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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.

senua Tue 30-Jul-13 09:35:54

Sorry OP but I still think that you are wrong because you misunderstand the Nativity Play.

I would compare it to the recent royal birth. There are plenty of people in this country who don't support the monarchy but even they are quite willing to say "aww. a new baby. isn't that nice." That is the spirit of Christmas: in the depths of winter, we can feel new hope for a better future via the innocence of a newborn and the love of family.

Christmas is about love. How can you possibly object to that?confused

LizzyDay Tue 30-Jul-13 09:45:05

Exotic - "The safest way is to know all the options."

If that means learning about lots of world religions then yes absolutely. If it means worshipping then you can't possibly 'know all the options' by worshipping a different god every day. It doesn't make any practical or moral sense to impose a particular flavour of worship on a child in school.

GrimmaTheNome Tue 30-Jul-13 10:01:24

Lizzy - yes. That's why secularists tend to be very much in favour of RE but against Collective Worship. I think within RE its reasonable for children to observe various forms of worship, with no compulsion to participate unless they wish.

senua - yes.... perhaps the OP might find it interesting to attend a school nativity play, in the spirit of an anthropologist studying the natives.

exoticfruits Tue 30-Jul-13 10:30:59

I would agree that collective worship has no place in school but while it is part of the day I think it madness to withdraw them and make it madly exciting! Anything that got my mother upset would be very interesting!
I can't think of a single convert to Christianity through a school assembly-the churches would be full to overflowing if it was the result. It is no big deal to most-mother withdrawing you suddenly makes it a huge deal.

GrimmaTheNome Tue 30-Jul-13 10:47:48

exotic - yes, agreed - at least in most schools, though you do hear of some which are problematic (either convincing children at least temporarily, or upsetting them).

LizzyDay Tue 30-Jul-13 10:48:40

I agree that it's better to leave them in than take them out - just because it's not fair to make the child the odd one out, especially if they are the only one.

No child (or parent) should be put in this position in the first place though.

mrsshackleton Tue 30-Jul-13 15:22:14

Op, don't investigate state schools, they will not be as compromising as your head has been and you'll be in a constant state of stress avoiding Diwali, Eid, Christmas, Easter etc.

And yes, you're an atheist, so why are you so specifically upset about the birth of the Messiah, when it's all made up?? confused

mrsshackleton Tue 30-Jul-13 15:25:47

And I don't pay tax to see teachers wasting time dealing with such esoteric requests. Save it for the private sector.

Needmoresleep Tue 30-Jul-13 18:33:36

Op, I think what people have been trying to say is that there are two issue. First whether a child for a Jewish heritage should take part in a nativity play, and second what approach is most suitable in the UK.

I dont know why you are over here, but I expect you will be finding that the US and UK are two countries divided by a common language. Often it can be easier to be in a country which is more obviously foreign. London is more confusing because so many people are from so many places. However underlying this is a British sense of just getting on with things and not making a fuss.

Which is why we end up with all sorts of fudges, including the question of religion in schools.

If I were raising my kids in an Islamic country or in Israel, I would want them to come away with an good understanding and appreciation of the religion underlying the culture of the country and good memories of the various festivals, in part to enhance their internationalism in an increasingly inter-dependent world. Travel broadens the mind etc.

Going back over a decade to when my kids were small. They went to a London private school which was owned by a Muslim, with a significant number of Jewish pupils, a vegetarian head who apparently believed in reincarnation and which proclaimed a Christian ethos. Once a year the whole school trooped off to the local Catholic church where lots of carols were sung and the owner gave a reading. Completely batty, but good.

One Jewish mother refused to let her son take part in any of the carol practices. A pity because these took up a lot of time in nursery and the child was essentially left watching videos in a nearby room. After the service I asked another, practicing, Jewish mother, why she did not withdraw her child. She said they had thought carefully about whether to send their child to a Jewish school but in the end had decided against for diversity reasons. Having made this decision they felt it important that they played a full part in the life of the school.

Neither mother was British. The first left quite early on, and I don't think she was ever really happy here. The second is probably here for good.

Oddly, as a lapsed Catholic, I too felt a little uncomfortable with the carol service. Others did not understand the conventions I had grown up with, like not talking in church and genuflecting before sitting down. But a case of recognising the discomfort and living with it.

I agree with others that state schools might not work either. The issue is more that there may be a general expectation of muddling through and not making a fuss, when the British approach appears to diverge with the American one, an with larger classes less willingness to make special arrangements. There are Jewish state schools, who would presumably would take an atheist. (I think all church schools have to take a proportion who are not practicing.) Or one of the American schools, which are used by a good proportion of American ex-pats.

But honestly I would simply relax, go with the flow and accept that though we may be wrong, this is the way things happen here. Just like the Royal family or the NHS.

handcream Tue 30-Jul-13 18:49:02

I agree with others on the thread. You sound somewhat intense in your views. You have chosen a Christian school yet you want to control what the school does.

My DH and I are very lapsed Catholics to such an extent that we had a civil service and our DC are not christened etc. That caused problems in the family with one family member saying unless we got married in church she wouldnt recognise the marriage! That I feel is up to her!

We would like out children to experience the teachings of all religions and then they can make up their OWN minds about what to follow. I have real issues with parents forcing their extreme views on children. FGS let them experience being taught about religion and then make their own mind up!

louisea Wed 31-Jul-13 00:23:44

There are Jewish state schools, who would presumably would take an atheist. (I think all church schools have to take a proportion who are not practising.

There are plenty of Jewish schools but just like church schools we now have to have a form signed by a Rabbi which means attending a synagogue for a set number of sessions. If as the OP says, she is an atheist, she probably doesn't want to attend a synagogue.Most Jewish schools are heavily oversubscribed so you will find very few non-Jewish children in their intakes. The only two schools I can think of are in Enfield and Manchester.

All Jewish schools also have collective worship every day so that wouldn't really solve the problem. Instead of a Nativity play there would be Pesach mock Seder, Breakfast in the Sukkah, Kabbalat Shabbat every week, grace after meals and morning prayers every day. Those are just some of the things in our school. There are also Hebrew lessons, Chumash lesson and Jewish Studies. Sounds like the OP has got off lightly in their school.

Actually, I'm amazed that the head teacher of a Christian faith school is being so accommodating.

my2bundles Wed 31-Jul-13 09:40:55

You have sent your child to a christian school yet you dont want him to hear anything to do with christianity. Sounds to me like he is in the wrong school, you carnt expect extra staff to remove your child completely when you have made the choice to send him there (esp since the majority of lessons and assmblys will have some kind of christian reference to them). If I was you I would free the place for someone who actually wants that kind of education and look for an alternative school.

pennefab Wed 31-Jul-13 22:22:02

OP - sounds like the headmistress us being exceptionally accommodating. Advice is to be grateful and thankful. Please do yourself a favor and research before you make additional changes or push for accommodations for your DC.

Please don't be play the "Jewish" card with respect to Nativity plays being offensive to Jews (collectively). They are offensive to you, as far as you are concerned. Leave it there. Not all Jews feel as you with regard to G-d, religion, Judaism, Christianity and other faiths, RE, school, etc.

Talkinpeace Thu 01-Aug-13 15:57:14

Sounds to me like the headmistress will give her kids a glowing reference for the State school grin

SisterMonicaJoan Thu 01-Aug-13 22:26:43

I also think the OP is kidding herself that her G&T DS will be getting "extra lessons" while being withdrawn from assembly / nativity etc.

In reality, he'll go into whichever class is availavle and if he is put into an older class he will be given paper and some crayons or bring a book from his classroom in with him.

He will not be given any meaningful tution. In fact, can you imagine if other parents of G&T children find out that your son is getting extra support? I don't think the Headmistress will put herself in that position tbh.

exoticfruits Fri 02-Aug-13 06:53:07

Of course he won't be getting extra lessons, the time slot is much too short- he will just be in with them as somewhere to go with an activity as SisterMonica says.

handcream Fri 02-Aug-13 10:07:17

It does surprise me just how many parents look at a school (especially private) ignore the rules and policies they dont like and then start bleating about not being made a exception for certain things!

Our prep shcool for our younger son is last two years boarding 11-13 yrs (it prepares the boys for senior boarding). No exceptions even if you live opposite the school. I am surprised some parents think it doesnt include them, the head is very very clear. He sets his stall out. If you dont like it and of course some dont you DONT go there.

Its a fab school but for some boarding is not something they want to do, you dont join and then assume you will be allowed to bypass the rules.

I think some parents pride themselves on 'fighting' a school especially around the religious aspect. It gives them something to do....

donnie Sun 11-Aug-13 08:47:17

OP you are such a hypocrite!
- you announce yourself as an atheist yet moan and whine because the Nativity claims Jesus is the Son of God - why do you care if you are an 'atheist?

You announce yourself an atheist yet insist on sending your ds to a Christian school.

You demand that your ds be separated and isolated from all religious discussion and activity, then bemoan the fact that he is being separated and isolated.

You demand 'respect' for Jewish ideas and beliefs which you claim to have no interest in, but you are utterly dismissive of Christian ideas and beliefs.

YOu are clearly more interested in making a name for yourself as a truculent and obstructive parent than you are in making your child's experience of school a happy and inclusive one. It is clear from your posts that actually , you are not remotely interested in your son's happiness or sense of integration. I pity your son.

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