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.

MirandaWest Sun 30-Sep-12 21:28:14

My DC are at a faith school (although VC rather than VA so less overall influence from the church). It is also the only school in the village.

Wouldn't bother me in the slightest if an atheist teacher said they thought there was no God although I do take a relaxed attitude to what other people think. I do believe in a God of some sort - DC don't appear to although quite into the idea of reincarnation.

Catmint Sun 30-Sep-12 21:37:55

Miranda, did you choose the school because it was a faith school? (nosy)

what are VC and VA?

Himalaya I can't find a grid for learning website for our LEA, do they have to have one?

MirandaWest Sun 30-Sep-12 21:43:14

I chose it because I liked the school and could find a house here (we moved and I looked at a lot of schools to find some where I liked the school and there were available houses). Some schools I liked were faith schools and some weren't. I suppose because I didn't mind whether it was or not I had more choice.

VA is voluntary aided and VC is voluntary controlled. I'm not sure about the precise meanings but basically the church has more influence in a VA school.

LeeCoakley Sun 30-Sep-12 21:45:30

No teacher would say 'God is made up'! grin

When I was interviewed for my previous job as LSA at a CofE school I wasn't asked about my faith, I was only asked if a daily Christian assembly would bother me. It didn't because I wasn't expected to pray myself. (Am an atheist)

Euphemia Sun 30-Sep-12 21:46:27

"I believe in God" is as neutral a fact as "my favourite colour is yellow" or "I have a pet cat"

Utter guff.

Himalaya Sun 30-Sep-12 22:03:34

Catmint - I don't know, I just know that mine did and it was interesting, and I've noticed others do.

Try a google search on "your LEA/council name" plus "RE scheme of work" "sacre" or just "religious education" and you will probably (hopefully) find some info on the guidance where you live (is it England? No idea if it is different in S, W and NI)

AChickenCalledKorma Mon 01-Oct-12 11:06:48

Euphemia - why is that guff?

Some people believe in God, some people don't. That is the case in a school, in a workplace, in a supermarket, or wherever. I see no reason whatsoever why a teacher can't answer that question in as straightforward and factual a way as he/she would any other question.

meditrina Mon 01-Oct-12 11:16:33

I hope the meeting tonight goes well.

The think I would expect to hear is that in teaching creations (as you put it in OP), they will actually be covering many different creation stories, and that they have just happened to begin with the Jewish/Christian/Moslem version and that others will follow.

Euphemia Mon 01-Oct-12 17:35:49

There's a huge difference between a child being influenced to love God and a child being influenced to love yellow.

Teachers have a huge influence on children; we make a massive impression on young minds. Religious beliefs are too sensitive and too personal to be divulged by teachers.

Himalaya Mon 01-Oct-12 17:58:56

Euphemia - I don't think teachers can be expected to keep their religious beliefs or identity secret. What if they wear a kippah, have a muslim name, take a religious holiday off, can't eat sausage rolls, go to the same church as some of the students etc... It shouldn't be a big secret.

The point is they are not teaching their religious beliefs they are teaching the subject RE. I think professionals can (and should) be able to draw the line.

Euphemia Mon 01-Oct-12 18:17:40

Obviously if you wear religious clothing, etc., pupils will ask you about it, in which case you should answer their questions.

My point is that teachers should not impose their views on pupils i.e. they should not state what they believe, and if some asks they should keep it neutral and avoid speaking in the first person.

So if someone says "Do you believe in God?" a teacher should be at liberty to say "That is private," or "I am a Christian, and Christian people believe in God."

I was fuming when I heard DD's (very experienced) teacher stating that "We believe that Christ died on the cross." That kind of language must be avoided.

My beliefs are no-one's business but my own, so I will keep them secret.

SuffolkNWhat Mon 01-Oct-12 19:42:45

I teach RE in an VA school (secondary setting) and am of a different faith (Buddhist - so no belief in God)

If the children ask me I say I am a Buddhist and I personally do not believe in a god like figure but that other people do and that means a lot to them and I respect that.

I also support the ethos of the school as part of my job, so I attend assemblies, Eucharists etc

nailak Mon 01-Oct-12 19:53:26

suffolk isnt what you are describing exactly what euphemia was fuming because of

SuffolkNWhat Mon 01-Oct-12 20:15:34

And if she does not want to share her own beliefs then that is her look out.

By saying I am a Buddhist to secondary aged children I am not trying to convert them or to put down their own beliefs.

I have a policy of honesty in my classroom and that extends to me too.

Himalaya Mon 01-Oct-12 20:38:50

Suffolk - I think that is the best approach.

Euphemia. Yes a teacher should be at liberty to say "that is private" but it would be a bit odd, when students are being asked to discuss their beliefs.

But I don't think your second statement is factual "I am a Christian, and Christian people believe in God."

People who call themselves Christian/Muslim/Hindu or whatever may believe in god, they may have doubts or they may just belong to that culture and continue it's traditions. I don't think it is possible to factually say "Christians believe..." although I know this is commonly his it is taught. My DS is convinced from his RE lessons for example that Christians believe in Adam and Eve, because no one makes a clear distinction from the start between what the bible says, what various churches teach and what individuals actually believe.

mummytime Tue 02-Oct-12 05:46:00

My teenage daughter often argues when she is taught in RE that "Christian's believe", as quite often what comes next is incorrect for her own beliefs. I just hope she takes what she is taught about other religions as much with a pinch of,salt.

nooka Tue 02-Oct-12 06:00:20

I also think that there is a big difference between telling a secondary school age child who you might teach a couple of times a week that you happen to be a Christian (assuming that they ask or it is relevant to what you are teaching) and a primary (especially infant) school child if you are their class teachers. Small children tend to idolise their teachers, so Mr/Ms X's belief holds a huge amount more weight. I can remember my dd at five or six getting very cross with us for disagreeing with her teacher on some religious matter. It was extremely annoying. Now she is 12 she is much better positioned to make her own mind up about things (and of course that may still be the complete opposite of our opinions, but it's her thinking she is reflecting not someone elses).

Himalaya Tue 02-Oct-12 07:16:03

Mummytime -

Yes that's what I mean - saying "Christians believe" or "Muslims believe" or whatever isn't accurate information for those children who don't belong to the religion in question, and is telling those children those children who do that this is what they should believe .

bowerbird Tue 02-Oct-12 10:41:22

I don't understand this idea of a teacher not revealing their faith because it might influence young children. There are a lot of influences out there.

My DD's (fantastic) teacher wears a hijab, so clearly is a practising Muslim. What on earth is she supposed to do, hide this fact? It's part of who who is.

Catmint Tue 02-Oct-12 20:26:05

Have now had the meeting and the situation has developed...

Had the meeting, was at pains to explain we are not attacking the school but wish to understand what is being taught so that we can support at home.

Was assured that the school does not tell the children what to believe. I Made the point that we are aware that DD knows the faith of some of her teachers from things that they have said, eg "worms aren't horrible, they are God's creatures" and that we think it is good that children are able to experience different points of view & beliefs but that it makes us uncomfortable because she is so eager to please...(we are a bit conflicted on this point & it would have been good to understand the school's policy on this issue. We could probably have been persuaded either way).

The teacher wasn't able to give me any information, she would consult with the HT and get back to me.

So she called me at work this afternoon. She has consulted with the HT who asked her to convey to us that the teachers do not tell the children what to believe. I made the point that that might be the case, but it does not legislate for a child who thinks they have been taught what to believe.

The HT has said that we can't have a copy of the syllabus. This means that we do not know what they are teaching, and we have no context in which to provide support at home, which is what we have been asked to do.

Is this normal????

AChickenCalledKorma Tue 02-Oct-12 20:34:11

Euphemia - are you seriously suggesting that it's OK for a hijab-wearing Muslim to say "I believe in God" but it's not OK for a Christian, simply because they don't have any obvious outward signs that the children might pick up on. Isn't that a bit like saying it's OK for one kind of faith to admit to its existence, but other faiths should be regarded as some kind of mysterious secret?

I'm also interested to know whether you would think it's OK for a teacher to say "I don't believe in God." Because primary school was the first place that my children became aware that some people don't believe in God. I don't have a problem with that ... it's part of growing up and becoming aware of different people's beliefs.

But I'm curious to know whether you would regard a teacher expressing atheist views as being as unacceptable as a teacher stating that they, personally, believe in God.

Hulababy Tue 02-Oct-12 20:36:25

Each LEA has an agreed RE syllabus apparently - google and you should find it for your area.

bamboostalks Tue 02-Oct-12 20:37:22

You need to get a real problem love.

Euphemia Tue 02-Oct-12 20:38:50

Euphemia - are you seriously suggesting that it's OK for a hijab-wearing Muslim to say "I believe in God" but it's not OK for a Christian?

I didn't say that.

Hulababy Tue 02-Oct-12 20:44:15

I don't see a problem with children being aware of what faith a teacher is or is not. I do not think most children really have an issue with this tbh. I work in a very multi-cultural school with a massive variation in religions followed - by staff and children. It will be very obvious to some children that we have staff who celebrate Eid or Divali for example. They will then know the faith of that teacher. Likewise I would have no issue with a teacher saying "I am christian and believe in God." So long as a teacher is not saying this is what YOU should be believe and no other way is right then I see no issue at all.

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