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!

School sounds a bit over the top. I work in a church school, teach RE and plan all the collective worship and would never order children to pray. Be respectful of others who wanted to pray, yes, but you can't force someone to pray. Guidance given to schools by local dioseses is about including all and offering a positive experience to all. Not to say that some local vicars/headteachers might not be a bit more reactionary.
Also, RE lessons are to teach children about religious belief, not to indoctrinate. Lessons will have to present Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, etc in the same way as Christianity (although Christianity will get more curriculum time).
None of this is going to turn your child into a believer - or for that matter a non believer - for life. Children will eventually make up their own minds. Our job, I feel, is to teach them understanding and respect and keep their minds open.

toomuchicecream Wed 13-Feb-13 22:05:40

I've taught in schools where there were JW/Muslim children withdrawn from assembly. They sat in the corridor with a book, bored witless.

Staff who aren't in assembly spend their time doing 1001 other things (including small group work with children, preparing for the next lesson etc etc) so they won't be available to supervise your child beyond keeping an eye/ear out for them. Your child will miss out on any notices or important information that are given out in assembly too - with the best will in the world, it just isn't always possible to go round giving the same messages to all children who weren't in there all the time.

If you also intend to withdraw them from RE, will you be withdrawing her from all Christmas craft making, singing of harvest/Christmas songs, being in a Nativity etc etc? As a teacher, it's a real pain having children who can participate in none of those things. The Christmas where I could make no angels, Father Christmas, presents, Christmas cards etc etc etc is firmly etched on my memory. As is the problem of what to do with the JW boy when we rehearsed for our performance of Joseph.

You have legal right to withdraw your child. But I don't recommend it unless it is something you feel extremely strongly about as you will be making her stand out and be different. Withdrawing your child from assembly is not the way to make a stand about the prevalence of CofE schools because it will make absolutely no difference to the wider situation at all.

admission Wed 13-Feb-13 22:57:08

I agree with toomuchicecream that it would be far better for your child to be completely involved in all school activities including religious education.
The problem here for me is that we have a school that is going beyond where they should be going. The school's version on the three pigs is just so wrong and I think that you need to ask questions of the head teacher as to why such stories are being slanted to a religious belief.

sashh Thu 14-Feb-13 07:10:18

Withdrawing your child from assembly is not the way to make a stand about the prevalence of CofE schools because it will make absolutely no difference to the wider situation at all.

If all atheist parents did it, it would.

As for notices etc, the school has a legal duty to ensure a child missing assembly gets to hear them. And it is not difficult.

You put the messages first or last so that children withdrawn from worship can attend that part of the assembly.

Or you give notices out in class.

You are very wrong saying the child misses notices and important information.

The framework is clearly laid out that worship forms only a part of the assembly. Therefore if you withdraw from the worship only part, they have to seperate the two components of the gathering.

Your school is very wrong if they do not comply with your request to withdraw from collective worship AND this is NOT assembly.

My children are withdrawn from any assembly the local vicar attends for the duration of his speaking only!

Oh and they can't leave them in the corridor with a book either. They have to be supervised during the withdrawn period.

I suggest your head would find it all a bit inconvenient so stand your ground.

The head would find it inconvenient and probably irritating. I would not want my child to be seen as inconvenient and irritating!

Of course they have to be supervised. They will be placed in a classroom with a book. They will feel very different and conspicuous.

If you really object, take your child elsewhere. (That being said, I would say that the school you describe sounds rather unhinged. My church school is nothing like that.)

howdoyouknowjenny Thu 14-Feb-13 21:51:08

I was withdrawn from worship as a child and didn't feel ' very different and conspicuous' !!! And didn't miss any important messages (that I'm aware of)

If your children understand your decision, I can't see that there would be any problem.

I imagine that writing letters to father Christmas wouldn't be an issue as this is a cultural tradition rather than the indoctrinating of young minds with beliefs that their parent neither believes or supports

exoticfruits Thu 14-Feb-13 22:00:03

There are no secular schools in England and there is very little difference from a faith school or community school which are merely non denominational.
Yours does seem a bit OTT.
However - does your child want to be withdrawn?

BrittaPerry Thu 14-Feb-13 22:03:01

I would object to any 'teaching religion as fact', not 'as culture'

For example, when learning about Ancient Greece, it s fine to tell stories about Zeus etc. Fine dress up as them. Fine to make little model parthenons. Fine to study The Iiliad.

Not fine to make the children recite that they worship Athena or to have representives from the temple coming in and telling them how great Apollo is and that all the girls MUST sacrifice to Artemis or they will die in childbirth.

I HE, but I would give very very serious consideration to withdrawing from worship if I start using schools again.

SavoirFaire Thu 14-Feb-13 22:05:38

Have you spoken to the school about it? Do that before reacting too far in one direction.

ravenAK Thu 14-Feb-13 22:18:11

I would probably begin with a letter citing the incidents you raise, & explaining that your dc choose not to pray, & are currently inclined towards atheism, so it's inappropriate for them to be expected to discuss 'God' as a genuine entity.

I'd go on to say that I accepted that the school was CofE & therefore was going to promote a certain worldview, but that my dc, not being members of the CofE, were not obliged to share it or pay lipservice to it, beyond normal courtesy - eg. listening reasonably attentively & refraining from disruption during 'worship'.

I'd say that I had seriously considered the option of withdrawing my dc from worship but wanted to avoid a) excluding them from aspects of the normal community life of the school & b) the school having to make separate provision.

I would conclude by saying that I was confident that the school would, in future, respect that my dc were not members of the CofE & would not be participating in acts of worship.

...& then I'd leave the school to chew on that for a while.

<not a fan of faith schools>

exoticfruits Thu 14-Feb-13 22:19:42

I would begin by asking DD.

exoticfruits Thu 14-Feb-13 22:20:12

Sorry - asking DD what she wants to do.

dikkertjedap Thu 14-Feb-13 22:33:56

I wouldn't withdraw them as you risk that they get singled out and excluded. It is not supposed to happen but IMO there is a real risk that it will.

I taught at a state school, I am atheist. However, it was one of our duties as staff to pray with kids before lunch and ALL kids had to say the prayer otherwise they were made to repeat it on their own unless their parents had opted out and then they had to wait in a separate area.

Our assemblies were a mix of religious stuff and non-religious but there was quite a bit about heaven and hell and all that. We were also told that we had to teach that the Bible was a true book, i.e. non-fiction. A lot comes down to the Head of the school and how the Head interprets things (and how religious the Head is hmm).

So, don't have your hopes up and I would just explain at home how you think about these things but that at school it is best just to blend in even if you don't think it is true.

In my school I say, 'I am going to say a prayer and if you agree, you can say 'amen' at the end.' The children know that quiet and respect is expected. I would see no reason to withdraw a child from that and indeed, no-one ever has.

Dromedary Thu 14-Feb-13 22:45:49

It's not the case that there is no difference between C of E and other schools. I think that C of E schools employ only Christian staff? The children at our school are very much taught Christian beliefs as facts, even though very few come from Christian families. There are altars in every classroom. I once saw a little Muslim girl being physically forced into the Christian prayer position at end of class prayer time. Muslim children who were not prepared to wear the school symbol of a cross on their jumpers have been expelled. The weekly evangelical Christian club are allowed to bribe the children with sweets, which are otherwise forbidden in school.

Based on how you feel about your school (I feel with you about the little pigs story - how about all those Christians eg in Africa who die horrible deaths every day, despite all their prayers?) I would either make an issue of it, or would put up with it but explain your view of things to your children. For whatever reason, few children who go to C of E schools seem to become, or at least to remain, Christian. The examples you cite are pretty hard for an atheist to stomach, and I think it would be reasonable to talk to the Head about it. He must have come across the Atheist viewpoint before! You are allowed to withdraw your children from RE lessons if you like.

steppemum Thu 14-Feb-13 22:46:34

I am surprised at the extreme practice at your C of E school. I was a parent governor at a village C of E school. I know that 2 of the 4 teachers were practising Christians, but they were very sensitive in how that was delivered.

Having said that, the legal situation allows the school to do all that the head is doing, but it is normally considered to be a bit OTT.

Labelledame if our school presented it the way yours does I wouldn't have an issue whatsoever.

Ours is like the OP. you will pray now and say thank you to god children. Ummmm, no, my child won't thanks.

Whathaveiforgottentoday Thu 14-Feb-13 23:04:47

I think your school is a bit OTT and should be more respectful of different views. I'm a bit surprised that all your surrounding schools are faith schools so would be thinking along the same lines as you. Normally I'd say either put up with it or move schools but looks like that isn't an option for you, so I'd say YANBU to opt your child out of religion in the school.

NotMostPeople Thu 14-Feb-13 23:12:24

My Dc's all went to a C of E primary school, I once accompanied DD's class to the church and heard the Vicar tell the three little pigs story you mentioned in your OP and I was appalled. I'm an atheist DH is a lapsed catholic who can't quite cope with admitted to not believing as the guilt kicks in.

I was all ready to kick up a fuss, I can't remember why I didn't but tbh with hindsight I didn't need to. My eldest two (13 & 11) have come to their own conclusion that there is no God and my youngest aged 10 believes in God. I am happy that they have come to their own conclusions, you could say that without the input from school we were overly influencing them. Clearly they are still young and may well change their views, but I'm clear that they were presented with all sides of the argument and allowed to make up their own minds.

I wouldn't worry.

BrittaPerry Thu 14-Feb-13 23:21:32

I went to a community primary school, where the holiday club was run by the local evangelists (and wasn't advertised as such, I think it had the same name as the youth bible study group at their church which was something like Friends Club) they also came into real lessons and assemblies.

This is why I, from a mostly atheist family, fairly clever and well read, thought that evolution was a crazy theory when I started high school. Because, not oly had it been taught as such, a huge deal had been made of it.

Dromedary Thu 14-Feb-13 23:25:51

I thought that teaching creationism was illegal, BritaPerry? I suppose they just did it anyway? Did they teach wives being subservient to their husbands as well?

LittlePushka Thu 14-Feb-13 23:27:29

I just wanted to offer a thought from a completely different view point, but which supports your concerns over the incidents,

I wholly agree with your concerns and I would be frankly up in arms with our school if these incidents occured to any child, notleast my own, in the school. However, what is interesting is that I say that as a committed Christian with a faith which I am neither afraid nor ashamed to declare or demonstrate or discuss.

Quite apart from the respect he ought to afford to non-Christian students, his view is shamefully narrow and no Christian that I know (and I hang out with a fair few) would ever express such extreme views.

Firstly, if someone told me that they were disappointed that I did not bow my head to pray I would be furious...as if there is a "right" way to present when praying, ...he is being utterly ridiculous. Secondly, in what way does he think that talking about God in a way suggestive of actual existence make God more real? A Christian can no more "prove" His existence than non Christians can prove He does not. Stating He is real does not of itself make it so, the Head is talking utter drivel .

And thirdly I would be extremely upest if a primary school Head used a known fairy tale as a religious allegory...what next... Cinderella struck down in privation and poverty until she found and accepted Prince Jesus Charming?.

So I just wanted to offer you a bit of solidarity on your views from a very grounded Christian. smile

As for withdrawing i have no experience but I can only say this: I want my own children to go to worship because I also want them to feel totally free question things preached to them by others or which they read in a bible - I want them to question my faith, their faith, all faith generally,...I do not want them to accept wholesale anybodys view as "absolute truth". I want them to be equipped to make up their own minds, and in order to do that they have to be exposed to all sorts of views and all sorts of interpretations. ( I regularly am enraged with the bible and the church - I never take it any of it "spoon fed" and regularly chew it up, spit it right back out and pull a face at the ...it does not make me any less of a Christian!). But I would want all that for my children if I were atheist too.

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.

ChristmasJubilee Fri 15-Feb-13 16:53:21

My friend has withdrawn her children from the weekly assembly on religous grounds. She has to go in to supervise them at this time.

RaisinBoys Fri 15-Feb-13 16:54:25

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


What's the problem with having the local Vicar in? S(he) is part of the local community. I haven't got a problem with the local Vicar, Priest, Imam, Rabbi or representative of the Humanists coming in to my children's community school.

It's all part of the SMSC curriculum and an informed child can learn lots and then make up their own mind (as my non believing 9 year old has).

thesecretmusicteacher Fri 15-Feb-13 17:28:50

no but I can understand your concerns about your school.

mull it over a bit....perhaps a more personalised approach expressing your concerns, as the poster above suggested?

I can't solve the bonkers three little pigs story, but I think most heads would change their attitude if they knew that a child had been taught NOT to bow her head - they wouldn't think it was disobedience.

I used to go to weekly mass, but I would never have been forced to take communion IYSWIM, nor forced to say the words of Catholic liturgy - I was expected to be respectful of the majority faith.

exoticfruits Fri 15-Feb-13 19:10:56


You said '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''

It can be exactly the same as opting for a C of E school etc. That was my point.

exoticfruits Fri 15-Feb-13 19:12:32

Probably just the C of E though and not the others.

sunshine401 Fri 15-Feb-13 19:25:51

Why would you withdraw children from anything? They need to learn about religion it is a big part of societies life. They should not be made to physically join in, So I would raise this with the HT.

GrimmaTheNome Fri 15-Feb-13 19:47:00

>What's the problem with having the local Vicar in?
The problem is if its *only *the vicar who comes in (or alternates with the Evangelists). If they invite people from a range of religious and non-religious worldviews, fine - but that doesn't seem to happen so often.

Opting out seems unfair on the child - reminder for everyone that organisations such as the Accord Coalition and the BHA campaign for inclusivity (and there's lots of info on their website) - living in an area like the OPs surrounded by faith schools we went private for primary so the assemblies weren't too bad - how does your DD find it? Does it bother her or is it water off a duck's back?

>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

Yes - and its not like you actively chose to send your DD there for its 'ethos' hmm. It is - to clarify to various posters on this thread who don't quite seem to understand your position - your local state school.

Msrisotto - good point and yes, I do appreciate that it is a good educational experience to listen to bible stories presented appropriately. Also it seems to be teaching them well that writing is not neutral and can be used to build an argument.

Sunshine - I would rather not have to withdraw them, but if the issue of being made to 'pray' is not resolved I can't see what else we could do. I am writing an email to the HT atm.

Grimma - I agree entirely with what you are saying. DD is only bothered by being told to pray, she and my DS found the Three Little Pigs story appropriately ridiculous and are unbothered by most of it.

Dromedary Sat 16-Feb-13 11:14:08

I'll be very interested to hear how the HT responds to your letter, OP, please do tell us! He may simply disregard your views on the basis that he is on God's side and you are not.

Dromedary - I do hope not! I will report back. I am quite nervous! I hope he doesn't just say 'well leave'! Although I have made it clear I want this resolved simply and praised the school in other ways so hopefully he won't! Surely he won't...that would be very unreasonable!

Wellthen Sun 17-Feb-13 11:34:45

I think you should write to the governors explaining your concerns that school worhsip is not inclusive. A child could be very religious themselves and yet not see the need to bow their head when praying. It isnt necessary, its personal choice. Explain that you see the school has an obligation to teach Christianity as true but that they cannot force the children to share this view, as long as they are being respectful.

Personally Id also be tempted to go down the 'fake concern' route and say that the Head is confusing 3 little pigs with the parable about a man building his house on the sand. I'm concerned about this man's actual religious understanding. Most governing bodies of Church schools require their Heads to be practicing Christians.

I agree I wouldnt withdraw as I think exposure to religious life is part of growing and understanding and if anything will make your children more confident in their own beliefs.

Wellthen Sun 17-Feb-13 11:35:13

Sorry, didnt see you have already written a letter!

He replied!

It was actually okay, he said he will make sure staff know not to single out children not in prayer position and can resolve this now he is aware of the issues (although surely he knew this happened, as HT he is in almost every assembly!).

He was also praised my DCs (distraction, or just being nice...?!) and he finally addressed me correctly as Ms after ages of calling me Mrs (that assumption also makes me mad, but that is another story!).

Sorry I mean 'he also', not 'he was also'!

Dromedary Mon 18-Feb-13 20:19:54

Wellthen - is the school obliged to teach that Christianity is true? Why can't the teacher just say - this is what Christians believe?
If it's a Christian private school - fair enough. But such a large percentage of state funded schools teaching on this basis when such a small minority of their pupils are from Christian families, and likewise so few taxpayers who are funding the school?
France is a far more religious country than England, but the state stays well away from religion.

thesecretmusicteacher Mon 18-Feb-13 21:08:44

Well done Manatee - sounds like a good result, with a Ms thrown in to boot!

The little pigs thing is so absurd I think they are in no danger from that....

Dromedary Mon 18-Feb-13 21:19:23

Yes - well done

Dromedary, I am quite sure that they do not have to say that it is true. They can say 'Christians believe' or even 'I believe'.

pooka Mon 18-Feb-13 22:02:05

I would say that while I am atheist and my dcs are not being brought up to follow any religion, I have instructed them to respect those who do believe by bowing their heads in assembly for example. I think that that shows respect for other beliefs.

Example - dfil's funeral last week in cofe church. Dd and I bowed our heads during the prayer and we both sang. Does it hurt my beliefs? No. Did it make dd confused? No.

By extension though, I feel that the teacher who disliked your dc speaking of god in the way of the story would have been better to have said "that's what some people feel about god - but many people also feel that he did exist" in a non-judgemental way.

The three pigs things is daft.

So while I would possibly have to thnk about discussing my concerns with school re the 2 latter incidents, with regards to the assembly and head bowing, I personally think that it wold have been polite for your dd to bow her head. You surely wouldn't expect her to talk during silent prayer?

Dromedary Mon 18-Feb-13 22:24:04

What about being forced to kneel, bow head and press hands together,as our school physically forced a small muslim child to do?

exoticfruits Mon 18-Feb-13 22:32:31

I have been in many, many schools as a supply teacher and have never seen a child forced to do anything. I am not saying that it doesn't happen, but it is very rare. The majority of teachers and Heads are not church goers anyway. They do have to sit in silence but that is just politeness.

BonzoDooDah Mon 18-Feb-13 23:15:03

RavenAK your suggested letter is superb. I may copy it in case I need it in the future!

Manatee - glad the head replied appropriately. A win!

Dromedary Mon 18-Feb-13 23:19:06

Yes, I was pretty surprised to see it. The teacher didn't notice that I was just outside the classroom and could see what she was doing. In fact one teacher was instructing the other to do it. It is a very religious school, and the vibes are that the Christian head and teachers are fed up with there being so many Muslims in a C of E school (far more Muslim than Christian children).

Wellthen Tue 19-Feb-13 09:03:41

Church schools are state schools but they are also funded by the church. In some cases (voluntary aided I think) the church do a large amount of the funding. Just as state funded schools have an obligation to suit the needs and desires of the state, so church schools must follow guidance from the church.

Im not sure they are explicitly oblidged to say that it is true but many of the staff and governors will be Christians and therefore believe it is. In a faith school it is accepted that worship and a certain amount of RE aren't just exposure to and education about religion, they are instruction IN CHRISTIANITY. You wouldnt expect to walk into a Church and hear the phrase 'some people believe' so therefore you may not hear it in a faith school assembly.

I often see this opinion on MN and I think many people are geuninely confused about church schools. Hence why some people call them faith schools - they are state schools but they are not secular. A faith school worth its money should be inclusive and encourage individuality in all its pupils. But they are always going to see spreading the word of Jesus as part of their job.

Wellthen Tue 19-Feb-13 09:06:53

Oh and 'well my DC church school never mentions Jesus' does not mean that what I have said isn't true! Many church schools are relaxed (some are just lax!) about the whole thing and others aren't. All church schools have church inspections - if they fail they lose their church status and a lot of their money. Just as schools ship bad children out and good teachers in for ofsted, so many church schools probably suddenly start saying the Lords Prayer every lesson when the inspectors are in.

Dromedary Tue 19-Feb-13 14:51:11

Wellthen - the system just seems wrong to me, though obviously the C of E are going to take advantage of it.

Wellthen Tue 19-Feb-13 17:52:54

Dromedary I agree with you. I am not against faith schools per se but I don't honestly see a need for them. However in arguments like this I tend to sit on the side of faith schools as people can be startlingly ignorant and offensive about them (not meaning you).

The church is responsible for offering the first ever free education in this country. That is the reason that we still have the rule that all state schools have daily worship of 'broadly Christian character.' They are holding on to their legacy and I think people think it seems churlish to bannish them from education. Maybe I'm wrong, but thats my take on it.

CheerfulYank Tue 19-Feb-13 18:02:28

The school seems a bit ott to me, and I am a practicing Christian.

But I'm American and don't have/believe in tax-funded faith schools either.

Shocked at forcing a Muslim child to kneel; just want to repeat that some church schools are open, inclusive and sensitive to the needs of all staff and pupils. And some people (esp on MN) are very hostile. I suppose not the same ones who are moving house, suddenly attending church, etc, to get their children into said schoosls.

Dromedary Tue 19-Feb-13 21:05:36

Sorry - the children were all kneeling down on the floor already when I looked in, the muslim child then had her head forced down and her hands forced together.
I have some sympathy for people who attend church to get their child into a church school (I didn't). The church school may well be their local school. Even if it isn't, it is a state funded school, and why should a state funded school give preference to those who go to church? If there was one C of E primary school in town, with a big emphasis on teaching C of E beliefs, that might make a bit more sense, although personally I'm against religious segregation. But often the majority of schools are C of E. It seems wrong that non believers should be expected to make the effort to go to a non C of E school, even if it is miles from where they live and/or a poor school.

I think that many - I hope most - church schools are aware of the fact that most families use them because there is no alternative. We know that we must satisfy the Church, in the form of the SIAS inspection, while providing an acceptable education to children from all religions and belief systems. It is a fine balancing act, for which there is frequently little appreciation and understanding from both sides.

Startail Tue 19-Feb-13 22:24:11

I think the DDs' CofE school mostly managed the balancing act pretty well, not too much religion and using the church for things was actually useful as the school hall is a tight fit.

But I've always wondered are you asked if you believe in God to teach at a CofE school?

I can't see how you could get that past discrimination law round here as there are so many small church primaries.

Dromedary Tue 19-Feb-13 22:36:58

I just googled this and found the following on the website of the National Secular Society (hadn't heard of it before):

Faith schools are also permitted to discriminate in employment on religious grounds. Many teachers can find themselves blocked from certain positions because they are non-believers or of the 'wrong' faith. This means that suitably qualified teachers can be discriminated against in a third of all state schools.

Voluntary controlled religious schools can apply a religious test in appointing, remunerating and promoting one fifth of teaching staff, including the Head Teacher. In voluntary aided religious schools, the governing body employs the staff and can apply a religious test in appointing, remunerating and promoting all teachers. It may also apply a religious test to non-teaching staff if a 'genuine occupational requirement' can be demonstrated. In addition, teachers can be disciplined or dismissed for conduct which is 'incompatible with the precepts of the school's religi

exoticfruits Wed 20-Feb-13 07:03:58

They don't those days though, Dromedary- they used to.

exoticfruits Wed 20-Feb-13 07:23:06

However, you will probably find that an atheist doesn't want to teach in a very religious school so there is self selection- they won't apply.

Wellthen Wed 20-Feb-13 08:29:37

I have taught in a faith school and have had many interviews for jobs in them. The majority of primary schools are CE! I've never been asked about my faith although you would be expected to understand that Jesus's teachings would be at the centre of their ethos. I have also never been asked or expected to teach that Christianity is the truth. I would refuse if I was.

Most they only require the Head to be practising and they have a member of the church on their governors. As exotic says, they are permitted to discriminate but most don't.

exoticfruits Wed 20-Feb-13 08:47:13

I know one that discriminated and then they realised they were missing out on the best teachers!

The majority of primary schools are not CofE. From a little google there are 16,971 primary schools in England and only 4,500 primary and middle church schools. Very rough figures as first I came across but even if quite out it is nowhere near a majority. But in this area and others it is a majority.

exoticfruits Thu 21-Feb-13 07:30:28

The majority in villages- the minority in towns. You have to know the history of education to understand why.

Wellthen Thu 21-Feb-13 09:13:51

Fair enough. Thats interesting to know actually as it certainly seems like the majority are faith schools. I was also wrong about the funding for voluntary aided, its not nearly as much as I thought. Just goes to show how much control they have!

However, as someone pointed out much further up thread, many non-faith schools end up being more religious if they happen to have a religious head who follows the rule about 'broadly Christian character' which many schools completely ignore in my experience.

exoticfruits Thu 21-Feb-13 09:16:35

True-the only way is to visit the school and ask the questions-even then you might get change if the Head changes. I don't think that many people ask the questions because they think there are secular schools.

And many faith schools are scrupulous in their inclusion and respect for other views. You just have to visit individual schools and talk to the head teacher. In this country the views of the head teacher play a key role in deciding the character of the school; in my experience, far more than the church or the LEA.

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