, just for an easier life and it didn't mean much to me either way.
That's another thing you'll never find here. Sure we respect our flag but the "worship" of it every morning in school?!! just seems bizarre here. Most UK schools wouldn't even have a Union Jack flying.
"In the US, if you were to say you were atheist in a school you'd get a huge opposition and likely be bullied." This is really not something you need to worry about in the UK. Being an atheist is absolutely normal - if anything, you'd be much more likely to be seen as weird if you were an evangelical Christian. Or, as someone pointed out further up the thread, if your parents insisted on withdrawing you from assembly and RE lessons...
Why did you decide to send your son to a Christian school when you clearly don't agree with its ethos?
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.
Oh where oh where are these ATHIEST schools you speak of? My daughters go to a NON DENOMINATIONAL state school and they have Collective Worship, some services in the local church, one of the Governors is the local vicar and the education is "broadly Christian in character".
Some of that comes from legislation that schools have to abide by. There are no such things as non-Christian schools, unless it's a school specifically for another faith.
Thank you for starting the thread, OP. I haven't gone as far as withdrawing my daughters from things and don't actually object to RE lessons per se or Nativity plays. It's more the Collective Worship and anything which teaches that God is a fact which bothers me. I would like to know the experiences of other parents who have withdrawn their children from assembly etc.
Have you actually spoken to any British Jewish people on their experiences or are you basing your expectations of living in modern Britain solely on history books?
That is if you can actually hear me with your fingers jammed firmly in your ears...
"In the US, if you were to say you were atheist in a school you'd get a huge opposition and likely be bullied." This is really not something you need to worry about in the UK. Being an atheist is absolutely normal - if anything, you'd be much more likely to be seen as weird if you were an evangelical Christian.
^ This. I went to church up until the age of about 14 and would never admit to it at (state, not CofE) school.
The vast majority of those who would loosely come under the Christian category attend church for christenings, weddings and funerals. The school nativity play is a common cultural bond of the innkeeper saying the wrong thing and the sheep falling over and an angel crying whilst grandparents sit dewy eyed watching. In a non church school (one that isn't specifically identified as such) it's unlikely that more than 10% of those watching will set foot in a church in the last year for non family events.
I was glad to see that you have finally taken on board the point about atheists. Your son will be the norm if he is atheist. He will not get bullied and if there are conversations, then all views are respected.
Your comment about the 'after school Bible study' also shows one of the differences between US and UK. Most Brits even Christians would be uncomfortable with an after school Bible study, it is just too, well, religious for us!
And Christians here do not sign up to the whole US christian agenda. There are many Christians who have good friends who are gay, who are happy to believe in evolution, who go danecing, listen to 'rock and roll' and even drink alcohol, and who live in a comfortable mix with friends of all religions and none.
Listen to what people are saying. It is different.
I have a great respect for you not wanting an overtly religious education for your son, but you need to look at what actually is going on in school
You'd more likely be bullied in a UK school if you said you did believe in god.
Fillyjonk the OP's in the private system.
I get where you are coming from Fiilyjonk. When dd came home in reception telling me all about the baby cheesus and how it MUST be true `cos her teacher told her I really struggled. But I just did the "yes dear that's what some people believe" speech.
By year 2 she decided she wanted to be a Hindu and now in year 3 she is an atheist.
But she is an atheist with a good understanding or other religions.
piprabbit- possibly the assembly aspect... though still not going to do the nativity thing or the prayer thing. I think nativity can be accomodated as we will just be on holiday each year for it (like this year)- don't know about the prayer thing... I might just enroll my son locally if it helps and they don't do prayers and therefore can avoid some issues... if re is not woven throughout the curriculum that could help too. Will def have a chat with hubby and do more research re locally....
ljny - sorry if my comments upset you. Are you a JW/PB? I have to say that most people would find their beliefs and practices a little extreme (no blood transfusions, no associating with anyone outside their own church etc). Of course there may be other religious groups who insist on withdrawal from school assemblies, but those are the main two I have heard about in the UK.
'maybe in recent times... but the jews were expelled from the UK in the 1800's... expelled...'
Emancipation and prosperity, 1800s
Main article: Emancipation of the Jews in England
With Catholic Emancipation in 1829, the hopes of the Jews rose high; and the first step toward a similar alleviation in their case was taken in 1830 when William Huskisson presented a petition signed by 2,000 merchants and others of Liverpool. This was immediately followed by a bill presented by Robert Grant on 15 April of that year which was destined to engage the Parliament in one form or another for the next thirty years.
In 1837, Queen Victoria knighted Moses Haim Montefiore; four years later, Isaac Lyon Goldsmid was made a baronet, the first Jew to receive a hereditary title. The first Jewish Lord Mayor of London, Sir David Salomons, was elected in 1855, followed by the 1858 emancipation of the Jews. On 26 July 1858, Lionel de Rothschild was finally allowed to sit in the British House of Commons when the law restricting the oath of office to Christians was changed; Benjamin Disraeli, a baptised Christian of Jewish parentage, was already an MP.
In 1868, Disraeli became Prime Minister having earlier been Chancellor of the Exchequer. In 1884 Nathan Mayer Rothschild, 1st Baron Rothschild became the first Jewish member of the British House of Lords; again Disraeli was already a member. (Though born a Jew, Disraeli's baptism as a child qualified him as eligible for political aspirations, presenting no restrictions regarding a mandated Christian oath of office.)
By 1780 the flourishing Jewish community in Birmingham was centered on its synagogue. The men organizes collective action to defend the reputation and promote the interests of the community. Rituals regarding funerals and burials brought together the rich and the poor, the men and the women. Intermarriage outside the community was uncommon. however, the arrival of East European Jews after 1880 caused a split between the older, assimilated, middle-class Anglicized Jews, in the much poorer new immigrants who spoke Yiddish.
By 1882, 46,000 Jews lived in England and, by 1890, Jewish emancipation was complete in every walk of life. Since 1858, Parliament has never been without Jewish members. Synagogues were built openly, in some cases large, architecturally elaborate Victorian Gothic buildings such as the one in Newington Green, North London.
Being an atheist over here rally isn't a big deal. It's pretty much the norm. Of course in a private Christian school it's likely to be unusual!!
Even our politicians can openly declare their atheism & still be elected!
Honestly, the US is way more a religious state than we are!
RE is very, very definitely not woven throughout the curriculum in state schools (your private school may be a different kettle of fish).
Most ordinary state schools mention religion only when they have to (in an RE lesson, actually most schools call it RS, Religious Studies) or when it crops up as an aside in a cultural celebration.
RE is a separate, minor subject in my DCs' private schools too. If the OP has somehow managed to enrol her child at a private Catholic school she might find religion intruding more into other lessons, but most private schools, despite having a broadly Christian ethos, know that the majority of their parents are not religious or not Christian.
oops- off by a few years hehe... still, - EXPELLED!
In 1290, King Edward I issued an edict expelling all Jews from England. The expulsion edict remained in force for the rest of the Middle Ages. The edict was not an isolated incident, but the culmination of over 200 years of increased persecution. Oliver Cromwell permitted Jews to return to England in 1657, over 350 years since their banishment by King Edward I, in exchange for finance.
I don't think you need worry about your son being bullied. Really, no one is going to insist that he becomes a Christian. My seven year old daughter is clear that she is an atheist (like her dad), whereas my son loves to come to church with me. It wouldn't occur to her dad to withdraw her from assembly where they sing some nice 'Family of man' type songs, celebrate children's achievements, have ethical talk from different religions and perhaps do a prayer about helping us all to be nice to each other. While it's a state school, so they could withdraw, none of the approx. 20 % of hijab-wearing (so I assume reasonably devout) Moslem mums seem to have taken this option. RE will be about different religions but will concentrate a little more on Christianity as it's the religion that has influenced British history, culture and literature most. I really feel he is going to feel far more excluded if you keep him out of assembly. Could he remain respectfully silent during hymns and prayers if he felt joining in would compromised his beliefs?
so are you Jewish or an atheist? I'm now confused.
The "little baby cheeses" in KS1 were rather irritating, and vicar who came in once a week was a twonk but I let it wash past - I even let my Mum take them to church
on the basis of 'what is banned is immediately attractive'
and by half way through KS2 it had stopped being an issue.
We all still love carol concerts but admire the architecture rather than saying any prayers!
Two of my kids went to school for a term in US, and can recite the Oath of Allegiance. They look back on the term as a 'cultural learning experience'.
Their schools here (not in the UK) have been Anglican primary and Catholic secondary. They aren't baptised. They did religion all the way through - again as a cultural experience, part of history (we are in Ireland), and because they will have to attend funerals, baptisms and weddings of friends and relatives which will be in churches and other places of worship. They will understand what is going on and how to behave.
Opting out in their schools was 'wait outside' type stuff; all teachers were involved in collective assemblies, nativity plays etc. In secondary the 'opt outs' did homework at the back of the class.
So is the son of god actually a babybel? Out of the mouths of babes...
Stepmum- yes it makes me feel much much better.
Although.... I will defend some aspect of the religious people believe it or not.... I have a tremendous respect for their very very morally conservative value system (except dealing with gay ppl)!
In truth the liberalism here is uncomfortable- although that is a cultural and political discussion and doesn't belong in this thread- smack!
Talkinpeace- I am a jewish humanist. Here this will help you:
Expulsion of the Jews, which happened all over Europe for centuries, was largely about finance. It's popular to expel your creditors rather than pay them.
So would you say you were culturally Jewish but not religiously Jewish? If so you should be delighted - you're in an entire country filled with cultural but not religious Christians!
The USA didn't exist when the expulsion of the Jews was in force it was that long ago. Its not exactly an enduring cultural belief now, religion isn't considered to be important to most of the population of the UK any more.
Will you also judge the UK for hanging people who steal a lamb? This was a punishment at that time.
And yes, RE is just to tell children what the major religions believe. Its 51% Christian because to access a lot of English history and literature you need to understand Christianity more than any other religion (because that's been the majority religion since Anglo-Saxon times).
Ah, but apparently we're liberal which makes her uncomfortable
Titchy I would be delighted if ppl didn't go around saying, oh you don't celebrate christmas??? Why???
HELLO.... what don't ppl get about being Jewish?? I've NEVER celebrated Christmas- neither did LOTS of ppl where I am from and it didn't make me feel bad- we had Hanukkah of course (well and my moms bday which is Dec 25) which is tons of fun!
I like to watch carolers and sing "winter" songs... but nothing like "away in a manger".... I'm really grateful I wasn't asked to either.
No MRS Hoarder but until you've had someone say an antisemitic remark... until you've had to worry that some violent act like grave desecration and Rabbi murdering happens again in this country... it is hard to explain the occasional uneasiness one might feel...
But to most Brits, "celebrating" Christmas means getting and giving presents, having a couple of days off work and spending time with the family, eating and drinking more than usual, listening to mostly secular Christmas songs, having a tree in the house, enjoying carols but not thinking about what the words mean, etc etc. It's not going to church.
The page about humanistic Judaism is interesting. I wonder if there's such a thing as humanistic Christianity, I think i would like to be a part of that.
YES Twirly... go have a good laugh!
Yes. You're basically saying that you are culturally Jewish but don't believe. We've said that England is full of people who are culturally Christian but don't believe.
moggle- from the sounds of it... most Brits ARE Humanistic Christians.. heheh....
Bit of an aside, but your last post was very interesting. I'm a (Unitarian) Christian and (probably alone in my social circle) a churchgoer. I find US Christianity perplexing in that it seems to be very conservative socially. Was astonished to find that Christian guy I stayed with in Denver was really opposed to welfare, whereas here it is often churches that will challenge government cutbacks (see e.g.http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/files/truth_and_lies_report_final.pdf). Let me know if you do start another thread, as it would be interesting to engage!
Most schools have no problem if a parent requests their child to be withdrawn from religious occasions, whether it is because of legal rights in the state sector or common courtesy in the private sector. Voluntarily excluded children at our school are welcome to sit and read by the office when any Christian church services are taking place, but the school is not obligated to provide any teaching for them at this time as it is parental choice to exclude them from such activities (and frankly most faith backgrounds attend the Christian services and sing Christian songs in assemblies etc...because their parents reasonably understand that this is part of life in a UK school and any concerns of questions about what their children believe tend to be dealt with at home). If you chose to deliver your child late to school each day, then that is reasonably what his attendance record should show.
Your insistence of removing your child from anything that disagrees with your own personal beliefs (despite choosing to send him to an overtly Christian school) ironically sounds like your own form of indoctrination, an accusation more frequently made against Christianity (and presumably part of your reasons for not wanting him to be exposed to it... but hold on, you chose a Christian school...?????)
RE in the UK sounds very removed from the US - it is about educating children as to what a wide range of different faiths and religions believe. What a shame US schools don't do a better job of this.
Sadly much of the teaching about Christianity in this country is watered down into being 'nice' and 'tolerant' - I can understand you wanting to protect your child from such dangerous ideas.
And wtf is a Jewish Humanist Atheist - surely these are three different faiths?
Yes welfare is something to be opposed to- this is generally the view that it is something to be ashamed of... also, churches are supposed to provide for their members if at all possible...
bye... have to collect my son... thanks.
I've actually had an antisemitic remark directed at me, though I'm not Jewish. It was shocking. I was raised Catholic and we have just passed the height of the N Ireland marching season where the Protestant community likes to burn effigies of the pope and, this year, a hanging effigy of a specific priest who committed suicide. I'm well aware of hate and the way it actually bonds you more firmly to the part of you that is being targeted.
England is not like that.
I went to a school in the States for a while. Every morning we had to stand up and pledge allegiance to the flag. Being a Brit it felt very culturally awkward, plus there was no way I was going to pledge allegiance. We also had huge pep rallies that felt like religious fervour and frankly terrified me. I had to get on with it and stand there awkwardly thinking teen rebellious thoughts.
So whilst American (non-religiously affiliated schools) do not have prayers or assemblies, they do have some aspects that must feel very similar.
now I've read the rest of the thread
If it's a private school I don't think you have the right of withdrawal in the same way as a state one.
'Pep rallies' make me think of Nuremburg with cheerleaders.
What an interesting thread...the vast chasm between UK and US culture laid bare!
The solution would seem to me to be very simple. If you don't like his Christian private school move him.
I thought the comment about not wanting your precious gifted child to be bullied when he is (at your own request) taken out of any opportunity to take part in the wider life of the school, and instead given extra special lessons for the extra specially gifted was ridiculous, but I let it go...
But now this:
but until you've had someone say an antisemitic remark... until you've had to worry that some violent act like grave desecration and Rabbi murdering happens again in this country... it is hard to explain the occasional uneasiness one might feel...
Is this in reference to your remarks about the expulsion of the Jews in 1290? Are you seriously suggesting that some random person making rude comments (which are strictly against the law of this country, by the way) will result in, or is evidence of, the entire country going back to beliefs that we had over 700 years ago? Why on earth would an anti-Semitic comment lead you to worry that grave desecration and Rabbi murdering will happen again?
What the actual fuck?
OP, if I didn't know
MN better, I'd say you are behaving like someone who is utterly bonkers.
<<wanders off, shaking head in disbelief>>
OP I didn't say the UK was perfect, its just not the parts you're fighting against that are the problems. You get a few violent thugs everywhere, when the general reaction to them in condemnation then it may well not be the system that is the problem.
There is an attitude in England (cannot speak for the rest of the UK) that we should try to accept other people's beliefs and that education is important to minimise community divisions*. Its from this attitude that people are criticising your desire to remove your DS from RE.
Just speak to the school, explain what your concerns are and ask what the content of the assemblies is/what the aims of RE in that school are. If you don't feel reassured then ask if your DS can sit those parts out and maybe get books which you think will help his understanding of your family's culture for him to read in that time.
* The aim is C of E/Catholic and Christian/Muslim because these are the pairings that most lead to violence in the UK.
Another possible solution - Jewish state school. He wouldn't be exposed to the nativity play, and you would have the right to remove him from assembly (though I think as the one by us very reasonably states in their brochure, having selected a school with a religious ethos, it would seem a strange choice to withdraw from RE/assembly...)
amistillsexy The OP used the expulsion of the Jews as "an example of what can happen as a marginalization of opposing reigious belief"
Sadly Jewish grave desecration is not something confined to the history books. It still seems to pop up on the news once every few years. Rare, yes, but not rare enough.
I think I might be a bit ungifted and talentless, but the g&t thing seems like a total non sequitur added to show us just how clever and special he is/you are.
Mind you, if he is an avowed atheist at 3 and a half, having made up his own mind (not of course influenced by parents), then he is indeed well in advance of my three children.
>In dcs school they did a nativity, they also celebrated Hannukah, and Diwali, and when Eid falls in December, Eid as well. You seem to see the christian stuff, and not notice the rest
DS1's class enacted the hindi festival of Holi, yesterday. They wanted to do it at the right time, but it was snowing, then - not good weather for throwing water and coloured flour at each other. Currently, all the children in his class are white, mostly working class. This is one of the least multi-cultural parts of the country, but, even without this influence, most of the children find this stuff fascinating.
outofthebox I know that some American atheists have a very hard time and are even ostracised by their families, communities, etc but that's not something that really happens, here. Of course, if you pay to send your child to a school with a Christian mission statement, they are in danger of sticking out like a sore thumb, particularly if you insist they spend portions of the day segregated.
I I withdraw DC from collective worship and the local vicars weekly
Don't bother about Christmas/Easter stuff.
It was no issue, they need a new letter each year but other than that no problems.
>>but the jews were expelled from the UK in the 1800's... expelled
And there's a big wall through the Northeast of England and Cumbria that the scots built to keep the Romans out. These days, you can cross the English-Scottish border quite freely. Britain does have a bloody (and sometimes shameful) history, very far removed from current reality for the majority of people.
OP I won't waste my time attempting to engage you in rational discussion - others have tried and failed.
I will simply tell you that your stance is utterly mad, inconsistent and over-entitled and offer you a
And there's a big wall through the Northeast of England and Cumbria that the scots built to keep the Romans out.
StarBallBunny There is wishy washy Christianity woven into every thread of society. It immunises us against evangelical beliefs and underpins our liberal society.
Perfectly put. I may quote you forever!
This is exactly why DH and I had our DCs baptised even though we are both atheists. We were brought up in wishy washy CoE families and it pleased the grandparents no end. Both DCs went to a village school with a resident vicar. Both DCs have grown up as committed atheists.
The last nativity play I was in charge of had a Hindu Mary, a Muslim Joseph and a Sikh Gabriel. This was an inner city state primary like many up and down the country. What intrigued me was what the OP said about the Hebrew lessons. What did she expect him to be taught about and why? I feel sorry for the poor little mite - g and t and atheist and only 3 and a half!
outofthebox in dd's first year of primary school she played Mary in the nativity. She got the role because she was the only child in her class of 26 who knew the story of the nativity. I'm agnostic, she knew the story because it was a book that we had at home and I had read it to her. To her it was a nice story the issue of it being about the birth of Christ totally passed her by.
Likewise when my youngest dd corrected all the "spelling mistakes" replacing God with dog her teacher merely smiled and we laughed about it later it's not a big thing in schools here.
In our local schools it is only Jehova's Witnesses who withdraw their children (Muslim families choose to send their children to the Roman Catholic schools), I do think it marks them out different not because of their faith but because they don't join in with their classmates.
OP is no longer here.
And she was never listening anyway.
Surely Jewish atheist is a contradiction in terms? PLenty of private schools are not religious. Why pick one that is?
"two nations divided by a common language"
my head is spinning.
If you are there OP I hope you feel you've got a clearer picture of the types of school, rules about worship and cultural context. I'm sure if you are proud to be pushy you'd much rather push at the doors most likely to open.
Your son is fortunate to have a mum so determined to do right by him.
Amazing what a clear picture of a personality can come out of a couple of dozen posts on a message board.
OP, I fundamentally disagree with you, but I don't want you to think this is an unhelpful place. The reason people disagree with you is because it i extremely rare here to withdraw children from assembly. Many schools interpret "broadly Christian" extremely loosely and tell "stories" that can be interpreted in many ways.
A private school with a Christian foundation is likely to adopt many of the more traditional tenets of Christianity - hymns and prayers that talk about Jesus specifically. My children go to such a school and AFAIK, no-one is withdrawn from assemblies but it is acceptable - and indeed common - not to pray or sing. The vast majority of the children will be non-Christian, mostly atheist, but with some Muslims. The assembly, and the Christian foundation, while interpreted both liberally and loosely, is considered part of the school's history and ethos.
How thankful are all the teachers reading this thread that they don't teach in a certain 'outstanding private Christian' school?!! Not often speechless, but this one took my breath away
The Romans built the wall because they were scared of us. That last bits not true but the Roman's did build it. There is lots of interesting junk along it like letters home about sock and things.
I do have a religious faith, but I think that education should be secular. Therefore I send my children to the nearest I can get to that. The idea that someone would choose to send their child to a religious school when they profess to feel as strongly as I do, and is an atheist as well, is decidedly odd.
What are you afraid of that will happen when your son hears other children singing religious songs? That he start believing straight away or that he asks you why he can't join in?
I really can't understand how you can choose and pay for a Christian school if you want to avoid religion at all cost, outstanding or not.
Message withdrawn at poster's request.
I have read so many posts here and I don't get it. Just don't get it. Why on earth would you send your children to a PRIVATE faith school if it's not your faith, and then complain about it and ask them to make all those exceptions? Some people...
What is this arguments about your rights? You have the right to send your children to any private school you want, why didn't you choose one that was not-Christian or non faith based? It's your choice. You should have sorted this out before you sent your child there. Didn't you visit the school? Ask questions? Speak to other parents?
Serious popcorn thread. Speaking as an American & humanist myself.
I don't care what Wikipedia says, you can't be Jewish & humanist at the same time. Just like celebrating Christmas does not make me a Christian.
Poor girl probably did not expect this many non religious expat yanks to pop up on the thread.
In the US (as y'll know) admitting to not believing is a big no no in many situations.
You left a bit out, lljkk, she's a conservative Jewish humanist. Wonder what Isaac Asimov or Kurt Vonnegut would have made of an anti-liberal humanist?
If anybody was very bored indeed they could make a lovely list of all the intellectual inconsistencies there.
too much like shooting fish in a barrel.
When you visited the school, didn't you notice a Christian theme? We visited a RC school recently and everywhere you looked you were reminded this was a RC faith school, even the badge on the uniform reflected this.
History never was my strong subject at school, IThink
Life is certainly very different on this Island from what it was then, mind!
At our OFSTED Outstanding (CofE) primary we had a family from South Africa. The mother was adamant that her child should be able to start school aged 7 but go straight in with his own age group. She went to the school and expounded this view quite strongly "because in South Africa and in Scandinavian countries children don't start school till age 7 and it's an excellent system".
The school told her if she liked that system there so much, go back there.
I must say I have some sympathy with that view. Who do you think you are sending your child to a CofE school and expecting to demand special treatment? If you want faith teaching, go to a faith school for your faith.
Or just let your child learn that different people have different religious beliefs and that's fine.
OP, I went to a private Christian day school. I am Jewish, and, actually, in my year, non Christian children (Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, atheist, agnostic, etc) actually outnumbered Christian.
We went to assembly, we sang the songs, occasionally just mouthing bits about Jesus that were a bit much, we didn't kneel for prayers, we didn't say the Lord's Prayer at all.
We were respectful and polite, much as you are when you stand for the pledge of allegiance, but don't say it. It was easy and straightforward, I made friends from all cultures, I learned while all the time knowing strongly what I believed.
I think that you are overthinking this, honestly. Being a Jewish Humanist is a lovely thing, and really close to my beliefs, hold it proudly and tell everyone about it, but please don't make your special 4 year old son sit by himself in a corridor every day because of it.
outofthebox, can I strongly suggest you read this document which gives guidance on how RE is taught in state schools.
Interestingly it includes the following example of the sort of topic that might be covered:
" in a Year 9 unit comparing Judaism and Humanism, examples could focus
on the beliefs, teachings and sources that motivate them to take
social action to improve the world"
Cross-curricular dimensions such as identity, cultural diversity and community cohesion provide important unifying themes that help young people make sense of the world and give education relevance. They reflect the major ideas and challenges that face individuals and society and can provide a focus for work within and between subjects and across the curriculum as a whole.
piprabbit What a majestic document. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. I hope the OP will find it useful.
As an infant teacher I've had several children withdrawn from assembly over the years on various religious grounds all of which I respect as an agnostic I tend to be more understanding than religious colleagues.
My primary focus is always the children and their feelings. I had a 5 year old burst into tears because he just wanted to be with his pals and sing songs (which I have to admit he joined in with if we stayed in the classroom when he didn't wanted to go on the nature because we could hear them) he got cross during the Christmas play which despite being non religious he was withdrawn from. I sat down with mum shared my concerns about his feelings of segregation so we came up with the following plan.
He went to assembly. I would write in the home communication book a summary of assembly. She would then discuss the families views on the subject. Best solution for everyone.
If you legally withdraw from collective worship I can't pick and choose eg attend recycling assembly but not harvest festival
I am an atheist with atheist paretns and atheist children. I wasn't withdrawn from assemblies etc (although my parents said I could be if I had wished) and I don't choose to withdraw my children however I have a lot of sympathy for outofthebox's position and I'm surprised that so many people don't get where she's coming from or are actively hostile to it.
The private, Christian thing is irrelevant in that it is a statutory requirment to hold a daily act of worship in every school. It is the case that secular state schools with multi cultural intake tend to find ways around this that are sensitive to the diversity of their intake but not all do. It is also perfectly reasonable to want your kids to go to a good school and many of the best schools are faith schools.
It's all very well to say your kids can just ignore the relgious stuff or 'learn from it' but if you're a non believer or have a different faith from the one espoused by the school then a great deal of what is taught (often as fact) is really downright offensive.
It's actually not OK for posters to say just ignore it. For example, I deeply resent the fact that my kids might be taught about original sin and told they are sinners (and the more so for being female).
I also object to the images of crucefixion and the notion of a virgin birth etc etc.
I might choose to withdraw my kids BUT I would worry about them losing out from other aspects of the school community that are also delivered during assemblies etc. and that I know that such 'difference' can be picked up on and misused by other kids.
As is evident by attitudes on this thread even from fellow athiests, my kids would have to defend their position as would I and other people evidently wouldn't get it. It would be taking on the whole bedrock of British culture (the what? YOu don't celebrate Christmas?) and the acceptance that that's the way it is and I wouldn't have the strenght for that given that I don't feel that strognyl about it.
However, I have absolute respect for outofthebox's choice and am surprised that other people don't.
too right : kids just want to fit in
and no child has a religion
they may be brought up among their parents religion
but nobody has their own one till they are about 10
she has sent her kid to a fee paying overtly christian school and then kicked off about its ethos :
without being aware of / interested in the cultural differences between the UK and the US
she also says she's an atheist Jew
THAT is why there is little sympathy
Talkinpeace, but she would be likely to have the same dilemma in a secular state schools. It is a legal requirement to have a daily Christian act of worship.
People are keen to make out that the OP is in the wrong here.
She's not actually.
This aspect of school life is NOT inclusive and is not respectful to non believers regardless of the school.
little baby cheeses
our digger is a great big digger
yup, been there, grew out of it
OP is being unreasonable - read the whole thread
And of course you can consider yourself to be Jewish even if you don't actually believe in God.
There's an awful lot of ignorance here as well as quite a worrying lack of respect for others' values and beliefs.
It's not OK to say you just put up with it if you find it offensive.
And just because it's the way it works in this country does not make it right.
If I wasn't concerned about the impact on my kids and aware that I'd be taking on the whole of British culture I'd do the same thing.
I can't stand the stuff that my kids are taught on a daily basis in assembly.
A state school would have to make provision for him to miss assembly, a private school is under no such obligation.
I don't think she is getting stick for not wanting her child to say prayers, it's more the not wanting to say prayers plus learn about (or overhear) any religion at all and wanting this to happen after specifically choosing a Christian school. It's not the same as a family who are stuck with a faith school as that is what is available where they live and that is what the LEA have allocated them.
I think you may have mis understood original sin but if we are talking about the Adam/Eve/Apple story I think it's important to know it culturally. It comes up again and again.
Whendidyoulast - the private thing is very relevant because the requirement to hold a daily act of collective worship is one that applies to maintained schools. So, in a sense, OP would be in a stronger position in a state school because she would then have the right to withdraw her child that is the flip-side of the requirement to hold a daily act of collective worship.
Personally, I have no problem with my kids learning about other religions but that's not the same as them being told that they are sinners.
I find that incredibly offensive but it's standard fare in assemblies up and down the country regardless of whether the school is a faith school.
Don't tell me that I should just put up with that.
And really it's not good enough to say that I can always withdraw my kids from assembly with no alternative provision either.
Quite simply, schools should be secular and so should assemblies.
Some enlightened schools do have provision for different assemblies for those of different and no faiths. Good.
Message withdrawn at poster's request.
While I agree that state schools absolutely should be secular, independent schools are just that. And it is a choice to send your child to one.
ComeInto, the school the OP is at DOES allow her to withdraw her kids. That's not the problem is it?
The problem is that there's nothing else for them to do.
That would be the same problem in any other school.
When I was at state and non faith school it was the same. There were a few Jehovah's Witness kids who were withdrawn and they just sat in their form rooms. They also missed out on all the other aspects of school life that come with assemblies like school notices etc.
FGS, the private/state school thing is red herring.
The OP would have the same problem in a state school.
whendidyoulast, if that's your experience it's pretty unusual. Most schools don't have assembly every day, but much more infrequently, and they don't include religious elements in a significant proportion of the assemblies that do take place.
And I have never ever been in a school assembly that came anywhere close to telling children that they were sinners.
Secondary schools are quite different to primaries IME. I was astonished by the religious references in my DC's primary. I have not stood through a religious assembly in 12 years of secondary teaching.
I think part of the problem here is that the religious thing is so entrenched that we often don't even notice it and can't conceive of how it could be offensive.
So, actually the standard Christmas assembly remembering that we're not opening presents but remembering the birth of Jesus is taken for granted but might be really quite offensive and upsetting if your kids are Jewish or Muslim and you don't celebrate Christmas.
It isn't a red herring in the context of the OP's question, as she has no statutory right to insist her child is removed.
'And I have never ever been in a school assembly that came anywhere close to telling children that they were sinners.'
The Lord's Prayer requires us to to ask for us to be forgiven our sins.
I object to that assumption.
But it isn't a red herring, because there's a difference between withdrawal as of legal right and withdrawal as a result of personal negotiation with the school. In this instance, it seems to be unclear for the moment what the school's eventual stance is going to be and I hope OP can negotiate the outcome that she wants.
I notice it. In fact, I said I was surprised by it. I have a religious faith myself, and went to faith schools. I was expecting something quite different in a non faith primary. It was an eye opener.
It IS a red herring in that the school in question is NOT objecting to the withdrawal of the children.
And EVERY school in the country has to have a daily act of Christian worship by law.
So, ONCE AGAIN, she would have the same problem in ANY school
As would anyone else with her beliefs in most schools.
Not sins but trespasses, at my school - King James version.
And if you can honestly say that you haven't trespassed against anyone and mightn't benefit from the opportunity to reflect on that, or to think about forgiving others, then you're clearly on a higher moral plane than I can even aspire to.
*EVERY school in the country has to have a daily act of Christian worship by law.
But most schools do not. Even though it is the law.
You chose to send your child there, you have a right to withdraw from RE. I think your rights end there.
What more do you expect the school to do?
The problem is not that the withdrawal it is the fact that ALL schools require a daily act of worship and that if you withdraw your kid, your kid will miss out.
So schools pay lipservice to being inclusive and respectful of all and no religions but, in practice, they're not.
I feel the same as the OP but I don't withdraw my kids precisly because I don't want to deal with the sort of consequences that the OP is having to or the sort of attitudes on this thread where people can't understand the problem.
The problem is not with the OP. It's with the legal requirement for a daily act of Christian worship in the 21st century.
Well, the Dept of Education website says the duty in England to provide an act of collective worship is one for maintained schools. Here. Perhaps you could point me to a source for a similar requirement on independent schools?
I object to the specifically Christian concept of 'sins' or 'trespasses'.
And that's just the Lord's Prayer - obviously very prominent.
Do you see? This stuff has become so entrenched that many people are unable to see how it might be offenisve.
As is patently obvious on this thread.
why choose a Christian school if you are against religion?
I din't disagree with you about state schools. And while I am about choosing to educate a child in the private sector, if you make that choice you are making a choice. IME of faith schools, the religion goes beyond assembly and RE. Choosing that ethos for an atheist child seems perverse.
I think the daily act of worship should be scrapped (although I do like a nice assembly and I wouldn't want to go down the route of never being able to use religious stories/references in case they are misconstrued as 'worship') However I don't think it's reasonable to choose a religious school and then complain that the withdrawn child is separated from friends and expect the childs G&T work to be scheduled at the same time. They have withdrawn him from play practice. The fact that they haven't put him in a soundproof booth with a few friends and a G&T teacher doesn't mean that they are a shower of bastards.
Two thirds of schools do not have a daily assembly. And notice this distinction between assembly and church:
'Collective worship is when pupils of all faiths and none come together to reflect - it should not be confused with corporate worship when everyone is of the same belief.'
(not linking as I got it off the DM, but you can google it as easily as I did.)
Comeinto, so you see the OP would have the same problem if she moved into a state school???
The problem is not specific to the school she's at. It's a dilemma she would face in ANY school.
Our school is one of the few non-church state primaries locally, and so there a relatively large proportion of Jehovah's Witnesses choose to send their children there (maybe 5 or 6 families with kids through the school). Obviously they don't take part in any acts of collective worship, or in the school play. In the week of Winter term, when it all goes Christmastastic they take the week out and as far as I understand it most of them go to Center Parcs. : ).
All of the Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and atheists kids just take part in it all, nativity and Santa included.
Is it possible to play a full part in the life of the school without doing all that stuff?Since your perspective is really one of cultural preference rather than religious imperative, it is unfair on your child to exclude him from the community of the school that you have chosen. I tend to think that if you are part of a community, you need to be prepared to operate broadly within its codes. You should look at different schooling options, perhaps.
But it is the LAW to have a Christian act of worship so I'm not really sure how it helps your case to say that not all schools do it.
Many schools do which is a problem for people with the beleifs of the OP.
Schools are also in an impossible position - the ones that do it risk alienating people like the OP and the ones that don't are breaking the law.
So, why is it that instead of questioning the law, so many of you are questioning the OP?
Up to a point, whendidyoulast. She would have the same problem of her child potentially being out on a limb if withdrawn, but being in a state school would have the advantage of putting the weight of the law behind her request to withdraw her child (about which, to judge from the initial post, the school has so far not been entirely dismissive but neither has it made a wholehearted commitment to comply).
Anyway, I've had enough of this discussion and note that the OP has now left.
I do question the law. I disagree with it.
But it is not the same. A faith school is not the same as a daily act of collective worship. It is more than that. And opting out of assembly is likely scratching at the surface.
'Is it possible to play a full part in the life of the school without doing all that stuff?'
Exactly. That's the problem.
'Since your perspective is really one of cultural preference rather than religious imperative, it is unfair on your child to exclude him from the community of the school that you have chosen. I tend to think that if you are part of a community, you need to be prepared to operate broadly within its codes. You should look at different schooling options, perhaps.'
But this is what's staggering. Why should it be the assumption that the parents need to look elsewhere rather than the schools need to accommodate the relgiigous beliefs of theri rpupils and lack of them?
Would you be so accepting of a school that didn't offer a vegeterian option and said you have to go to a different school for that?
Why is there an acceptance that the schools are in the right here over and above the parents (even when the schools themselves know that a collective act of worship is inappropriate and are therefore forced to break the law).
This is why I don't take my own kids out of assembly.
Because they and I would face some very unenlightend attitudes and a lack of respect. And also my kids would be sitting doing nothing for 30 minute twice a week and as you say for a week before Christmas.
And they'd miss out on other important aspects of the school community.
But that can't be right can it?
That you have to put up with it or home educate?
An independent religious school does not need to accomodate other religions or none.
State schools should, certainly.
I'm going to post this again so you can have another chance to actually read what it says:
'Collective worship is when pupils of all faiths and none come together to reflect - it should not be confused with corporate worship when everyone is of the same belief.'
That is, ALL FAITHS AND NONE. Reflecting together.
That leaves room for people with a wide range of different belief systems. It is not imposing religious belief or practice on anyone.
It IS the same in that she would also have to withdraw her kids from assembly in most state schools.
Merylstrop notes that the Jehovah's Witness kids at her kids' non faith state school have to take a week out before Christmas (and go to Center Parcs instead
She's chosen a private school with a strong Christian ethos
The headteacher is trying to find solutions
She's still not happy
There are other options, where the faith element may be lower key or where they are better able to accommodate her preferences (such as the one my kids attend)
Choosing a Christian school, with a strong and clear religious ethos, for your Jewish, atheist child and then complaining that there is too much religion really seems rather bloody minded. This sort of school tends place their Christian ethos at the heart of everything they do and trying to remove the religious element is going to be quite a complex task.
At least choose a non-religious, state school where the school pays lip service to the need for a daily act of worship, where the staff are likely to be more accepting of atheists (and even be atheists themselves), where there is likely to be a higher number of non-Christian children attending the school and where religion can avoided with much less difficulty and heartache for the child as well as the school.
The OP is kidding herself if she thinks removing her child from RE and assembly will mean they are not exposed to an overtly Christian experience. That is my point, and why it is relevant that the OP has chosen a faith school rather than a non faith school, where it is at least more likely that the Christian references will be more limited.
But, OhBugger, that is followed by ' this shall be wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character' (1988 Education Act).'
Some schools 'interpret' the requirement very liberally but many do use it for Christian worship.
Also 'collective worship' is not the same as 'reflection'.
I do not want my kids to worship anything.
When did you last...I was being facetious, obviously, about Center Parcs, though some families do find it a good opportunity to have a cheap holiday. They certainly do not have to absent themselves from school, and other activities are provided. It would, however be quite hard to find a place where you wouldn't hear the others practising.
OP how do you feel about Christmas discos, Christmas fayres etc, all that stuff? That is the stuff that is really hard to avoid.
But I also stand about what I say about participating in - or at least tolerating - the culture of the community you choose to be a part of. I don't think that is at odds with free thinking and/or maintaining your own cultural and religious identity.
For the record, I don't think there should be collective worship in state funded schools.
More red herrings.
I had the same problem at my state and non faith school.
And the OP would have the same problem at many state and non faith schools today.
She is NOT complaining about any other aspects of the faith teaching at the school just assemblies. And she would have that problem elsewhere.
Some of you need to accept what the problme is here instead rather bizarrely of trying to find ways to make out that this is somehow the problem of the OP.
Is it the fault of the Jehovah's witness parents at Merylstrops' school that they have to take their kids out of school for the week before Christmas too?
I don't have a problem with Christmas fayres etc.
I do have a problem with Christmas assemblies where kids are actively taught stuff I do not agree with and find quite offensive.
Likewise Easter. Don't mind my kids having eggs. DO mind them being told that this Pagan festival is actually about Christ being reborn.
Have you experience of a faith school?
you might find this thread from 2008, informative (and sometimes quite funny) www.mumsnet.com/Talk/primary/557404-collective-worship-in-primary-school-what-is-it-exactly asked curious "humanist/atheist" Dragonbutter, "the term 'worship' is worrying me." RavenAK set her mind at rest, "Everyone troops in to strains of 'Search for the hero inside yourself'. Head or suitable delegate waffles on for a bit about being nice to each other. Brief video of children in developing country foraging on refuse dump. Head/delegate explains that we are now collecting old mobile phones to help dump-foraging children. Football etc results. Bollocking about not keying the staff cars. If time, lame rendition of 'All Things Bright & Beautiful'." "Collective worship at school was probably what turned me into an atheist" reassured Fairymum.
It's assemblies that are particularly problematic also because there's no discussion or opportunity to challenge. THey are precisely about conforming to collective values which is a problem if you don't share those Christian values which is the requirmenet.
'Have you experience of a faith school?
I went to school in a state, non faith school. I've got experience as a teacher in all sorts of schools.
But that's irrelevant it is the law to have a Christian act of daily worship.
there's no discussion or opportunity to challenge.
Again, this does not reflect the general experience.
Our school has a lot of discussion in assemblies, and they are often based on themes or issues raised and put together by the children themselves.
I'm guessing that's not secondary school, Oh Bugger. You'd have to be a pretty strong person to stand up in front of several hundred kids and say, 'Actually I don't believe in God or that I'm a sinner' - I have never seen that.
It IS the case that some schools are more sensitive than others. But there are still many, many schools where assemblies follow the Christian act of worship to the letter.
It is entirely relevant to this OP. The OP's objections do go beyond assemblies.
You are arguing against a collective a t of Christian worship in a state school. I completely agree with you.
But that's not the OP.
'I seriously don't know what all of the objectors here would do in the reverse situation where you sent your child to an American state school since RE is not taught and there are no assemblies... would you object?'
We're, no, I'd probably take my child along to church on a Sunday and teach them what I needed to there and at home.
Your taking your child to a faith school because its excellent but expecting them to change everything for you because you are atheist reeks of hypocrisy. If you don't like what they teach, change schools. Entitled much?
You've taught in a faith school?
I repeat: The JW kids at school certainly do not have to absent themselves from school, and other activities are provided.
OP wants out of RE too.
I consider myself my kids primary educator. School is just part of the picture. But I have not chosen the very convenient and outstanding CofE primary school round the corner because of the way the schools faith ethos actually underlines a lot of the way they teach (And all the iconography dotted about) as well as their 2 hour act of worship each week.
The OP mainly focuses on assemblies. But state, non faith schools also practice Christmas songs, have Nativities etc so again the issue is not specific to faith schools.
The OP also says the school headmistress says, 'We'll deal with it'.
So it is not unreasonable to expect she will do just that.
And yet some of you seem to be suggesting it is.......
That we're was supposed to be an eerrrmm.
The main reason your post annoys me is that you are perfectly happy to send your child to a school which in all likelihood is funded or partly funded by a church, which you don't believe should exist. Yet that churches money has, in some way, contributed to the excellent status which gives the school it's allure.
You admit there are alternatives, why not take them if this sits so badly with you?
Well to take Easter as an example, from a Christian pov, Easter is about the death and resurrection of Jesus. It's about new life/new beginnings/new hope/new covenant. Because early Christians shamelessly stole pagan imagery from the pagan celebration of new life/new beginnings etc. does not mean that, for Christians the significance of Easter is any less. If you don't learn about Easter then how do you make the comparison? If you don't learn that people have different beliefs then how do you learn that some people use the egg as a symbol of the new covenant and others use it as a symbol of the new spring?
I think the daily act of worship is stupid and I have signed petitions and written letters to that effect but the OP has chosen a private Christian school and they are letting the child withdraw from stuff. What more does she want? For non of the other dcs to hear a Christmas song either?
'The JW kids at school certainly do not have to absent themselves from school'
Well, they do if they don't want to take part in the daily act of worship or the nativity play or the Christmas cards etc.
As they did when I went to school.
Sorry, but that's just not good enough in the 21st century.
You wouldn't say that vegaterians can simply not bother eating lunch with everybody else and should find another school or make other arrangments would you?
'The main reason your post annoys me is that you are perfectly happy to send your child to a school which in all likelihood is funded or partly funded by a church, which you don't believe should exist.'
Er, don't confuse me with the OP.
My kids don't go to a faith school but they do have to deal with the collective act of worship bollocks.
I don't withdraw them but only because of the hassle and the attitudes and lack of understanding as are evident on this thread.
The HT seems to be attempting to deal with it and is accepting of the OPs desire to withdraw her child from assemblies and RE.
Unfortunately the HT hasn't yet been able to provide a space where the OPs child cannot overhear religous activities. Nor does she seem willing to provide one-to-one G&T lessons for the OPs child to cover the times when he is withdrawn from religious activities.
But what you're suggesting is that everyone souls stop eating meat because there are vegetarians in the dinner hall.
*else, not souls. Does my phone know we're talking about religion?
Ithink, there is a very big differnce between learning about a religion (I have no problem with this) and telling kids that Christ was ressurected at Easter as if it were a fact (which I have a very big problem with).
I wouldn't expect vegetarians to find another school, but I neither wouldn't expect them to demand to eat their lunches in a special area where they couldn't see or hear their classmates eating meat.
'But what you're suggesting is that everyone souls stop eating meat because there are vegetarians in the dinner hall.'
Rubbish. You have a menu appropriate for all or a choice.
Most schools do not offer a faith/non faith choice for assemblies.
The OP wants her child withdrawn from RE as well as assembly/plays etc.
But they do offer an alternation between assemblies that contain elements like hymns, etc, and assemblies that don't.
But they do provide the option of not going to assembly. They don't provide G&T tuition during this time though but as the kid is only 3 I'm not seeing the problem of him playing with playdoh or doing some other activity.
Well, I don't object to my kids doing RE as long as it is learning about religions. I would object if there was an assumption that any one relgision was better than any other. I'm pretty sure that faith schools can teach RS with a slant in which case I would also object.
I haven't taught in a faith school but dp has. He has had to sit through assemblies where the kids were told about the perils of contraception and homosexuality.
Actually, in the OPs case it's more like choosing a school sponsored by a well-known chain of butchers shops, expecting all food in the dining hall to be vegetarian, and demanding that her child is not taught about the existence of meat, or fish, or dairy produce.
NOT going is not really an alternative is it? As in, you can have the meat option or nothing.
The problem which many of you have been able to identify with is that assemblies are very much part of school life so if you don't go you really are missing out and that's a problem. So it's an aspect of school life where kids from other relgiions or none are not properly included. That's why I don't withdraw my kids even though I can't stand the religious stuff they have to sit through and neither can they (and it's a non faith school).
It's a bit like my in laws attitude to vegetarians. You can have a beef burger or you can have the bread!! Not really an alternative 'choice' is it?
When did you last? you've not visited our school. Their position is extremely respectful, flexible and accommodating.
The vegetarian thing is specious argument in this case. I think a more appropriate analogy is the wearing of school uniform, perhaps.
As I said, I agree with you re the act of collective worship - it no longer reflects our society. In practice, a lot of it is easily counteracted, questioned and discussed, which is probably better than pretending religion does not exist.
But the OP has got other options, but chooses not to exercise them because she likes the educational offer.
I repeat the headmistress has said that she will deal with the fact that the OP does not wish her children to be involved in assemblies.
So it's not unreasonable to expect her to do that.
Her other option is just that her kid does not attend the assembly. That's NOT another option.
My kids are in the same boat. In a non faith school.
As the other option is not an other option at all I do not choose to withdraw them.
Faith schools are different, as I have said. I've not taught in a (secondary) school which has any reference to religion in assemblies.
But then I've never taught in a faith school. Because I don't agree with them.
Not unreasonable to expect the HT to deal with it but it is unreasonable to expect G&T provision to be provided at that time. It would mean the teacher who provides the G&T to never be in assembly with his/her class, never take an assembly, never participate. It is not unreasonable to expect the child to be supervised and occupied but he is being. It is unreasonable to expect him not to be separated from his friends. You can't withdraw and be present simultaneously.
This is an interesting thread to me because I am currently in the midst of trying to figure out how we are going to approach teaching our children about religion. We are in the US and want our children to learn about religion.
Anyway, OP, you will find in the UK the classes are learning about religion, not christianty. The focus is on learning about the basis of different cultures and there is the historical context. I am Jewish and went to an Anglican school. We all had to attend Church on Sunday and RE twice a week. My parents took the approach that we as a family need to assimilate and learn about the customs in the UK. It did us no harm and I really enjoyed RE lessons.
However, it is worth noting that you have the option to send your children to a Jewish school or the American school in London. That might be a better fit for your family.
It is interesting that atheists seem more worried about their children 'catching' religion than believers are about their children becoming atheists. I speak as the church-going mother of 3 atheists and a 'don't know'. School religion is off-putting.
State primary here. Jehovah's Witness kids are withdrawn from RE lessons, assemblies, Christmas plays, birthday parties etc. They sit in the library whilst assembly takes place, and go to another class when Christmas play songs etc are being practised. When we make things in class for xmas/Easter, they make something different. To keep them totally out of sight/sound of such activities would be pretty much impossible and we're not a religious school. Equally, if you go shopping at Christmas time you'll get carols etc playing in the shops, so you will never be able to avoid it completely.
If your school is a Christian school, then their RE about Christianity probably will be of the 'this is true' variety. Your child should learn about other religions though. You cannot expect a child to grow up without any knowledge of the beliefs others might have, how would he function in adult society, where many people do believe in one or another religion. What if a work colleague was muslim and fasting at Ramadan, or a Sikh wearing a turban? Would he ask a muslim woman to take her head scarf off because it looked silly, or ask a devout Jew/Muslim to eat meat that was not kosher/halal? Learning about the beliefs of others, is learning about the world.
Have you talked to your child about it and asked how he feels? It is just an accident of birth who you get as parents and the luck of the draw if you happen to fit with it. Who knows what he will be when he is older? Lots of DCs of Christians become atheists and vice versa- not to mention all the other religions.
Why do you feel the need to censor? Are you frightened that he won't make the 'right' choice?
I have never understood this obsession that DCs must follow you and think as you do. I brought up my DSs as Christians, took them to church - they wouldn't go after about 8 yrs- they don't believe in God. Why is this a big deal? We are the same people.
I found that my children's community primary school had too much religion by far because of a strong relationship between the head and a local vicar. When the head left the vicar ceased to be a part of the school community. At community schools the degree of 'religiousness' can be very variable and it is difficult for parents to make a knowledgeable choice (where a choice is available).
However at a overtly religious school this is really not the case. If the school states that it is Christian then it will teach with that ethos. Teachers may be required to be Christians and the religious studies will probably be biased towards Christianity. None of this is hidden. As an atheist I therefore chose against our local Catholic and CoE schools even though they were otherwise both good and convenient (I was however lucky enough to live near other decent schools).
We moved to Canada (via NYC) five years ago and are now in a totally secular system and I really think my children are the poorer for it, as they have very very little exposure to teaching about any faith/religion. Given how much religion has and continues to affect the world I think it is something that it is important to learn about. Also all Christmas songs are about Santa, and frankly they are mostly just awful (plus I don't subscribe to Santa stuff, so don't really see why it should be imposed as 'that's what Christmas is all about').
OP I hope you had a good read of nooka's post as well as all the others. Perhaps you should visit an re lesson at your son's school to get a sense of how RE is taught in the UK. As others have mentioned, it is a question of teaching comparative religion - this is what some people believe, this is what this culture and this religion practice. As such it is a positive sign of a pluralist society, as described in this article www.iarf.net/REBooklet/Hull.htm
And countries like france and the us, where religion is banned in school, have the problem that children only learn religion from their parents and so create less understanding and more extreme religious views.
You have a good option for your son not to have to sing songs he does not believe in, or say prayers similarly - he can miss part of assembly. But to deny him any exposure to what others believe you are simply encouraging him to be narrow minded and poorly educated.
I find many aspects of secular society offensive and can guarantee that if I send my children to a state school (we're in Australia so no RS) I will not agree with all of the views of every teacher who ever educates them. That's a given. So my job as a parent isn't to segregate my children, nor is it to brainwash them. It is, surely, to teach them to have respect for others and to think critically about all the messages they will receive throughout their lives and make their own minds up.
Personally, I think that subtle messages they are given through the media can be far more damaging in the long run.
this is bizarre - you send your child to a 'Christian private school' and complain about the religious assembly? for real?
'I've not taught in a (secondary) school which has any reference to religion in assemblies. '
Then those schools are breaking the law.
Many state and non faith schools do follow the law (and therefore exclude non Christian children even if they are in the assembly). The school I went to did and the school my kids go to does.
I repeat that schools are in a no win situation: they either break the law in order to be inclusive or they have a collective act of Christian worship in which case they exclude kids who do share Christian values or beliefs.
Many of you disagree with this so why not support the OP rather than attacking her.
It is also not the case that she EXPECTS the school to provide G & T tuition during that time but she does, again, entirely reasonably, suggest that this tuition (being offered anyway) could be provided during the time her son is not in assembly but is not given a real alternative.
There is no other aspect of school life where parents would accept there kid basically sitting doing nothing because they cannot participate is there?
Parents would be straight on here if kids were excluded from a lesson because of their religious belief and made to sit with some playdough and rightly so.
It is the system that is the problem and not the OP who simply does not want her kids to be excluded from school life and made to sit on their own doing nothing very useful because of their religion.
Actually, burberryqueen, I find it more astonishing that she doesn't seem to get the concept that she is in a foreign land and that, gasp, they do things differently from the Americans. The cheek of it!
but she is paying for her child to attend a "Christian private school" -
Notafood, I don't get the attitude that says even though I don't like it I should put up with it. You wouldn't put up with it if the school was indoctrinating kids with racist or sexist values that you disagreed with. Now if you can and choose to put up with it, fine but that doesn't mean that you can't respect parents who don't choose to put up with it.
I don't think it's OK that many kids are taught that they are sinners and that Christ rose from the dead to save them and that there is such a thing as a virgin birth in assemblies.
Why should I put up with that if I find it deeply offensive?
Withdrawing my children is not 'segregating' them. It is the school or system which is not representing the diverse set of values and beliefs of children in this country.
I don't withdraw my kids because I know this would cause no end of grief and they would miss out on the important aspects of school life that come part and parcel with assemblies.
But I absolutely respect those people who do.
And I understand how if you are Jewish or Jehovas Witnesses it may well be a different story.
It is disrespectful or ignorant not to understand that some people don't want their kids to sit through this stuff but don't want them to miss out on other aspects of school life either.
'she doesn't seem to get the concept that she is in a foreign land and that, gasp, they do things differently from the Americans'
Doesn't make it right though does it?
So, what we just have to put up with stuff because it's the way things are?
So apartheid in South Africa was fine because its the way things worked over there?
And if we don't like it we should go back to our own countries?
Do you know how bigoted some of you sound?
My kids attend a non faith school but still have to sit through daily acts of Christian worship.
BECAUSE IT IS THE LAW.
Each school has to do it so the private vs state thing is just the way some of you are trying to blame the situation on the OP when it is not her fault.
if you dont want faith in a school don't choose a faith school, surely?
in reality a non-faith school would have far less of this faith stuff.
OP chose a private faith school in the full knowledge of what that would entail and now doesn't like it...?
or am i missing something?
'It is interesting that atheists seem more worried about their children 'catching' religion'
I have no such fear. I do not like the fact that my kids have to sit through a load of stuff that they do not agree with. At best they are bored at worst they are offended and most of the time they're just frustrated.
I would not want them to be told that the world is populated with fairies and elves either. I do not want them to be told that there is such a thing as a virgin birth and that God moves in mysterious ways which is why we have wars.
That is not the same for me as RS lessons where they are learning and questioning and discussing.
Why should this be happening in the 21st century?
'if you dont want faith in a school don't choose a faith school, surely?'
I am not the OP. My kids' school is NOT a faith school.
It is the law for schools, faith and not, to have a daily act of worship which should be Christian in character.
i did mean the OP of course when
'All maintained schools in England must provide a daily act of collective worship. This must reflect the traditions of this country which are, in the main, broadly Christian.'
I do not want my children to worship anything. Many parents feel the same.
Why is this not respected on this thread?
Why should a poster be derided and attacked because she doesn't want her kids to be involved in something that they find offensive and does not respect their values at school?
It's two separate arguments
AIBU to think that the daily act of worship should be scrapped in non faith state schools and there should be a real choice for parents wanting a secular education
AIBU to think that a private Christian school should schedule their G&T provision during assembly/RE time (commonly 10% of the timetable in a faith school) and should ensure that withdrawn dcs can't overhear anything of a religious nature and should ensure the withdrawn dcs don't feel separated.
It's just different, no matter how many times the flaws in the state system are pointed out, it is different. The state system is also under a legal obligation to allow dc to withdraw, the chosen school isn't.
Well, I agree with a lot of the replies you've had. It sounds like you're expecting the school to do a lot for you at a time when it may not be convenient. Sounds like you should have done more research on your school. They do have to cater for all 30 - or whatever - kids in your dc's class, not just your dc!!!!
well I have consulted my children about their experience at state school - and i quote
'assembly once or twice a week with no prayers, although once they gave us a load of gideons bibles which wasnt very accepting of Sikhs or Muslims or Jews. or even Rastas' guess the brainwashing didn't work then...
I see what you mean when and essentially agree but the OP did choose an overtly Christian school for her child.
IThink, the OP has not suggested that the school schedules the G& T provision during assemblies (which would clearly exclude those G&T children who DO wish to participate in assemblies) she has simply suggested that since HER SON IS RECEIVING THIS ANYWAY he might receive it during the assembly time instead of sitting with some playdough.
Why would anybody consider this unreasonable?
If the school can't do it I'm sure the OP would understand but what could possibly be wrong with this very sensible suggestion?
'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.'
That's actually what the OP said.
Seems an entirely reasonable suggestion to me. I wonder why, when she is using words such as 'I thought' and 'just maybe' and 'if' that she is being characterised as 'expecting' or 'demanding'.
I don't withdraw my kids because of the playdough scenario and because they would face ignorant attitudes of people who just don't respect their views and think that they and we should just put up with it because that's the way things are.
Like many on here.
So yes, she's not suggested that the school schedules the G& T provision during assemblies (which would clearly exclude those G&T children who DO wish to participate in assemblies) - but she has suggested that the schedule his G&T provision during this time. Which doesn't sound very feasible, for all the reasons others have stated.
Being as atheist as they come, I don't especially like the fact that schools have to reflect 'broadly Christian values', and were I managing this from the top down, I might well change that. However in practice most state schools aren't particularly OTT about that, if they're not actually faith schools. Can't speak for private schools, but if I were paying for one, it might just possibly have been something I'd've researched first!
However, whilst I'm not massively pro-worship, I do think comparing the fact that the local vicar may come into assembly and talk about Christian kindness sometimes, or that children make Christmas cards, or sing about the baby Jesus &c &c to apartheid South Africa is plain silly, and completely undermines genuine atheist/humanist arguments and concerns.
I do not like the fact that my kids have to sit through a load of stuff that they do not agree with. At best they are bored at worst they are offended and most of the time they're just frustrated.
So when they come home saying "what is the point of Maths?" or "why do I have to study tectonic plates?" your answer will be ...?
I don't understand religion, it seems utterly bonkers to me. But it means an awful lot to an awful lot of people so I worry that I am missing something and tend to err on the side of agnostic, not atheist. How can you be "offended" by others' religion? Bemused certainly, but offended is a bit heavy-handed.
'Which doesn't sound very feasible,'
If it isn't feasible then I'm sure the OP would understand.
It is common for kids to receive one to one tuition during assemblies and form periods and sometimes during PSHE or PE lessons though.
It is not unreasonable to ask.
And asking is not the same as demanding or expecting.
So I continue to wonder why the OP is being attacked and mischaracterised.
Why are some of you doing this?
'How can you be "offended" by others' religion? '
I cannot speak for the OP.
I am not at all bothered by learning about religions.
But can you honestly not see why an atheist might have a problem with her children being told they are sinners and Christ died so and was resurrected so they could be saved?
Can you not get how the idea of a virgin birth and that God made everything might be offensive and just a bit at odds with the lesson on evolution and human reproduction that might follow it?
The OP is Jewish so there's a whole other dimension.
The emphasis on Christmas would be totally inappropriate as it is for many of the Muslim studetns I teach.
No, you're right that it's not unreasonable to ask - if you don't ask, you don't get, and all that - but I think it would be very far from unreasonable were the head to say it can't be done, and if I were the OP I'd be managing my expectations accordingly!
Well if you're Jewish obviously there are going to be very vast swathes of Christianity that are going to be strongly at odds with what your own beliefs, yes.
That's why, if I was, I wouldn't choose a private Christian school for my children!
But I have never heard of children being 'told they are sinners', honestly!
'"what is the point of Maths?" or "why do I have to study tectonic plates?" your answer will be ...?'
I have no problem with answering these questions. I have no problem with explaining why it is good to learn about religions.
I cannot, however, explain to them why they should be told that there was a virgin birth and God allowed his own son to be killed and resurrected etc etc any more than I could explain to them why they should be told that there are thousands of invisible fairies and elves running the world.
Me neither - so I say 'yeah, silly isn't it - I've never really understood why people believe that'.
Piece of piss.
'But I have never heard of children being 'told they are sinners', honestly!'
That is part of the narrative of Christianity. It is part of the Lord's prayer.
As I said earlier, this stuff becomes so entrenched that many people fail to even notice it, let alone question it.
So you choose to put up with it The Original. Good for you. But please respect the fact that some people do not want their children to be told this stuff.
I don't expect my kids to be told anything during their lessons that is 'silly' or offensive. So why should they be told this stuff during assemblies?
You may think it's OK but please respect the fact that I don't.
Can you not get how the idea of a virgin birth and that God made everything might be offensive and just a bit at odds with the lesson on evolution and human reproduction that might follow it?
Um, no. Bonkers, yes; offensive, no. I would have thought that it was more of a problem for the believers to try to resolve actually.
I don't want my kids praying or worshipping when they don't believe in God.
Many, many other parents feel the same way. The problem is not these parents - let's respect them just as we respect parents who do have a faith - the problem is the legal requirement for a dialy act of Christian worship.
No, the Lord's Prayer is: 'forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us' - that's not the same as teaching them Original Sin. It's not, in my opinion, that bad a message to give!
I think most schools manage to combine an emphasis on the better bits of Christianity - it's nice to forgive, to be charitable, to be compassionate - with logic and reason, evolution and so on. Now I know that's a bit pick-and-choose, but it seems to me a reasonable MO.
For example, dd's school is not a faith school but it is CofE. We're all very much atheist in this family, but when a teacher died, dd did go to the voluntary chapel service for her, and took the opportunity to sit and reflect and show respect.
Now of course you could do that just as well in any room, but it so happens that it happened in a chapel - and dd didn't find any conflict in using that service in her own way, respecting the teacher and retaining her own beliefs, just as you, as an adult, would if you were invited to a funeral for someone you loved and that funeral was held in a church with much talk of Better Places and Faithful Servants. You might not believe a word of it, but you'd still want to go (I assume), and you would not find your own beliefs challenged or troubled.
'Bonkers, yes; offensive, no'
OK, well you'll just have to accept that I, like many other parents, DO find it offensive.
Do you think you can respect my views?
(ps I don't think anything I've said is disrespectful: I don't disrespect those who would prefer this to be different, and in many ways I am one of those people, but have found a compromise that I think is ok).
YOu missed my point, TheOriginal.
I said just because it is the law in this country to have a collective act of worship does not mean it is a good thing and that people from other countries should just put up with it or go back to their own countries which has been strongly implied here.
I didn't miss your point, I'm discussing it. No, the law doesn't mean it's a good thing, but since that's what happens, I think it's alright to find a way to be cool with it.
I don't think OP should go back to her own country, but I think a bit more research on her part would have been a good idea. Anyway, does that law even apply in private schools?
It is disrespectful to deride or attack parents for disagreeing with their kids being taught religious values and beliefs that they do not share and may find offensive.
And have I derided or attacked anyone?
this discussion is silly, i repeat, the OP specifically chose an overtly religious school for her child and is now complaining about it.
'I think it would be very far from unreasonable were the head to say it can't be done, and if I were the OP I'd be managing my expectations accordingly!'
There has been nothing to indicate that the OP would not do this.
I refer you again to the words in her OP 'I thought that just maybe' and 'if'
It's also worth noting that the OP came up with her own, (again very reasonable IMHO) compromise of simply bringing her son in after the assembly but the school did not seem happy with this.
Clearly, the OP needs to sit down with the headmistress of the school and find a way forward. I'm sure she knows this.
i wonder if someone should set up an atheist/humanist free school ? would Gove go for it?
whendid do you think the OP would have had the same reaction if she had put her child in a non faith state school?
The OP reads to me like her communication skills are an obstacle course, she doesn't really know what she wants and doesn't really know what the school is offering. She needs to ask specific questions to somebody who can actually do something ie the HT.
' but since that's what happens, I think it's alright to find a way to be cool with it.'
And that was way I raised South Africa.
Thankfully not everybody shares the attitude that you should 'find a way to be cool' with things you don't agree with.
Otherwise nothing would ever get changed.
The daily act of Christian worship has no place is 21st century schools. It is right that people should question it and not find ways to be cool with it.
Oh for heaven's sake, whendid, if you think that commenting 'you might need to be ready for this not to work out' is derision or an attack, then there is no conversation to be had.
To be honest, you're the one bandying around terms like 'silly' and 'offensive', and you've not engaged with a single thing I've said either: considering I don't even disagree about atheism, I think you're being unnecessarily aggressive and hostile and really rather silly.
It all seems very anti religion on here, perhaps you have seen some very boring vicars and have been put off by that. But can you imagine that if you had the greatest story that you'd ever heard and the answer to everyones problems in your opinion wouldn't you want to share it.
And, one last time, singing carols and having assemblies from the vicar sometimes is not the same as apartheid in SA, and to suggest that it is, is fatuous beyond words.
OK, well you'll just have to accept that I, like many other parents, DO find it offensive.
Do you think you can respect my views?
Sorry. Not really. Taking such an extreme stance is IMO as bonkers as an extreme religious stance.
Do you allow your DC to read Harry Potter? Or is that offensive too?
IThinkof, again, what's with the personal attacks on the OP? She clearly knows exactly what she wants and has already spoken to the HT.
The HT said 'we'll deal with it' implying that she is happy to accommodate the OP's son but has not yet achieved this (hence the playdough).
It would have been a different scenario if the head had said that the school would not be appropriate for the children but she hasn't.
It's reasonable for the OP to expect the head to put her money where her mouth is and meet the needs of the OP's child.
'And, one last time, singing carols and having assemblies from the vicar sometimes is not the same as apartheid in SA, '
You continue to miss the point. I never said or implied it was the same thing.
The point I was making is that we shouldn't have to accept the practices of other countries where we think they are wrong just because that is the way things happen in that country.
That is what somebody implied to the OP earlier in the thread.
And '' but since that's what happens, I think it's alright to find a way to be cool with it.' is the same thing.
People should not have to put up with things they don't agree with.
That is the way we move on as a society - by challenging and changing things that are considered to be the way things are.
No: you're being bullish, ridiculous and frankly offensive. Enough already.
'Do you allow your DC to read Harry Potter?'
You do realize that Harry Potter is fiction?
The problem with the religious content of many assemblies is that is presented as fact.
My children have been told that they are sinners and that a woman named Mary had a virgin birth and that Christ was resurrected to save us all and that the world was flooded to get rid of sinners etc etc AS IF THIS WAS ALL TRUE.
TheOriginal, again, what is with the personal attacks?
Why can't you stick to the debate?
It's very odd.
Where on earth have I been offensive?
What's wrong with a 3yo playing with playdoh? Seriously, what's wrong with that? Thats what 3yos do, even G&T ones. My 9yo is G&T and still likes playdoh. If she wants him to do something else then she has to ask but she also needs to accept that the HT would be within her rights to not base scheduling around the wants of one set of parents. When the HT says she is dealing with it then the OP can ask how, she can ask why being marked late is a problem, it is after all a private school. Pointing this out is not a personal attack ffs. If you join a faith community as a person of no faith you need to either join in, sit quietly or accept that you are going to be specifically excluded. If you went to a wedding mass people wouldn't expect an atheist to pray but nor would they expect prayers to be forgone to placate the atheists. Again, we are not talking about the act of daily worship in non faith state schools required by law, we are talking about the specific choice of dropping an atheist into a faith community.
When - you are coming across as absolutely ludicrous.
To compare school assemblies with a murderous and oppressive system like Apartheid... I take it you're not a black South African are you?
As a Muslim, I think the UK has a very good balance when it comes to religious matters and I find it disturbing when people claim the US and France are better do to school secularism, as both societies seem considerably less tolerant of minority religions.
It is true a lot of people believe it to be true, people have died in their belief it is true if you don't want to believe it then thats up to you but if I am wrong I've lost nothing.Why are people so defensive about it.I don't believe in other peoples religions but I don't lose any sleep about it
'To compare school assemblies with a murderous and oppressive system like Apartheid.'
Er, nobody did this.
My point which was very clearly made is that is't not OK to tell people they should just accept the way that things happen in particular countries because that's the way things are in those countries.
That's pretty much what the OP was told oh, as well as being told other such gems such as she is 'mad' and 'entitled' and all because she doesn't want her son to participate in a daily act of Christian worship, which, let's face it, has no place in 21st century Britain.
Well, she's been hounded off long ago. Well done Mumsnetters!
Of course people have to put up with things they don't agree with all the time. Because we don't all agree about the same things. Clearly.
I'm with the PP who said that this isn't an argument about whether the act of worship should be enforced in state schools. It's actually about the OP saying that she chose to put her child in a private Christian school and would now like to completely segregate him from any religious content, and asking if anyone else had any experience of this. People have, quite fairly IMO, pointed out that this is a very odd thing to do, and that if she felt so strongly about it, perhaps she could have researched a bit more thoroughly.
OP, I hope you are able to resolve this issue in a way you are comfortable with, but please do take some of the advice on this thread.
There are times when it is absolutely appropriate to acknowledge and work with what is happening - not everything needs to be fought. And you have drawn a parallel, I think, because by saying 'thank goodness not everyone finds a way to be cool with what's happening', you're suggesting that that attitude has something to do with allowing apartheid to remain unchallenged.
But sometimes that attitude is entirely appropriate, I suggest.
Some things do. Like apartheid. Some do not. I am going to leave you to read back some of my posts about where, why and how I don't - as an atheist - think that some Christian aspects of schools are not a bad thing, and can even be a good thing, because I'd be really interested in your comments if you have chance .
I am of Jewish descent and agnostic. DS went to a catholic primary and it has had no effect other than further entrenching his own belief that God is a man made construct, a social and political project. Interestingly at 18 months old on first entering a church, he did something that for the first time in all my years made me seriously consider whether god existed. He ran to the alter, stared up and said "hello god" no one had even mentioned god to him.
OP as a Jewish humanist I really think you must acknowledge two things: you must respect and have faith in your children as humans, in their ability to decide for themselves. As a humanist you should really be taking the approach that human beings are masters of their own history, we shape the world and must seek out all available knowledge and learn to think critically. Denying your children knowledge and understanding sits in direct conflict with your belief and trust in humanity. Second: To push your own belief upon your children, is no better than a Christian school that indoctrinates its pupils.
My children have been told that they are sinners and that a woman named Mary had a virgin birth and that Christ was resurrected to save us all and that the world was flooded to get rid of sinners etc etc AS IF THIS WAS ALL TRUE.
And? I encountered exactly the same and have managed to come out agnostic. You obviously have no faith in your DCs' intellectual abilities to question what they are told.
Christian worship, which, let's face it, has no place in 21st century Britain.
Sorry to burst your offended bubble but the Census tells us that about 70% of the UK is Christian.
Hi People- one last comment....
Wow! Such an involved thread and I really want to thank whenyoudidlast for explaining my position obviously better than I could. The show of intolerance and rush to force my conformity is unbelievable! Surely some of you are secure enough to challenge the status quo?
I just wanted to say- that throughout this thread, I explained that I truly did not understand that the private school system would not protect my statutory rights and now that I understand this, I will obviously move my son to a state system should the HT not be accommodating. I also stated that I really didn't understand the differences between the two,my son is just 3.5 and I am of an overseas educational background, and have never attended an assembly in my life and so before ppl post attacks on my "stupidity" they should read the rest of the thread.
The lack of actual content on the withdrawal aspect is really astounding. Even if "no one does it", surely SOMEONE has for whatever reasons (it shouldn't matter!), and I'd have liked to hear from them....
I should make sure that you understand the UK state system before you change. England has no secular schools. Community schools are Christian, they are just non denominational and some can be more religious than one affiliated to a church. You need to read the various education acts on collective worship and RE teaching. You have the right to withdraw your child but in reality they may be sitting in the classroom next door. You seem to be in your position through not understanding the ethos of the school- I fear that you are going to move to state education without having read 1998 education act or even googling the position.
People born in this country make the mistake of thinking that England has secular state schools- they don't have any!
Lots of people have commented on withdrawal from their own experiences of withdrawal, from their experiences as teachers and their experiences as pupils in schools that have had dcs withdrawn. I'm sorry that non of these people gave you the answer you wanted.
Have you actually asked your DC what he wants to do? I think that by that age I was already more interested in what I thought- no one was asking my mother to sit through it.
Well done for coming back.
It all turned into rather a kerfuffle while you were safely out of the way.
Its the summer holidays.
Have a break from schools and then in September go in to your sons school and just watch and listen a few times.
Try to observe what is actually happening.
Then ask for tours of a couple of local state primaries
And just watch and listen.
Try to get a feel for how it works before deciding on your next move.
And please trust us that the UK's compulsory RE education is the best breeding ground for atheists yet invented
As an aside, does anyone know what British JWs do at Easter, about things like Easter Fayres, eggs, chicks, etc.? I just read they don't celebrate the resurrection, so I presume all of that must be very awkward, too. God forbid an Easter bonnet competition or believing in the Easter bunny (I assume all that is out for OP, too).
dunno, but DH has worked in Exclusive Brethren schools - THEY ARE ODD
It does seem a little bit of an overreaction to want your child so far removed from hymn practice and prayers that he can't possibly overhear them. However far you remove him from the scene, you are still removing him from his friends and not letting him join in with something everyone else is doing and he's hardly going to fail to notice that. Basically, he is at some point going to question what on earth is so bad about whatever the others are doing that he is not even allowed to have an inkling of what they are doing (as if his friends won't ask him why he's never there for hymn practice, etc, anyway...). And all this in the UK, a country whose "Christianity" is so wishy washy that it genuinely is easy to make up your own mind whether you want to believe in it; like some of the moral messages and the occasional excuse for a party, but otherwise reject it; or think it's all a load of bunkum and no God exists at all. I'm sure you'll find some schools that are more wishy washy than others, though. Your best bet is a state community primary school with an atheist headteacher...
At the risk of getting back to the point
I am a
militant atheist. I, like you and others on here, very very strongly object to my children being subjected to "an act of Christian worship" every day. I don't think this sort of thing has any place in our schools (I have no problem with RE as education, just not making them worship in assembly).
When my DD started school, I went to speak to the HT about the worship and about how it would work if I withdrew my DD (and DS the following year) from it. She encouraged me to attend a few assemblies, and it became clear that, in this school, the requirement is not really adhered to . My children are in Yr 2 and 3 now, I have attended many assemblies and none have had any "acts of worship". I am well aware this is technically not allowed, but while they continue with this approach, I am happy and have no problem with my children attending assembly.
They do have the Vicar of a local church attend ever so often, and I deliberated whether to remove the children for these assemblies. However, I don't; no-one else does despite there being a variety of different religions in the school, and I have no wish to mark my children out as the odd ones. As others have said, withdrawing from religious elements of assembly is very very rare in the UK. I don't think a thrice yearly assembly from the Vicar is appropriate, considering no other religions are invited in to conduct assemblies, but I live with it.
So; do look closely at your state school options. Some may actually have more Christian content in assembly than your current school, whilst some may essentially have none. I'm assuming you need reception for Sept 2014; if this year, you may have little option on state schools as the admissions have been completed.
Most state schools will try to dissuade you from withdrawing, for what I think are good reasons; it will mark your child out as different, they will need a teacher removed from assembly (and thus from their own class) to supervise them, and assemblies contain an awful lot of interesting,useful, fun stuff that they might miss. If they just leave for the prayers its very disruptive and will make your child very obviously "different"; hard to cope with when you are just 4 or 5. Withdrawing your child from something is also a surefire way of making them more interested in whatever you are not letting them be part of, too!
I don't know anyone who has actually withdrawn their child, and in many years of Mumsnet I don't think I've come across anyone on here who has. Several, like me, have deliberated on it, but not done it; it's really not worth it. Christian worship in the UK is usually very very different from the US!
read the first 5 pages and the last 2, so missed the bunfight - but I have just spotted that the OP has said her DS is 3.5. Certainly, at the beginning on the thread she was talking about 'his views'. I am now struggling with the concept that a child of that age has a view on religion, above and beyond what his parents have drummed (or not) into him. Really, how on earth do you know that he's a Jewish Humanist? You want him to be, of course, but you know you can't make him believe? And that, in order for things like prayers and hymns to mean anything, they have to be accompanied by faith?
I went to a fee-paying CofE school - I'm a Catholic, went to Mass every Sunday. Back in those days there was no option not to attend religious assembly (held in the school's consecrated chapel), RE lessons, and special services on major Christian feast days (as our school was open on Good Friday, I ended up going to church twice - one CofE service with school, and Mass at home). There were Catholics, Jews (probably the largest non-CofE group), Hindus and Muslims. I don't recall any of this involvment resulting in mass-conversations to Anglicanism. It certainly didn't make me Cof E. And although other religions weren't taught at the school, I did come out knowing a lot about the other girls' religions, especially Judaism, and always knew when it was Yom Kippur or Rosh-Hashannah (sp?) or Diwali, or whatever, and a general idea of what was being celebrated. Which is surely a good thing?
Also - whatever school you end up with, your son will learn British and European hsitory. Religion is all over that, he won't be able to get away from it!
I went to CofE private primary, hymns and prayers every morning, grace before lunch and termly services at the local church.
Thence to GDST private nominally CofE secondary - ditto on the god stuff.
I was baptised after I arrived in the UK. By the time I was confirmed (3 line whip from the parents) I knew I did not believe any of it -
but the vicar told me to treat it as 'a lesson in self discipline'
at the service the Bishop greeted me with "so you're the atheist" and promptly confirmed me into the Church
And when I go back to the US I see none of that fluffy, half arsed inclusive Christianity, or Jewishness or anything else for that matter.
>I seriously don't know what all of the objectors here would do in the reverse situation where you sent your child to an American state school since RE is not taught and there are no assemblies... would you object?<
I would send them to the local school and send them to Cheder at the weekend if so inclined. That's how it used to be in the UK before the rise of the Jewish faith schools. It would never occur to me to object at the lack of RE education in a state school if that is the law. It would be my responsibility to teach my kids. If it was that important to me then I would opt for a Jewish school if I could afford it.
>Ya know, I went to check out the local hebrew school to enroll my son in for afterschool for cultural reasons- and I couldn't do it! Same issues with prayers, bloody torah stories etc.... so difficult.<
What an offensive statement. To talk about Hebrew School in such a derogatory fashion. Anyway, since when has Hebrew School been about culture. It has always been about teaching religion, history, Torah etc including culture. If you are an atheist, as you claim, why would you even consider going near a synagogue for education.
I'm a militant atheist and paid up member of the National Secular Society and the British Humanist Society - as is my husband (who is also of Jewish extraction, but very prawn and bacon eating).
We both sat on our local SACRE (Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education) as the Humanist and Atheist reps - and were warmly welcomed by the other religious representatives.
I am a lifelong atheist of atheist parents, but attended a school with full chapel every morning and in the days when RE meant studying the Bible and no mention was ever made of other religions. It did not dent my atheism in the slightest - however I do know all the words to hymns when I go to weddings in churches, and I have a much better understanding of some of the great art and literature in the world.
We are not bringing our daughter up to have any particular views - she has grandparents who are staunchly Jewish and grandparents who are CofE vicars and grandparents who are profoundly atheist as well as living in a very diverse area of London where every faith under the sun is represented. We do bring her up to be questioning of everything.
Much as I dislike the idea of a daily act of worship, I don't intend to withdraw her because a) I don't want it to be forbidden fruit and b) more importantly I don't want her to feel different from her friends.
I don't believe in the existence of a historical Jesus, but since the Nativity is exactly the same as the story of Mithras, Isis etc I'm not too bothered if she is 3rd Camel. Xmas carols are lovely tunes and part of British heritage so I'm fine with them - evangelical hymns on the other hand put my teeth on edge. Schools here will generally celebrate Hannukah, Eid, Diwali and anything else that they can plan a lesson round which can only be a good thing. You don't have to believe in any of it.
Many Xmas traditions are actually pagan in origin so you can celebrate spending time with family and friends and still have a tree and decorations without having to make it religious in any way - just treat it like Thanksgiving or 4th July or Guy Fawkes night (celebrates burning Catholics on bonfires really).
As long as schools respect that my daughter has the right not to believe in god if she so choses, and has the right to sit quietly during prayers but does not need to take part (I don't sign up to the idea of having respect for other people's beliefs, but I do believe in respecting other people's right to quiet reflection time in a group setting) then I'm happy for her to take part in the worship bit of assemblies even though I disapprove.
RE lessons are totally fine by me and a good thing.
Far better to chill over this and save your ire for the more important problems that may crop up.
If you've opted for a private Xtian school then frankly I'm amazed how accommodating the HT is being - v unusual I imagine. We purposely selected non-faith schools even though that meant there were 4/6 of our local schools (all Outstanding) that we could not apply to. I HATE the fact that we have any faith schools in this country and the discrimination that they entail - and I actively campaign against them, but when it comes to my child's education I work with what is on offer.
Overt religiosity is general regarded with wariness in the UK - take Alistair Campbell telling Tony Blair 'We don't do God' for example - and we are one of the most secular countries on the planet despite having no separation of Church and State so I really wouldn't worry too much.
Anyway, since when has Hebrew School been about culture. It has always been about teaching religion, history, Torah etc including culture. If you are an atheist, as you claim, why would you even consider going near a synagogue for education.
I would consider this. Guess you could call me a 'wishy-washy' Jew.
Since that's my background, an 'act of collective worship' in the Jewish tradition feels vaguely comfortable. While anything that refers to Jesus as the Son of God, does bother me. I respect that Christians believe that, but we don't.
As whendidyoulast said, 'if you have a different faith from the one espoused by the school then a great deal of what is taught (often as fact) is really downright offensive.'
I didn't think it would convert my kids. Unlike Op, I wouldn't mind if they overheard Christianity; of course I wanted them to learn about it. But I didn't want them taught that Christianity is 'right', the way maths has a right and a wrong answer.
Don't know if that makes sense. It's harder with little ones. I was so grateful that my kids' primary school broke the law. lol.
I actually really loved assembly, despite being thoroughly atheist both then and now. Nothing like a good rousing Methodist hymn tune to get the day off to a good start!
My secret fantasy team building technique would be to have assemblies at work - half an hour of nice loud jolly singing, a few announcements and a bit of thinking about the deeper meaning of what we're up to this week.
Wouldn't that be better than yet another ghastly team meeting?
At my kids primary, I as the Atheist governor at a CofE school, was chosen to go through the RE and worship policies because I was deemed impartial
I have enough self awareness and understanding of why I am not religious to not feel in the least threatened by it.
It is interesting that some atheists find religion threatening rather than irrelevant fairy stories.
A sensible post Pyrrah.
I brought mine up as Christian, but from before they were born I realised that they would make their own mind up. I have never met an adult who said 'I am a.................because my mother told me I was and censored any alternative views'.
Withdrawing from assembly makes it all seem very exciting, and anything that upset my mother would have been something to explore and find out why!
Frankly rather shocked OP didn't do any research before enrolling DC if this was important.
And note, OP, that private school doesn't guarantee accommodations for RE or G&T even in the US. Speaking from experience. You research, research, research.
I'm still trying to figure out where you're coming from with your assumptions of how far accommodations must go to suit an individual. You signed up for this school, they didn't approach you and request your DC attend, did they?
Wondering whether this is a post on behalf of someone else or reiterating someone else's rant. Admittedly have not read ALL replies yet. Humanist Jews from USA (both coasts, OP) who I know wouldn't be in tizzy over this and would view this as the educational opportunity it is for their DC. Just saying. So sorry that you have such angst about this. Truly hope angst and entitlement mentality don't become further issues for you and your DC.
David Milliband is a Jewish atheist and his son goes to a C of E school.
Ah, but he's not a conservative. That must be the difference.
I think this is one for classics
My personal favourite is outrage that Hebrew school involves some talk about the Torah
Never mind classics!
How much money can we gather to persuade pennefab not to hurt us?
Whendidyoulast. Sorry, only just come back to this since I posted, but my post was based entirely on the op's, I hadn't seen your post when I wrote it.
Also love OP's complaints NO ONE has given their experiences on withdrawal when loads of people have
Still confused as to how you can be Jewish AND an atheist AND a Humanist...
Sorry, somethingyesterday, didn't mean to be mean there.
pennefab You were magnificent.
If MNHQ charged $$$$$$$$ for registration it would have been worth it purely for your terrifyingly incisive post.
Do you have a fan club I can join?
And I'm still struggling to understand why OP is posting this now (July), when her DC has been in school there since last Dec (she mentioned withdrawing him during Christmas song practice).
Surely if so concerned, OP would have investigated alternative education opportunities then and/or re/assembly requirements at the school she chose for her DC?
I'm trying to understand what she feels her "statutory rights" are at a private school she chose. Wasn't there a contract of some sort that they read and signed before they handed over their money? A bit of caveat emptor and all that.
Even in the US private school environment you investigate the school, come to some agreement with school beforehand so that you're not in reactive mode.
Maybe OP left the US/NY before she started to look into education for her DC. Maybe she had absolutely no idea what private school in US/NY would entail. But that doesn't jive with OP self-reported description of being pushy.
Oh well. Will admit that I just don't get OPs lack of understanding that resulted in her current dilemma this late in the year.
Pennefab, if he's only 3.5 now, presumably he's been in the preschool/nursery section rather than school proper, and I guess they don't make the tiny ones go to assembly, so it will only become an issue in reception - but that shouldn't be until September 2014, unless he is so G&T he is starting a year early? Who knows.
But I agree you'd think she'd have checked out just how much religion was going to be involved at a private church school before signing up for it.
I understand the bit about Jewish as a culture, fine.
The irony is that some Jews do participate in Christmas, they don't see a contradiction.
Atheist & Humanist is contradictory, too.
Because Humanism is about what you do believe, not what you don't.
Atheism is weird anyway. Like Brian Cox said, who likes to be defined by what they don't believe in? No one goes around describing themselves as an a-flat-earther, or an anti-anti-gravityist.
I have finally understood what has happened. This is a relief to me because I think people would say I have been behaving strangely for the past two days. Shaking my head in sorrow, muttering under my breath, occasionally raising an index finger to begin an impromptu dissertation. To myself.
I have at last been granted revelation. I could not understand why the OP chose this worst of all possible schools. She explained. I pulled a face. She quoted history, scripture, (maybe not) imaginary statutes. I wandered away ....
This business of lack of separation of church and state. Mocked more than once. But the OP - from her position of blanket dismissal of all things English - made the utterly fascinating mistake of believing that since all English schools taught religion, it would make no difference, with regards to that point, which school she chose. And that therefore she could simply choose the school she liked best for other reasons.
Have I got that right? I'm sorry if it was blindingly obvious to everyone else. (I may even have read it here several times but...) It's taken me days...
She then made the more obvious mistake of rushing her homework - and not establishing that private schools are specifically not under the same obligations as state schools.
She then finds herself at a resolutely, actively, Christian school and
The school headmistress has not offered any solutions or plans.....
Can you imagine the headmistress' face? Being asked to solve the problem of running a Christian school?
I don't have a single useful thing to add to the debate. Once again I seem to have learned more in a couple of days here than I would in a month of dedicated study elsewhere. But I really, really want this particular 3 year old boy to be able to walk into a gallery anywhere in Europe in ten years time and be able to understand the pictures in front of him; and in fifteen years to be able to study "Paradise Lost" on an equal footing with the rest of his class. And throughout his life, to be a support to his friends, through good times and bad, even if he doesn't believe what they believe.
If someone is a true atheist - absolutely certain that no god/s exist - I can't see why any religious stories should be 'offensive' any more than Cinderella's pumpkin coach or Zeus on Mt Olympus. Fr'instance, OP is very much concerned that her DS shan't hear the Nativity story because it so very antithetical to Jewish beliefs. Which she doesn't share or want him to hold!
If DC come home and have been told 'this is true' it is very easy for parents to rubbish it. Unbelief is easier than religion.
I would use it as a basis for discussion and assume your child is intelligent rather than someone who just takes you word for it. I find it much safer to bring up DC who feels able to question anyone, including parents.
exoticfruits - I agree. If any of my DC had come home saying "Mr X says Hitler was right and we ought to join the Nazi party" I would have relished the ensuing discussion. My DS1 sends me National Secular Soc pamphlets and 'Jesus & Mo' cartoons; I send him a card saying "I have lit a candle for at Walsingham" etc etc
OP, you still haven't explained how you would feel about a European parent who walked into an American school and insisted that they should provide your child with out of earshot private tuition during the ceremony of saluting the flag.
Bearing in mind that this is a ceremony that is at least as alien to most Europeans as an act of Christian or other worship to you.
Cory - That IS something to consider. If I was in the US with school-aged DC I would want them removed from any hand-on-heart talking to a flag. Any flag.
Children are intelligent and have lots of opinions if a you ever bother to ask. It is doing them a huge injustice just to brush it off as a fairy story rather than say 'I think it is a fairy story because........' But some people believe........ What do you think?
I had friends who went to live in US - it was supposed be forever but they didn't like some aspects of the way children were brought up, they decided that you couldn't go to another country and make your children odd because you wanted to cherry pick the bits you liked and leave the rest. They came back to UK after a couple of years.
It is a case of 'when in Rome...........' IMO
I think some of you are missing the point about why other parents may not wish their kids to listen to the sort of religious views expressed during assemblies and other acts of worship.
Just to be absolutely clear, I personally, have no problem with my kids learning about religious at all.
But, that is not what happens in many assemblies. Perhaps some of you don't understand this??
Praying to God is not the same as learning about religions. Being told that a woman named Mary had a virgin birth and Christ died in agony (just look at the way his hands were nailed to the cross and the thorns dug into his head) so that we all can be saved and we are all sinners is not the same thing as learning about religions. You do understand that this is presented as fact?
Now, suggesting that my kids should just put up with this is incredibly disrespectful.
And, those of you who are suggesting that thes concern is that my kids will somehow convert to Christianity or will not question this stuff or that I don't credit them with the intelligence to question this stuff are missing the point spectacularly.
My kids and I have and have had the religion conversation many times.
It is precisely because there really is no chance that they will change their minds and they think this stuff is absolute irrational and offensive nonsense that I object to it.
Perhaps some of you don't know how some assemblies work.
400 people in a hall being told what to think and to worship a God they don't believe in and ask for forgiveness (for what?) with no opportunity for question or discussion is the way many assembleis work.
In Catholic schools you also get lectures about the evils of homosexuality, contraception and abortion.
My kids find this stuff incredibly frustrating and yes, offensive, to their intelligence if nothing else. Why should they have to sit through it twice a week and the rest when it's a complete waste of time. They have made up their minds long ago and would rather spend their time thinking about something more useful or at least a set of beliefs and values that are not entirely anithethical to their world view.
I just don't get why so many of you think that they should just sit through it when you would be straight down the school if their teachers started telling them that the world was flat or that Tuesday is spelt Tusdday.
As for the poster who seems to be implying that she would also have no problem with the school teaching fascism because 'I would have relished the ensuing discussion' WTF?
I mean what the actual fuck?
And, again, the fact that other countries may have practices which are equally controversial or nonsensical or indoctrinating is not a justification for putting up with such practices in our own country.
That's a bizarre and regressive argument.
And the argument that other people should put up with this stuff because you do is also pretty weird.
If you don't mind it, fine.
But you have no right to tell other people to put up with stuff that they don't want to.
I think that as a supply teacher I have been to more assemblies than most and they are really not like that, whendidyoulast.
You have the right to withdraw your child.
Exactly how many schools have you been to assemblies in?
Oh, right, well if you've never seen them, they must not exist
The plural of anecdote again??
I can't even begin to count my schools and I have come across your example once and he was a visiting 'born again' American pastor- I don't think the Head had quite appreciated what he would be like or he wouldn't have invited him!
'You have the right to withdraw your child.'
Yep. So they can hear the same assembly from a neighbouring classroom whilst playing with a lump of playdough (or more likely nothing at all given their age) and being subject to the sort of derision and questioning about why they are not participating that is depressingly evident even from adults on this thread.
Thanks for that suggestion.
So how many schools have you been to assembles in?
exotic, I'm not going to compare the number of school assemblies I've seen with your experience.
You might want to ask yourself why your instinct is to question my experience.
Not very supportive is it?
And you wonder why I don't want to subject my kids to the sort of flak they would get for daring not to conform.
I am arguing because I have seen your example once, over decades and all sorts of schools and at least 7LEAs- you won't say how many school assemblies
Actually, sorry, it's not just my experience is it.
It is the legal requirement that schools have an act of daily worship which should be broadly Christian in character so it's surprising that you find it surprising that many do just this.
I do think that so much of it has been absorbed as a natural part of our culture that many people cease to notice it.
I am not going to support someone who is trying to tell me that their sort of assembly is the norm when I know it isn't- as a fact. It may happen- it is not the norm.
Of course they do it- it is the law! Any parent can read up on it in the education act -and their rights. Schools do not interpret it the way you think they do.
exotic - many. I've been a teacher and consultant for 15 years, I am the daughter of teachers and the wife of a teacher (some of the assemblies in some of the schools dp has worked in have been absolute gems!). I have two secondary school aged children.
Not sure how it helps. Collective Christian worship is the law so it's weird you find it surprising that this goes on.
If you haven't experienced the sort of assemblies I have count yourself lucky or maybe, if you don't share my views, you just let it wash over you.
Many do. The Muslim kids I teach just keep their mouths and ears shut.
It's quite typical for the staff to have to pray in morning briefing in some CofE schools. My dp worked in a school where a vicar came in to bless a new building. That was a state and non-faith school!!!
I have been in many schools with Muslims, Hindus etc- ( some if them are church schools) they love being asked their views and they love telling everyone about their religion- often in assembly.
I have never ever had to pray in a morning briefing in a C of E school- I can't see how it would work as not all the staff are Christian.
You would expect the vicar to bless a new building for a church school- why not?
exotic, that is your experience.
Are you implying I'm making this up?
Honestly, if you don't know that many schools, faith and non-faith, still have very Christian, very traditional assemblies (really like a sermon), you need to get out more.
If you'll read my post, the vicar blessed a state and community school, not a faith school.
That's one of the more surpising things I've ever found out about!
And a really good example of how atheist children or children with religions other than Christianity might be made to feel excluded.
'I have never ever had to pray in a morning briefing in a C of E school'
I'm just not sure what your point is? Are you suggesting that I'm inventing this?
Obviously I can't name schools but again, this is not uncommon.
Teachers who aren't Christian can keep their mouths shut but in a faith school teachers would be encouraged to participate heartily.
I expect the Head invited the vicar- the education act is open to interpretation of the Head.
I fail to see how I could get out more! I have done supply teaching for longer than most- it suited my lifestyle.
It might happen that you get a prayer at a morning briefing- but highly odd- having taught in many church schools I can't see it going down well!
I think that we will have to agree to differ because neither of us are going to start listing schools. I just think it scaremongering.
The moral of the story is question the Head closely on collective worship in the school before you send them. Unfortunately people will persist in thinking there are secular state schools-it should be clearly signed to them that they are not secular- and some community schools can be more religious than faith schools.
'I just think it scaremongering.'
I am explaining what my views are about the collective act of worship in this country.
As I say, it IS odd that you should find it surprising that many schools do what the law requires them to do.
'I expect the Head invited the vicar-'
Duh! Of course, that's what happened.
'The moral of the story is question the Head closely on collective worship in the school before you send them. '
Well, that might be the lesson you take away.
Personally, I think that the message should be that more should be done to ensure that our schools reflect the diversity of our children and are genuinely inclusive. That cannot be the case as long as there is a legal requirement for a daily act of Christian worship.
This is interesting from the Humanist Society humanism.org.uk/education/parents/collective-worship-and-school-assemblies-your-rights/
The problem with questioning the Head closely is also that the Head is likely to tell you what you want to hear. The Head the OP spoke to said she would deal with what to do with the ds who was withdrawn but didn't deal with it adequately. I'm sure the Head of my dp's school wouldn't even mention religion if she knew she was dealing with atheist parents.
But as I've said the law puts Heads in an impossible position - either they follow the law and risk alienating pupils and parents or they don't in which case they are breaking the law.
Too many people on this thread are suggesting that the problem is with individuals and they should just put up with it.
But it's pretty obvious that this is not an ideal situation.
I am not a christian but I would never take my children out of assembly or RE. I've worked in a lot of schools and only seen this happen for a Jehovah's witness family. It did single them out horribly. I would never want to make assumptions about what my DCs will end up believing. That's their business not mine and they can't make informed choices about religion if they aren't exposed to any.
whendidyoulast - can I recommend Tim Minchin's song to you:
You are coming across very oddly on this thread. I am sorry that the assemblies you have attended in state schools have stressed so many Christian "facts" that you find offensive. I think you have been unfortunate in the assemblies you have experienced. This has not been my experience, nor that of my children.
P.S. My name is Verlaine and I am an atheist.
I share Tim Minchin's views (some of them ;) ).
Damn here's the song
I certainly find saluting the flag more scary than nativity plays
OP - did you mean a cognita school? My younger children attend a Christian cognita school. One has just left. I'm atheist, my dad is atheist, my mum agnostic. I had a short religious phase in my early teens. I think my children need to make up their own minds really.
I also think ds2 would make a great vicar At their school they have certainly learned a lot about both Christianity & other religions.
There are quite a few children of other religions who attend the school (esp Muslim). And lots with atheist parents - quite a few who like me, welcome the teaching of Christianity & other religions. I find religion fascinating tbh. I don't know of anyone who pulls their children out of assemblies. It would be hard to at certain times because eg for nativities or class assemblies a lot of class time is given to preparation. Even things like the annual prize giving take place in a church and end with a prayer. I don't think g&t lessons could be conducted during assembly time as the teachers all attend the assembly.
It's beyond rubbish that British schools are not secular. The reality for us is that ALL local schools are CofE. We went to appeal because the only school able to offer our son a place in a ten mile radius had such a strong religious ethos that we were deeply uncomfortable with it. Guess what, the panel at appeal were three overtly Christian church goers, and they had little sympathy with our case. There were other reasons too why the school was a disaster for our son, and we ended up moving him to an independent school. Interestingly, the independent also has a strong Christian ethos. There are aspects I am not over the moon about, but as people on this thread have suggested, I also feel that we have made a positive choice about this school, and in the interests of all the other many benefits our children get from it, we respect the personal choice of the head in this matter.
I remain insensed however, that we live in a country where a large proportion of parents have no choice whatsoever. Whendidyoulast speaks sense in my opinion. There is the world of difference between religious education (I'm all for this!) and enforced participation in collective worship.
Our local school has the school rules displayed on a huge poster in the main hall. It's headed... "Our Rules, God's Rules".
It's the subtle conflation of religion with core aspects of the school community that I struggle with, as opposed to the more obvious things like assembly.
whendidyoulast, I am not sure why I am bothering to post since you have such set views. But I couldn't let your assertions about assembles pass. I have attended assemblies in 5 different primary schools in the uk in the last 15 years and not once have I seen an assembly as you describe. Never have the children been told something religious is fact. But these have all been state community schools. I can't speak for what a private Christian school would do but then I've quite deliberately not chosen to attend one, work in one or send my DC to one. My SIL, whose son attends a Jesuit private school, says the assemblies are very religious but that is what she has chosen. And yes, I am agnostic so an overly religious assembly would bother me...but they simply do not happen in state community primary schools in England.
I think it's because so many people share your view that there is the world of difference between religious education and enforced participation (except of course it isn't enforced) in collective worship that assemblies tend to conveniently bypass/are a bit wishy washy over the worship bit - even if they're not supposed to.
My last post was to SingySongy.
My son has definitely been presented religious opinion as fact, at assembly (and in class) at state CofE school. The state CofE school I described above that was our one and only choice.
And at age 4, when we talked about our own opinions at home...
"But teachers don't lie Mummy".
I don't see why we should accept this as the status quo.
Verlaine I would agree with you if it had felt wishy washy, but it didn't.
And actually, I don't see why we should teach our children that it's ok to accept that a wishy washy participation in something that you (possibly) believe strongly against, is an acceptable position in life.
Alien, the plural of anecdote is not data.
Honestly, how can you be surprised that given it is the law that schools provide a daily act of collective worship that so many schools do just that?
I would also say that assemblies at primary can be touchy feely affairs where children are encouraged to participate, with secondaries, less so.
You don't usually see Q & A type discussions in traditional secondary school assemblies where you might have 400 kids sitting in rows in a hall.
Yes, SingySongy, heard and seen lots of fairly insidious use of God in the vein that you indicate.
Obviously it's particularly worrying when kids are told that abortion and contraception are wrong.
Ooooh I've just remembered. Ds1 initially attended a m/s c of e school. He was too autistic to attend assembly so used to not attend. One family of a different religion (I'm afraid I can't remember which religion they practiced it was years ago) used to withdraw their children from assemblies. They just waited really, they weren't given work. I used to see then when I dropped ds1 late (which I was sometimes asked to do). I can't remember whether they did nativities. Ds1 was a present in that nativity though so I don't think they were particularly religious.
Incidentally ds1 is at a state special school (non-faith) now & there are still prayers said etc
Whendidyoulast, you are happy to generalise about assemblies based on your experiences and expect others to accept that they are representative, but when Exoticfruits said this was not her experience you do not accept that her experience may be true for many schools. You keep stressing that it is the law, as if this means it must be happening the way you say, when several posters have said it is not the way assemblies are in the schools they know.
Neither the school I work in or any of the schools my children have attended have daily assemblies, at no time is there any quoting the bible as fact or even any mention of Christianity, except in the context of telling the story of the nativity or Easter. We also have assemblies when festivals or beliefs of other religions are explained.
What is promoted in my school are values such as kindness, respect and tolerance- so they are broadly Christian in that those values reflect Christian values but no reference is made to any religion when discussing them except in regard to respecting other people's beliefs etc.
As for the OP I agree she should not have chosen a school that declares itself a Christian school if she does not want her child exposed to Christian beliefs. I believe you can be Jewish or Humanist or Atheist but not all three, presumably you mean you remain culturally Jewish just without the religion?
"But teachers don't lie Mummy".
Answer: "No, of course they don't, but like everyone they can sometimes be wrong".
And to Whendidyoulast: Of course I didn't mean to imply I'd be happy with a school teaching fascism! I intended to use it as an example a creed as generally hated as much as you obviously hate religion.
But my DD does not believe strongly against religion. I do! I'm quite happy for her to participate (aged 6) a d make her own mind up. She's totally comfortable with the idea that mummy doesn't believe in god but lots of people (including her, at the moment!) do. And she is also comfortable that I attend church when invited for christenings and weddings etc and will sit quietly when others pray but will not pray myself. Surely this is how we teach tolerance for different views and the importance of being true to our own beliefs (or non-beliefs)?
Badger, we of course did have that discussion. I just don't see why we should have to have. At the age of 4 he really was too young to understand. He has aspergers too, which meant his thinking was quite rigid.
I'm sure that many other parents find thdmselves in a similar situation.
I realise that this school is more extreme than many that have been described. It's good to hear that lots of people have a more positive experience. I do think that this shouldn't have to depend on schools having a generously flexible interpretation of the law of the land however.
I really think that 'ordinary' community schools should not be forced to have collective worship and should be broadly secular, and that there should be far fewer schools with a religious inclination (more in line with the 10% of relatively frequent church goers than the 25% of CoE primaries).
I didn't like my dd coming home and telling me that some Christian thing was true because 'Father Christopher said so and he has a bigger house than us' (weird 6 year old logic) although the same stuff passed ds right by (he enjoys being contrary though). Sure she is an agnostic now (like the majority of teenagers apparently) but that doesn't mean it didn't seriously rankle at the time.
However if you actively choose a faith school then I do think that is very very different and you cannot complain when it does what it says on the tin and teaches that the faith is true and important.
Likewise you can't complain that a Catholic school teaches catholic values, even if you dislike the values unless your child had no choice but to attend.
According to a survey commissioned by the BBC in 2011 64% of secondary school parents reported that their children did not attend daily worship at school, and Ofsted has consistently reported poor compliance, with no enforcement at any level. So I think that schools where assemblies are used to heavily promote Christianity like those whendidyoulast describes are unusual. Maybe the OP has managed somehow to select such a school for her ds, in which case the obvious option is simply to change schools.
I am glad that other people can recognise the assemblies that I have attended.
'Teachers don't lie mummy' is a very interesting point to discuss with children and the difference between fact and opinion.
I think that the problem for some people is the fact that UK is a Christian country- they can forget this in daily life,
but it is brought home forcibly to them when the child starts school. I think it ought to be clearly stated on the GovDirect site, I haven't looked lately, but I was shocked last time I looked to find that there was all the information about starting school and no mention of collective worship. We also hear so much about faith schools that I can quite see why people imagine the rest are secular, when there is very little difference.
If the young child has never heard of God at home it is a very exciting concept- it is like all things- once they get used to it it is no longer exciting. If you asked most of them what assembly had been about they wouldn't be able to say. I could easily assume that my DS's school didn't have one, if I didn't know better, they never mentioned it.
If the parent makes a huge deal out of it I expect it remains exciting- things that you are excluded from generally are!
I have not read all the thread, I do think you are being a little unreasonable.
There are none faith private schools about, dds old one did NOTHING about religion other than a "this is what x believe , this is what Y believe.
You have chosen a faith private school and now you want to change what they are doing.
Fair enough to take your child out of the assemblies and out of Christmas plays but they did that and you are complaining he could hear the songs, what do you do at Christmas when all the shops and supermarkets are playing them?
He will just hear a song at a distance not think ohh thats a song about religion.
I do not know really what you want them to do apart from make him wear ear plugs, its like you have chosen this private Christian school and now want them to get rid of anything religion wise for everyone.
If it was a state school then thats a different matter but you chose a private Christian school.
I say this as someone who taught in a church school where 78% of pupils were Muslim and 7 & Hindu.
I would agree nooka. I don't think collective worship has a place in schools. You have to understand the 1860 education act to realise why schools are faith or not. Unfortunately the state can't afford to buy the land that belongs to the church.
If you actively chose a Christian private school you have no cause for complaint!
Exotic fruits, I knew full well that there is no such thing as a secular education in the uk. It doesn't mean that I think this is right though, and no amount of info on a government website would change my mind about that I'm afraid.
I know you do,but there are hundreds of parents who have no idea- threads crop up regularly on here when they find out. It ought to be upfront. People don't read up on the history of education or consult the 1998 education act before they enrol their child!
You have a right to withdraw your child from RE & worship & many schools (ours included) accommodate this sort of request on a daily basis. In reality the most you can expect is that your child is taken to a separate room & adequately supervised.
School buildings are not generally soundproof so your ds is likely to hear some of what is going on, perhaps the school can take him to a classroom a little further away.
However at such a young age he is likely to feel sad as all he will understand is that he is being separated from his friends. I am sure the school will handle this as sensitively as they can & try to not make it a negative experience but unless there are other children who are also withdrawing from worship he is going to be on his own.
I am afraid you are going to have to accept this as a side effect of your request for him not to be included.
Ok, good point. I know I'm being a bit provocative, but I feel so strongly about this, as I know others do to a greater or lesser extent. I very much hope that one daythings will change. The church really does have a monopoly on education in some areas. Perpetuated, for example, where the local vicor may be the head of governors, and responsible for appointing head teachers etc. I know of one governing body that starts each meeting with prayer, and where the religious tone is so great that it has put potential volunteers from standing as governors. If the percentage of CofE schools came anywhere close to reflecting church attendance this would be more acceptable in my view. And if the national statistic is indeed 25%, then even this is small comfort if you live in an area like ours where 100% of schools are CofE.
DH goes into upwards of 100 schools per year and attends assembly in significant numbers of them
your experience is unusual.
"Aided Schools" might be more god than "controlled" and community are even less so
but you are falling into the Randi / Dawkins mistake of protesting too much
Only read half way through because frankly....
OP if you are an atheist then the British way will suit you very well. American society is extremely religious compared to ours. We have no separation of church and state because nobody's that bothered. A British PM cannot even get away with admitting a sincere faith (Alastair Campbell made sure Tony Blair's faith was largely kept under wraps and there was a national cringing at his praying with George w.). This is probably one of the most secular societies on earth, despite the presence of the church in the establishment. If you haven't noticed that yet, you start engaging with the country you live in. There are other ways besides the American way you know.
As for sending your child to a faith school and then telling others off for hypocrisy....
I haven't read the thread except for the OP. I am also an Atheist of Jewish-American heritage and DH is a Brit Atheist who was raised Cathloic. I have brought up all my DC in the UK attending state schools. Two have been identified as G&T for whatever that is worth. I haven't pulled them out of collective worship or nativity plays or anything and they are all strong atheists with a much better knowledge of comparative religion than what I believe an American public education affords. Personally, there seems to me a much more sane outlook on religion by most people here.
very very few rules apply to private schools no corporal punishment is one, if they are also a registered charity there must be some public benefit as determined by charity commission insisting on religious observance would not be an obstacle
most private schools are accommodating to other beliefs but they do not have to be
the head of a private christian school does not have to accommodate OP
the law regarding broadly Christian acts of worship does not apply to private schools
they do not have to provide RE. they can make it compulsory, they can make it a condition that the uniform is adhered to to the letter, they can insist girls wear skirts not trousers, they do not have to follow national curriculum, or provide sex education; they can choose which exams are available to pupils, they can make school dinners and saying grace before them compulsory, they can insist you play rugby etc etc etc
most UK citizens would be more horrified about pledging allegiance to the Queen and Union Flag/ St Georges Cross or whatever; that is completely alien to UK schools; unless St Georges day I can't think of may churches that would ever consider flying national flag never mind having it next to pulpit, even born again evangelical christians in UK are very different to USA ones, I have never met a UK christian that would think having a gun was mandated by the bible 9 out of 10 USA chrisitians think this, while UK christians would understand the anti-abortion/ pornography lobby they would be seriously puzzled why same group was anti health insurance and welfare and pro guns and the flag
most UK evangelicals see silver ring pledge of virginity as a bit weird not because they think sex before marriage is good but they think 8,9 10 years olds pledging in public not to do something is odd
like many have said before America and UK are two countries divided by common language
OP - This is obviously something you feel particularly strongly about, so whilst it is easy for (some of us) to not really 'get' what the big issue is - it is a big part of your life - however, as others pointed out, religion isn't a big deal in the UK - you are likely to get into a debate about religious intolerance, however, you will probably walk away from it not knowing what religion the people were you were debating with - it's just something that is a non-issue this side of the pond. By taking your standpoint however, you are making it an issue.
I would worry mostly about the hypocritical message you are giving to your son. By sending such a severe message and forcing him to be different and 'excluded' I think you are more likely to turn him against your views. It won't happen for another 6 or 7 years but you'd be very lucky if it didn't happen. I think you are more likely to 'get him on side' if you showed tolerance and acceptance to the culture you have immersed yourself in, but talked to him gently about what you believe at home. If he suffers as a consequence of YOUR beliefs, he is less likely to think they are the way to go.
About the prayer aspect - I teach my children that prayer is for reflection. It's a quiet time to 'think'. Think about a friend you are worried about and what you can do to help them, think about someone that did something to help you and how it made you feel, what can you do to return that? Just, reflection. He doesn't need to say the Lord's Prayer or amen if he doesn't want to - and if he does - so what? It doesn't impact your belief system, he is certainly not going to get 'brainwashed' by the UK RE/assembly structure, but, he will grow up to be a young man that has the opportunity to make informed choices. The beauty of this country is that we are not a dictatorship, we are free to make choices - and that's the way most of us bring our children up, we, for the most part, don't push our views and religion on to our children, because its their choice. I didn't baptise my children for this reason, despite being a Christian, because they will make their own choice when they are ready.
As for the private school issue - to be honest - if you tried this on at our school you would be shown the door pretty quickly, you would be considered a PITA parent. You just cannot dictate to an independent school. You read the prospectus, you looked round the school and you signed the contract - like it and join in or go somewhere else. That is the independent ethos - just because you are paying it doesn't give you the right to dictate a special regime just for your child. By the sounds of it the school are already being HUGELY accommodating. I would be grateful for it and move on. Don't keep pushing, they will only take so much.
Whilst I admire your tenacity and dedication to both your beliefs and your DS, from an outsider looking in, I would advise you take a step back, take a look around and relax a little - there will be much bigger issues that you will need to deal with further on down the line with the school and if you blot your copy book so early you could potentially make these harder to get through.
On a personal note, I went to a Catholic school, went to chapel twice a day, did all the Hail Mary 's etc .... meant nothing to me, I was a Christian. As far as my memory serves me, the conversation never came up as to why I shouldn't do it - my parents sent me there because it was a good school - the religious aspect was irrelevant - I could have been praying to Allah and it would have made no difference, it was just another part of the school day - like playtime and having lunch
Sorry - that was a bit epic!!
My ds came home from his assembly singing 'Reach' by SClub7. Now that was offensive.
OP and When say the head has not dealt with the Op's DS being withdrawn from Christian assemblies "adequately" because he can still hear the assembly and is playing (rather than being given extra and 1:1 G&T lessons as the OP would ideally like).
Can I ask what you feel the OP's DS and other children withdrawn from assemblies should be doing? Especially as assemblies do not necessarily go on for long, especially if the DC's are being withdrawn from just the religious bit / prayers?
Not being contentious, just interested.
I suspect that they are in a room right next to assembly because it is generally the time that they have whole school announcements, rewards etc and they would need to be in at that point- the whole school doesn't want to wait while someone goes down to the other end of the school to get him- they merely want to open a door.
They would miss a lot if they are withdrawn as very often it is not religious- as in 'good work' assemblies - when a class shows some of their work.
'you are happy to generalise about assemblies based on your experiences and expect others to accept that they are representative'
Erm, no I haven't.
I have said repeatedly that MANY schools have traditional assemblies with an explicitly Christian message.
I have quite deliberately not assumed that my own experience or views are in any way representative.
I have said many times that if your school doesn't follow the law or you have no problem with explicitly Christian assemblies or teachings that's great.
But I have asked you to respect my views and the views of other parents like me instead of dismissing them or disblieving them.
If it is the case that many or the majority of schools do not have a daily act of Christian worship then that is more evidence that the legal requirment is irrelevant in today's society which
would seem to support the argument that parents shouldn't be expected to simply put up with it where it happens.
It is a very pertinent point that since faith schools tend to outperform non faith schools in the state sector there is an additional pressure for parents to put up and shut up and in fact its one way in which they can be covertly selective.
So, it is completely disingenuous to say, well find another school then.
But it is not the case that it is only faith schools that do this stuff.
'at no time is there any quoting the bible as fact or even any mention of Christianity, except in the context of telling the story of the nativity or Easter. '
and possibly Harvest as well and then of course there's Lent and the rehearsals for nativity and Carol services and so on.
So not 'at no time' at all actually.
These explicitly Christian festivals are often particularly problematic for people who have other faiths and atheists. And it's not as simply as saying well withdraw your kid then because as n the case of the Jehovah's witness kids the posteer mentioned earlier in thee thread that might mean taking them out of school for a week at the end of the Christmas term or more.
' didn't mean to imply I'd be happy with a school teaching fascism! I intended to use it as an example a creed as generally hated as much as you obviously hate religion.'
But Badger it is not the place of a school to indoctrinate children into a particular religion or ideology. Of course children must be taught ABOUT religion and ABOUT fascism. In my view schools should have no more right to tell children they should believe in Christ's resurrection as they should to tell them to vote for Labour. It is completely inappropriate.
'your experience is unusual'
I am not absolutely sure what you mean by this.
It's a bit like the poster above who says her school never mentions the Bible except for the nativity and Easter....
If a school expects kids to pray (which many do and probably most faith schools on a daily basis), to sing hymns, to have a Harvest festival, celebrate Easter, Lent, Christmas then it is promoting Christianity.
And you do realize that faith schools are not an obscure little minority in GB. According to this website 32+% of schools in GB are Christian and that is not including academies and free schools where the figure is higher.
Now, again, don't say well you can avoid those particular schools because often you can't and especially not if you want your children to go to a good school.
OK, there are MANY schools that do NOT have traditional assemblies with an explicitly Christian message, send your children to one of them instead.
' it's just something that is a non-issue this side of the pond'
conorsrocks, you really don't speak for the entire country.
It IS a big issue for me and I am British and it is for many other parents including some on this thread.
Why are some of you so incredibly unsupportive.
Many of you recognize that explicitly religious teaching should have no place in schools even though it is enshrined in law and yet instead of arguing that the law should be changed (an entirely logical position given you acknowledge so many schools break the law in this respect) you say it should be up to parents to go searching for a school that breaks the law in order that their child should not be taught religious beliefs that they do not share.
Can you see how this comes across??
It is also disingenuous.
If, as is the position for one poster here, there is NO non faith school in your LEA what are you supposed to do?
And what if the best schools are faith schools or non faith schools which DO actively promote Christianity and theefore alienate nonChristians.
I am guessing that those of you who are so hardline about this would not take the same approach to a child with SN or from a particular racial background.
Why then do you think it's acceptable for schools to exclude children who are not Christians?
Surely the onus should be on schools to accommodate the diverse beliefs and backgrounds of their pupils and not for parents to have to seek out the one school that breaks the law and does not promote Christian worship?
Sorry, didn't provide the link to numbers of faith schools: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/maintained-faith-schools
It's now about 1 in 3 and rising.
'at no time is there any quoting the bible as fact or even any mention of Christianity, except in the context of telling the story of the nativity or Easter. '
and possibly Harvest as well and then of course there's Lent and the rehearsals for nativity and Carol services and so on.
So not 'at no time' at all actually.
These explicitly Christian festivals are often particularly problematic for people who have other faiths and atheists. And it's not as simply as saying well withdraw your kid then because as n the case of the Jehovah's witness kids the posteer mentioned earlier in thee thread that might mean taking them out of school for a week at the end of the Christmas term or more.
Sorry I didn't know you we're familiar with the school I work in! We do have Harvest Festival but it is not a religious assembly, rather a time to think of others less fortunate. Nor do we have assemblies about Lent, the Easter story is taught as RE i.e. this is what Christians believe.
The JW children in our school never stay out of assemblies and go to another year group on the rare occasion they cannot take part in something.
You complain that others don't believe you and then start casting doubt on anyone who has different experiences to you. I believe it is as you say in your child's school, but I know it is different in many others and therefore you could send your children to one of those.
As a practising religious Jew I object to this expression:
" bloody torah stories".
How dare you use such an expression. Be more respectful in future.
I do disagree with state funded faith schools and the admissions criteria to get into them. But that isn't what this thread is about. This thread is about the OP's experience of a private Christian school and most posters are telling her that the experience would ( in all probability) be very different if she had chosen a state community school. Not necessarily a state CoE or. Catholic school, although some have suggested their assemblies are "acceptable" for a non-believer. And I repeat my point, how is it better for you to force your 6year old into agreeing with your non-beliefs than my approach which allows my DC to decide for herself?