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withdrawal from RE/Collective worship AND Gifted/Talented

(643 Posts)
outofthebox Thu 18-Jul-13 12:08:20


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.

SoupDragon Thu 18-Jul-13 13:17:40

I also prefer them to make their own minds up about religion.

ComeIntoTheGardenMaud Thu 18-Jul-13 13:19:13

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.

outofthebox Thu 18-Jul-13 13:19:14

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....

OhBuggerandArse Thu 18-Jul-13 13:19:46

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.

outofthebox Thu 18-Jul-13 13:20:15

Comeinto... really... I didn't know that... so all rights re religion are nil? I've really need to investigate that more!

sonlypuppyfat Thu 18-Jul-13 13:20:19

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

SoupDragon Thu 18-Jul-13 13:21:06

Well no, because the pork thing is a religious requirement. And you aren't religious.

Culture and religion are different things.

piprabbit Thu 18-Jul-13 13:21:19

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.

ouryve Thu 18-Jul-13 13:24:05

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.

ComeIntoTheGardenMaud Thu 18-Jul-13 13:31:28

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.

PandaNot Thu 18-Jul-13 13:32:08

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!

SoupDragon Thu 18-Jul-13 13:32:09

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?

outofthebox Thu 18-Jul-13 13:33:45

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....

sonlypuppyfat Thu 18-Jul-13 13:35:53

I still don't know what an authentic life is

exexpat Thu 18-Jul-13 13:37:07

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.

JakeBullet Thu 18-Jul-13 13:38:46

Your child is in a private have a choice and you CHOSE a Christian school. ...and are now whining about them confused

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 Thu 18-Jul-13 13:40:10

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.

picnicbasketcase Thu 18-Jul-13 13:40:49

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.

outofthebox Thu 18-Jul-13 13:42:03

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)?

titchy Thu 18-Jul-13 13:43:23

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.

IThinkOfHappyWhenIThinkOfYou Thu 18-Jul-13 13:43:35

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.

OhBuggerandArse Thu 18-Jul-13 13:43:59

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?

Somethingyesterday Thu 18-Jul-13 13:44:52

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?

sonlypuppyfat Thu 18-Jul-13 13:44:53

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.

titchy Thu 18-Jul-13 13:45:22

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....

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