Has anyone opted their child out of 'worship'

(92 Posts)

We moved last year to a small town with one primary school which is CofE. Despite that not being ideal as an atheist I was keen for them to go to the local school, and anyway, the next 4 nearest schools are also all CofE.

At first there were no issues and my children were healthily critical of religious aspects of the school. However since then three issues have made me consider opting them out of 'worship'.

Firstly my daughter and a friend did not bow their heads to pray and were pointed out by the headmaster and he said he was very disappointed in them!

My son and a friend were doing some RE work and discussing god in the way of a story but were told they were not to talk of 'God' like that because he does exist and they must talk about him like he does exist!

Then in an Assembly (or as they call it, worship) the story of the three little pigs was read out. Then the children were told that the pigs whose houses were blown down did not trust in god, that is why they got eaten! And the pig whose house stayed up had trusted in god and that is why he was 'saved'.

In addition to this, I feel making a stand against the prevalence of CofE schools in this area as unless you go private you have to send your child to a faith based school.

So I found a local humanist website with a template letter and lots of good advice on opting out (although this website bizarrely reminds me of a religious cult website). Has anyone here done this? Has it been okay? Any advice please would be appreciated!

BrittaPerry Thu 14-Feb-13 23:33:12

They taught all kinds of bollocks. I was under eleven, so I don't remember tge details, but this is the same church that advertised a ladies pamper day with local craft stalls etc and motivational women speakers, with again the only indication that they were involved being things that were obvious to people who already knew them (I went along anyway as my nana persuaded me it would be good as I was pregnant and fed up)

The motivational speakers included a speech about how submitting to your husband is the same as submitting to God.

exoticfruits Fri 15-Feb-13 07:19:41

I agree with NotMostPeople, which is why I keep saying 'start with DD' - what does she want to do? She will make up her own mind in the end- regardless of parents or school.

Actually, OP, looking at the variety of experiences with faith schools, including my experience of my own very open, inclusive CofE school, the fact that all the local schools are faith schools doesn't mean that they will all be the same. You may have the chance to move your children to a far more acceptable school.
And, no, in my experience, not all teachers in VA or VC schools have to be practicing Christians. I am not and the question was never asked.

exoticfruits Fri 15-Feb-13 07:40:44

Teachers do not have to be practicing Christians at a faith school. The other faith schools may not be anything like the one you are at. A community school can have far more of a faith element than a faith school! You need to visit them.

Thanks all for the replies, checked this not expecting so many so will come back for a proper read later today smile

Iwillorderthefood Fri 15-Feb-13 08:09:23

What happened to teaching about tolerance? I sort of regretted my DC not going to a faith school, but I would be horrified at this. The only thing I can suggest is continued and open discussion with your DC at home. Withdrawing them could make it worse. How far away are the other schools? Surely they would not be so OTT.

Dromedary Fri 15-Feb-13 09:21:48

Iwillorder - why regret not sending your DC to a faith school if you are not a believer? Just interested. Obviously, a specific faith school may have advantages such as good teaching or whatever, though if they want to employ Christian teachers specifically that narrows choice of teachers.
I find the C of E having such a grip on the state funded education system in this country very strange. Only a small minority of citizens are practising C of E.

ByTheWay1 Fri 15-Feb-13 09:33:28

I was withdrawn from worship as a child - just singled you out as "different" since so few were.... still don't believe, but would never subject my kids to the embarrassment of "ByTheWay1, little Johnny, time for you to leave now"

frustratedworkingmum Fri 15-Feb-13 09:41:37

YABU you have bought your children up to be "anti" religeon so they are suspicious of it at school. Maybe, you know, let them decide for themselves. You are pushing your beliefs on your children just as you say the school are doing theirs.

RaisinBoys Fri 15-Feb-13 09:47:27

I'd be appalled if my children had to endure collective worship and religious indoctrination such as you describe in your original post, and we're broadly Anglican! We had similar concerns and that is why they do not go to a CofE school.

I would say though that proudly athiest parents often lie, cheat, attend Church etc to get their DC into "good" CofE schools, then bleat about the teaching of religion, when there are perfectly good (and often great) community schools with dedicated teachers, involved parents and lovely children available.

Incidentally CofE schools take children from a range of religions and none - your extreme experience and your head are not typical.

exoticfruits Fri 15-Feb-13 10:51:47

Incidentally CofE schools take children from a range of religions and none - your extreme experience and your head are not typical.

Not only are they not typical, it is possible to find them in non faith schools. People have a huge mistaken belief that there are secular schools in England. It is largely up to the Head, and their interpretation of the Education Acts (most of which people haven't read)

BrittaPerry Fri 15-Feb-13 10:58:33

We were only offered a place at a Catholic school. There were 60 more children than school places within 5 miles of us. She actually didn't get a school place at all until two weeks before school started, there was a huge panic.

I came on here to ask for advice, and was immediately told that I shouldn't have lied to get her in hmm

Dromedary Fri 15-Feb-13 11:00:01

I don't think the OP's experience is all that untypical, from my experience and that of others I've spoken to. Churches have a big role on the governing body, so choosing the head and staff and determining how children are taught and the content of assembly.
It is not a question of atheists lying to get their children into a one off faith school. A huge number of schools, primary schools in particular, are C of E run, particularly in rural areas. In practice not many children attend church, so children local to the school will generally get into it, and parents have little real choice.
In any event, selection criteria tend to involve church attendance, not declarations of faith, or getting confirmed.

Dromedary, CofE schools do NOT choose Christian teachers specifically, thus 'narrowing the choice of teachers'. Or rather, some do, some don't. Some community schools look for male teachers, young (=cheap) teachers, teachers of a particular specialism, etc.They all narrow their choices in various ways.

The content of assemblies (collective worship) is largely laid down by the government, in a document few people know exists (and many schools of all persusasions don't follow).

I opted myself out of RE lessons and CW when I was about 12 (can't remember who supervised me or what I did with the free time) and now I teach RE and plan CW in a church school. I don't think one's experience as a child at school really determine one's religious belief later. (Not that I am a practicing Christian, just no longer rabidly anti religion in all its forms.)

RaisinBoys Fri 15-Feb-13 11:39:22

In any event, selection criteria tend to involve church attendance, not declarations of faith, or getting confirmed.

Absolutely, and if you are able to sit through church services, possibly take holy communion and say the Creed every week for as long as it takes to get your child in to the school, then you can hardly complain about collective worship once you're in the school.

Don't get me wrong, even as an Anglican, I don't agree with faith schools and so opted for the less good (on paper) Community Primary. But I know many people who are able to compromise on their principles and beliefs in order to get a school place.

Education in the state sector involves a whole series of compromises, gritting of teeth and frustration - in many areas. I think it is naive to expect a CofE/Jewish/Muslim school to deliver collective worship to your particular requirement.

Withdraw them from that part of school life if it is a matter of conscience for you, but I'll give you the example of my brother; he went to a CofE primary and secondary. He thought the God business was nonsense at 5 and still thinks so at 55! The key thing was that he had enough respect for his friends who believed it to sit through it quietly. They in turn respected his view.

Many athiests think it is ok to use words like "mumbo jumbo", "fairy stories" etc when referring to a faith that others live their lives by. A bit of respect for difference and diversity would be a fantastic lesson to teach one's children.

ggirl Fri 15-Feb-13 11:47:48

Have only read OP ,cardinal sin, but at my dc's c/e school there were some Jehovahs Witness children who spent collective worship time and religious based lessons apart from the other children.They were supervised in the school office by the receptionists , often saw them colouring in there etc.

I often wondered why their parents didn't choose the community school in the same town.

exoticfruits Fri 15-Feb-13 12:02:48

People also make the mistake of thinking that all C of E schools are like ones in big cities with lots of choice. In most country areas the school is the only one. You get top priority because you live there and you don't have to attend church services ever. If it is oversubscribed and people from outside the catchment area want a place they may have to be church goers.

I often wondered why their parents didn't choose the community school in the same town.

Because the parents were clued up enough to know that it is the same in community schools! I can't believe that so many people don't understand that all English state schools are Christian-they are just non denominational as opposed to being linked with C of E or Catholics.

exoticfruits Fri 15-Feb-13 12:04:36

I have taught Jehovah Witnesses children in community schools-they stay out of assembly and are supervised. There is no difference.

RaisinBoys Fri 15-Feb-13 12:41:54

Because the parents were clued up enough to know that it is the same in community schools! I can't believe that so many people don't understand that all English state schools are Christian-they are just non denominational as opposed to being linked with C of E or Catholics.

Pretty clued up parent (and governor) here who does realise.

However, beyond the Nativity and a couple of carols at Christmas (that all the children whatever their religion join in with as much or as little as they feel is compatible with their family beliefs) you would never know!

Not the same at all as opting for a CofE school, Catholic school, Jewish School, Muslim school etc

ggirl Fri 15-Feb-13 13:39:10

well excuse me for being so ignorant excoticfruits!!

BrittaPerry Fri 15-Feb-13 13:48:30

Like I said upthread, I went to a community school that was very religious. Their idea of diversity was having the local vicar in sometimes instead of the evangelists.

RaisinBoys, I agree about respect. I am a representative on an LEA body advising on religious matters in schools. We have Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, CofE, RC, Jewish and Humanist members. The only one who frequently actively 'recruits' for his point of view is the Humanist!

And no-one has ever asked me what religion I profess.

Thank you all so much for your replies. Can't remember who said what, but just to cover a few things -

If we did do this we would only be withdrawing from worship - no other aspects of assembly.

My DS is leaving to the secondary school in Sept, I have asked DD (year 3) about how she feels about it all. She said she would happily move schools. She has loads of friends here but is also very easy going and would make loads of friends elsewhere too.

However I am keen to avoid moving school really. This is the only school in our town (it is a very little town, not much bigger than a large village). All surrounding village schools within 5 miles are CofE. The next town is 2 miles away and has a non-faith primary. But that rules out local friends and walking to school.

Having read through all of this I am going to write an email to the headteacher before thinking about any action at all. When we moved here I talked to my DCs about being tolerant of the fact there may be more Christian children here (in there old school there were only a few practising Christian families). Being tolerant of a range of different beliefs is exactly how I want my children to be, so the school's lack of tolerance for atheism runs counter to this. The head is a bit stuck in his own mindset. I spoke to him about the safety aspects of people driving to school and parking on the corners, right outside etc, where it is clearly unsafe and offered to write something for the newsletter pointing out this problem, and he was dead against me doing so! So I am not counting on an entirely open minded acceptance of my email but we'll see!

msrisotto Fri 15-Feb-13 15:21:36

I wouldn't bother removing him tbh. I am an atheist with religious parents who attended a church school and did all the CW and RE that that entailed. I firmly believe it did me more good than harm. The more I read and heard from the bible, the less I believed, the more CW felt like being in a cult the harder I pushed back against it. I got to hear their 'argument' but made my own judgement as to whether I believed or not and now I have a good understanding of what others believe. It is a part of our cultural heritage and I think we need to know about it. Also, the language in the bible readings is really interesting and sometimes beautiful - very educationally worthwhile being exposed to.

exoticfruits Fri 15-Feb-13 16:13:42

I wasn't getting at you ggirl. I am constantly surprised by the number of people who don't understand the law relating to collective worship in schools. So many people are under the impression that if it isn't a faith school it is a secular school.
It is something you need to know- it is quite possible that a community school is more religious than a faith school, RaisinBoys. I know community schools that have the vicar in and church schools that don't.

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