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School uniform and the sign of the cross.

(91 Posts)
oldschool Wed 19-May-04 08:02:56

My daughter's school is proposing a uniform change which would make a jumper with the school badge compulsory. The badge features a prominent crucifix.

It's a C of E voluntary aided school (so 40% of the places are 'open' places). There's been no genuine consultation about this, just a letter extolling the virtues of the new jumpers (hard-wearing, smart).

When I spoke to the head and one or two of the governors their knee-jerk reaction was that if people have chosen to send their children to a church school they shouldn't mind. But I feel uncomfortable at the thought of sending my daughter out with a crucifix emblazoned on her chest. I can imagine some people might have a conscientious objection to it.

What do you all think? Legal guidance is that we should be 'sensitive to religious and cultural differences' in setting a uniform.

Freckle Wed 19-May-04 08:08:02

But the point is, this is a Church of England school. It is funded (in part at least) by the Church of England and is clearly stated to be a CofE school. The crucifix is an important symbol in the church and I suspect that any assemblies held have a strongly Christian tone to them.

If people conscientiously object to the crucifix, then perhaps they should be true to their consciences and place their child in a non-CofE school.

oldschool Wed 19-May-04 08:13:25

Wrong - it is not funded at all by the Church of England - not a single penny. The governors raise their 10% share of the cost of buildings and maintenance by charging it directly to the parents - all of the parents, not just the church members. The taxpayer pays the other 90%.

And, as I said, 40% of the places (by law) are open places, not church places.

SoupDragon Wed 19-May-04 08:15:18

I agree with Freckle. IMO, if someone chooses to send their child to a CofE school, they have to accept that it is a church school with all the "churchy things" that go with it. Anyone that has a true objection to the crucifix should not have considered a CofE school.


SoupDragon Wed 19-May-04 08:17:10

40% may well be "open" places but 60% are, I assume, therefore church places.

Hulababy Wed 19-May-04 08:44:25

I have to agree with soupdragon and Freckle. If you choose a church school then you have to accept that some aspects of the school and education will be church related.

Sonnet Wed 19-May-04 09:11:08

Have to agree with Soupdragon, Hulababy and Freckle. It dosn't matter *where* the money comes from to fund the school. The fact is that it is a church school with an underlying church philosophy and by choosing that school for your children you are accepting the whole philosophy that goes with it.

oldschool Wed 19-May-04 09:14:12

Isn't there a difference between accepting aspects of the school that are church-related and actually wearing a crucifix?

It is possible to have respect for the church without being a Christian. Wearing a crucifix, to many people, is the same as claiming to *be* a Christian.

How is your attitude compatible with showing sensitivity to religious differences?

Would you expect Jewish and Hindu children to wear the badge too?

I am asking out of interest. I haven't made my mind up yet, I'm still trying to think it through.

Hulababy Wed 19-May-04 09:15:44

I would accept *anyone* who went to a church school to wear the same uniform and badge - so yes. They chose to go to that school - they don't have to.

marialuisa Wed 19-May-04 09:22:56

If you send your child to a faith school you have to accept that their will be religious symbolism all over the place.

We have a Jewish high school here with a large minority of other faith pupils. All pupils wear the school badge on jumpers etc. which features a menorah, a Star of David and Hebrew motto. Sensitivity to religios and cultural differences is referring to allowing things like hejab and turbans and not demanding that Muslim girls wear knee length skirts.

SoupDragon Wed 19-May-04 09:24:58

If a Jewish or Hindu person did not agree with their child wearing the crucifix badge, then they should not send their child to an overtly Christian (ie church) school. Being 'sensitive to religious and cultural differences' works both ways, which is often forgotten.

The crucifix is only meaningful if you believe it is. Otherwise it's just a school badge. The school badge was part of the school when parents chose it for their child, therefore they have to aggree to their child wearing it even if it were not compulsory at the start.

Pidge Wed 19-May-04 09:36:46

oldschool, ultimately I'd reluctantly agree with the others, but I'm very sympathetic to your unease about this. I may well end up sending my dd to a church school, though my partner and I are agnostic / atheist. The reason is that we are moving to a house 20 yards from the school and I want my daughter to go to the local school. She'll be able to get there without even crossing a road. For me, the right to attend the local school will probably override my concerns about it being a church school. I will not lie about my beliefs, but I would probably choose my battles carefully. Any indication of intolerance to non-Christian beliefs should be picked up on, but I guess I might let a uniform alteration slip.

For me this opens up the whole debate about whether the state should be funding religious schools. I think it's unhealthy for children to be educated solely with other children of the same religion whether they are Christian, Muslim, Jewish or whatever. I think a publicly funded school should reflect the community it is based in, which in this country tends to be pretty multi-faith. Of course many church schools, like yours, have places for non-believers, but if 40% of the kids are not Christian it makes me wonder why it needs to be a church school at all.
Anyway, that's another story. I do think that given 40% of the kids at your dd's school are not Christian there should be consideration given to their views too. They're not an insignificant part of the school population.

lars Wed 19-May-04 09:38:01

I don't see the problem with this. My own children wear a uniform like this and attend a church school- open places as well.

I think the governers have a point if you don't like the idea is the school and it's beliefs for you.

Don't mean to sound harsh but this is not the only school following this kind of uniform.

As for jewish and hindu children in our school yes they do wear the uniform no problem as represent another faith. The parents don't object as they chose to attend this school as a matter of choice. larsxx

twiglett Wed 19-May-04 09:43:38

message withdrawn

Freckle Wed 19-May-04 09:52:54

What is the point of this being a CofE school if it can't portray its faith in any way? I don't profess to understand why some schools are one way and some another way, as in grant-aided, CofE, volunatary aided, etc. But the fact of the matter is that this *is* a clearly-advertised-as-such religious school.

Twiglett, I don't know where you live, but, round here, you'd be hard-pressed to find a church school - very thin on the ground.

Would it be better for such school to insist that all their pupils adhere to their faith? Exclude any children who were not Christian? Would that be better. I suspect that most of the non-Christian people who send their children to a CofE school do not have any strong feelings wrt religion generally. If they did feel very strongly, perhaps they wouldn't choose to send their child there in the first place.

Hulababy Wed 19-May-04 09:54:35

We live in Sheffield and I work in Doncaster. Have to say round here most schools are *not* church schools.

marialuisa Wed 19-May-04 10:01:31

I'm not sure about that Twiglett. The (small) muslim population here deliberately choose faith schools (Christian and Jewish) for their kids. I wonder if agnostics/atheists get far more upset about Christian symbolism than peple of other faiths; I've just asked a Sikh colleague about this (his kids go to a CofE school) and his response was that he would be upset if the kids couldn't wear the symbols of their religion but having "always faithful to christ" on their T-shirts is meaningless to them. He said that "I am secure in my faith and if the kids aren't, then I've gone wrong somewhere".

Slinky Wed 19-May-04 10:01:55

We haven't got a single "faith" school at all in our town - nearest Secondary (Catholic) is 1/2hr up the road.

expatkat Wed 19-May-04 10:02:09

Old school, I agree with you. I think a distinction ought to be made between (a) wanting your child to have a Christian education and (b) wanting your child to have a crucifix emblazoned on her uniform. It's not so much that the crucifix might offend anyone attending that C of E voluntary aided school, but what about when a line of children walks down the street (as happens in London) in a diversely populated area? As a symbol, the crucifix is one of the most loaded. Why is it necessary for children to wear them on their jumpers? I suppose it's just my "aesthetic" or whatever to favour privacy in belief/religion/lifestyle/politics--whatever your "deity" happens to be.

SoupDragon Wed 19-May-04 10:05:02

I agree that any Jewish, Muslim, Hindu etc parent who felt uncomfortable sending their child out in a uniform with the sign of another religion on it would feel uncomfortable about sending them to a CofE school anyway.

The badge has always been part of the school, it's not like they've suddenly said "right, we're introducing a new badge and it's going to be a whopping big crucifix". The badge was part of the school when the 40% "open place" parents chose the school.

FWIW, most schools near me are non church schools.

coppertop Wed 19-May-04 10:08:45

Sorry but I don't see the problem. Is it fair that the majority of the children in the school should be denied the right to wear a symbol of their religious faith? If you can't wear a cross in a Christian school in a predominantly Christian country then where can you wear it?

Pidge Wed 19-May-04 10:09:40

Apparently in London 1% of people attend church, but 40% of children attend church schools. So in London at least the church school issue is a big one.

I still think I'd pick my battles carefully - the most important being that every child is entitled to a good education regardless of their race, creed, social class etc etc.

SoupDragon Wed 19-May-04 10:14:29

I think there is a difference between wanting yur child to wear a crucifix on a chain which, IMHO, is a "proper" religious symbol and displaying the school badge which is to do with the history/origins of the school and not about your child's faith.

If they are not asking other religions to stop wearing their own religious symbols then I don't think they're being insensitive to other religions/cultures.

I would imagine that, say, a muslim child walking down the street in their religious dress would experience far more negativity than a child in a school jumper.

frogs Wed 19-May-04 10:31:37

I think the point about non-religious people minding about these symbols more may be a fair one. We're Catholics, and yes, my children's uniform does feature an overly religious symbol, but if I'd made a conscious decision to send them to, say, a Jewish school, I wouldn't have a problem with them wearing a uniform featuring, for example, a star of David. I would see this as an expression of the ethos and values of the school which I have subscribed to by choosing to send my child there, regardless of my own religious beliefs.

Continuing this hypothetical example, if the children then wanted to wear the star of David on a chain round their neck like their classmates, I would discourage them on the grounds that that's a personal statement of religious affiliation which would be inappropriate for non-Jewish people.

marialuisa Wed 19-May-04 10:34:06

But Expatkat, by that logic it's ok for me as a Catholic to be offended by people in turbans...Can't imagine anyone's going to agree that that would be an acceptable view.

TBH most Church schools I know of do not include a cross in their school badge. They use other symbols e.g. sacred heart, saint's logo etc. But a nearby non-faith primary has a large Celtic cross as its logo because of the village's history.

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