Talking to Y1 teacher about how RE is taught

(70 Posts)
Catmint Thu 27-Sep-12 17:48:42

DD school is a non faith school, which we chose partly because we are atheist, but hymns are sung in assembly, which we are okay with. (understand this is mandatory for schools).

DD has just started doing RE, which again we are okay with, in fact it should be a great opportunity to find out about different faiths.

But we are a bit worried because the subject is 'creations' and although we don't think it's creationism that is being taught, we do know that DD has been told to draw pictures of things created by God. We do not believe in God, and we are upset that its existence is being taught as fact (possibly). I know this is a common issue from the thread in Chat.

DD has also told us which of her teachers believe in God - we don't think that this is appropriate information to share with a 5yo!

So, I have made an appt to talk to the class teacher on Mon after school. I have 15 mins. DP is too angry about it, so he will be doing childcare at home.

I am in a bit of a panic that I will come across as attacking people with faith, which is absolutely not my intention! Has anyone had this conversation with school and can you share any tips for it to go smoothly? What should I ask/say? all help appreciated, thanks.

SuffolkNWhat Belgium Thu 27-Sep-12 17:53:00

I would talk with the teacher.

I teach RE and the task about drawing things that God created sounds to me like it was probably draw the things Christians believe God created.

I teach in a faith school but am of a completely different faith and teach RE as if I was an atheist (so no prejudice or we believe involved).

Catmint Thu 27-Sep-12 18:03:06

Thanks suffolk, I have an appt to talk with the teacher, worried about what to actually say.

What questions should I ask, how can I phrase it? Need to practise over weekend so as to appear like reasonable person when really I feel very suspicious of what they are saying to her...I aspire to be the reasonable person...

SuffolkNWhat Belgium Thu 27-Sep-12 18:06:31

I would ask clarification on how RE is taught, whether they are following a locally agreed syllabus and that dogma is not taught as fact, so God created the animals etc.

WofflingOn Thu 27-Sep-12 18:08:20

If the subject is creations, I'd be expecting them to be covering a number of creation myths, not just the christian one, which does put it all into a context of being one of several alternatives.

Euphemia France Thu 27-Sep-12 18:16:30

I'd ask to see the RE plan they're following. Also try to ascertain whether the teacher uses inclusive or exclusive language i.e. is s/he saying "We believe this" and "They believe that", or is s/he saying "Christians believe x" and "Muslims believe y"?

OhSoSimple Thu 27-Sep-12 19:42:44

How do you know they weren't asked to draw things Christians believe God created? And surely if you do not want her to believe then you would support them saying some people (teachers) do not believe in God, that it is a choice for an individual to make?

I would be sure about what is actually being taught a s opposed to what your 5 year old is saying at home. Sometimes you don't get the full picture.

My DCs used to go to a non faith school, however they sang hymns, said grace and prayers, celebrated Christian festivals. It was made clear in the prospectus that they had close links with the local CofE church and what aspects would be taken and used in school.

TwiggysGoneOnHolidayByMistake Thu 27-Sep-12 20:02:00

I would be very worried about this too, but I'd be surprised if it was taught as fact and assume your daughter has just phrased it wrongly to you. I'd go in to the teacher with a "DD told me this and I'm sure it's not true but I just wanted to check..." attitude, rather than a "how dare you teach this as fact" attitude. If you do that then I'm sure you will be fine! As long as you are polite and respectful then it won't be offensive at all - you have every right to make sure that your religious (or lack of) beliefs are respected in school. It would be obvious to me that you aren't attacking faith and I'm sure your DD's teacher will feel the same. I think people are far too worried about offending other people's religious beliefs. You wouldn't feel the same making a polite query about Conservative policy if you happen to vote Labour and religion is no different.

Actually, it very much annoys me that atheism isn't covered in primary schools but that's another issue smile

TwiggysGoneOnHolidayByMistake Thu 27-Sep-12 20:03:53

Btw, I also think it's fine to mention to a 5yo which teachers believe in God. It's simply teaching your DD from the outset that some people believe this and some people believe that...

Himalaya Thu 27-Sep-12 20:16:16

Have a look on your LEA 'Grid For Learning' website and see if you can find the 'Scheme of Work' for RE. You will probably find that this is what the school is teaching. On one hand you may be reassured that the school is not actively going out of its way to teach drivel, but on the other hand appalled that schools all over the country teach drivel about religion.

bebanjo Thu 27-Sep-12 20:24:54

if the child is in school to learn and she is learning that "god created stuff" than that is what the teacher is teaching, intentionally or not. if this is not what she is meant to teach or not what she intended to teach then she has not made herself clear to the child . the child is not misrepresenting the teacher she is relating to her parents what she has learnt.

ash979 Thu 27-Sep-12 20:31:14

I'm the re coordinator in my school and actually my degree is in re and I'm atheist! The re should be planned and delivered on s way as others have said, Christians believe this.... I teach reception and we often get into discussions and the children ate interested to hear about adults views. We explain to them x is a Christian and that's why she wears a cross and she believes... But y doesn't believe that she thinks this.... The children can get very philosophical and think up good questions which I believe is all good and it teaches them to listen to others views. Do go and speak to the teacher tho for your own reassurance, they won't be offended that you've asked.

alcofrolic Thu 27-Sep-12 20:48:29

I love these..... (from our RE syllabus, to be explored in KS2):

'What beliefs do different pilgrimages show about what it means to be human?'
or
'Why is there something rather than nothing?'

The whole thing makes me laugh (hysterically).

lionheart Thu 27-Sep-12 21:48:25

I can understand you want some clarification of how Re is taught.

But I am not sure why you think that teachers should not share their own beliefs with children in general.

If a child in the class asks outright, "Do you believe in God, Ms Teacher?" what is it you wish them to say.

Euphemia France Thu 27-Sep-12 22:32:11

I was told at teacher training college by our RME tutor, a secondary RE teacher, that it is not teachers' place to divulge their religious beliefs to pupils, because of the risk of influencing children. Primary children in particular often want to please their teacher, and are influenced by the teacher's personality and what s/he declares to be important.

The tutor was from Northern Ireland, and she never told her pupils whether she was Protestant, Catholic, or anything else, as she saw her job as educating young people about the main world religions and about moral issues. She felt strongly that each religion should be presented impartially and given equal weight, and not through the lens of her own personal beliefs.

I completely agree with her.

Euphemia France Thu 27-Sep-12 22:33:59

Oh and if someone asks me whether I believe in God, as many pupils have, I reply that that is personal and that I don't talk about it at school.

Catmint Fri 28-Sep-12 10:12:46

Thanks everyone, this is all helpful stuff.

I have decided to ask about the syllabus and planning. Of course I am only hearing it from my daughter's perspective - that is why I am going in to talk to the teacher and not writing an outraged letter! I will explore exactly how the subject is phrased.

The class were asked how the world was made. My DD said that lots of dust joined together to form the solar system (surprised & proud that she knew this) and another child said the world was made by God. Both views were written up as having equal weight...while this makes me uncomfortable, I do see that this could be appropriate. But the subtleties in the words which are actually being used in class could make the difference between this being a pluralist perpective (good) and a creationist one (horrifying to us).

Once I have more information, we will decide whether/how to pusue the issue, but I hope it does set our minds at rest!

euphemia I totally agree with your perspective about why it is not appropriate for teachers to disclose their beliefs in a lesson setting in a non faith school. My DD is very eager to please, and I do not want her feeling pressured to agree that God exists. We do not pressure her to believe that God does not exist - we tell her that people believe lots of different things and that what people believe is special to them. We tell her that she can make up her own mind when she is ready. We are honest about our beliefs.

She says that she does not believe in God, but her precious toy cat does. smile

Euphemia France Fri 28-Sep-12 10:22:00

She says that she does not believe in God, but her precious toy cat does.

Fabulous! grin

BabsJansen Fri 28-Sep-12 10:29:15

euphemia I totally agree with your perspective about why it is not appropriate for teachers to disclose their beliefs in a lesson setting in a non faith school

Would you consider it acceptable if she was taught by a teacher wearing a hijab?

Catmint Sat 29-Sep-12 06:28:49

Good point Babs...yes of course I would consider it acceptable.

Disclose was the wrong word. Promote would describe it better. Hard to express what our concern is.

But DD said she is confused about what she is 'supposed' to think, so something is not quite right somewhere.

Context setting would seem to be key..so a teacher should make it clear that their belief is one amongst many, and that the purpose of the class is to learn about them all.

BabsJansen Sat 29-Sep-12 08:11:45

In a way I think you are expecting a lot from a 6yr old. Even if it explained to her that during the course of re in school she will learn about various faiths, she will find this hard to comprehend. Support at home by emphasing the range of beliefs and that there is no right or wrong belief.

Re your meeting. I wild keep it very much as a factual request for how and what re is taught at this stage and the. Follow up as and when you feel issues arise. It will help you better to support dd with faith discussion at home.

Himalaya Sat 29-Sep-12 08:20:47

I don't think teachers can keep their religion or beliefs secret, they just shouldn't teach from one perspective.

The trouble is I think it is hard to near impossible to teach about the subject while maintaining the view that it is equally reasonable to conclude that A) all religions are 100% human fabrications/highly sucessful memes B) there is one true religion but nobody knows which one or C) all religions have aspects of truth about the divine. Similarly with the idea of god(s) a) made up b) real or c) real but so mystical our puny human facilities can't really understand it's nature.

It is impossible to have a consistent thought or make up a consistent sentence about religion/god (s) while holding each of these 3 options as live possibilities.

So then you are left with "Christians believe..." etc...but the problem with that is that Church pews and even vicarages are filled with people who may subscribe to either A, B or C. If some one wears a hijab etc...it is likely that they identify themselves as a Muslim, but their beliefs on god/religion could be A, B or C.

Apart from teaching about religious rituals, language and writings I don't think there are other 'facts' that can be taught.

mummytime Belgium Sat 29-Sep-12 08:24:14

It is a very very important teaching technique, that if you are discussing difficult topics or personal beliefs that ALL beliefs are given equal weight. You never indicate a belief is wrong or impose a value to them. So if a child told me the Universe was created by small green frogs burping, I would treat that as valid as your child talking about the big bang ( with a lot of pinches of salt and care in secondary schools).

The next thing is that your child is still very young, so I would ask questions to ensure the curriculum is balanced over a longer time than one lesson. Also in a modern school it is not practical to hide religious beliefs, in my kids C of E school it is pretty obvious who the Muslim TA is, and they have various other teachers, TAs and parents talk to them about their religious (or non religious) beliefs. By seeing everyday people of different beliefs work together and get along we'll teaches the pupils a great lesson.

AChickenCalledKorma Sat 29-Sep-12 09:39:45

"I believe in God" is as neutral a fact as "my favourite colour is yellow" or "I have a pet cat". The teacher is simply telling the children something about herself, which probably came up during a conversation during RE. This whole "no-one should talk about their faith" thing makes faith seem like some kind of a dirty secret.

As long as everyone also feels totally able to say "no, I don't believe in God" and no-one is saying "you must believe in God", I think you should steer clear of that part of the issue.

But by all means ask about what they are teaching on creation!

Catmint Sun 30-Sep-12 21:23:52

with ref to the point about teacher's disclosing their own belief...DP has just speculated whether an atheist teacher in a faith school would be able to say that they thought that God was made up without parents objecting...

does anyone have a view?

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