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Catholic Schools - please tell me the truth

(152 Posts)
ks Mon 07-Feb-05 13:13:40

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crumpet Mon 07-Feb-05 13:23:35

We were brought up in a secular family, however my brother ended up (for a variety of reasons) boarding at a Catholic school run by an educational order of brothers. As far as I am aware, they did all regularly attend mass, and a lot of the teachers & housemasters were priests, but frankly didn't see it make a jot of difference to him even after 8 odd years. He had an absolute ball, did as little work as possible and left with mediocre results. Oh, and it was co-ed too. Not sure the above answers your question - of course he will have picked up a lot of knowledge (to the extent he listened) about the Catholic faith and its practices, just from being there, but indoctrination wasn't on the menu. Are you thinking of sending your ds to one?

elliott Mon 07-Feb-05 13:25:32

well my knowledge is only second hand, but a friend sends her kids to a Catholic primary school which (allegedly) is open to all. I think she's been fairly surprised by how much her ds in particular has swallowed a lot of the religious stuff - he's very keen that she turns up to church when the school goes (and takes communion!) and he's definitely pretty unquestioning about it all (he's now nearly 9 btw). I think the problem is peer pressure as much as anything - he doesn't want to be different and at that school that means going along with the religious bit.
Personally I think you have to at least be neutral about the possibility that they might become quite keen on the god stuff, otherwise its a bit unfair to send them as you'd be constantly undermining the school ethos. My friend is pretty relaxed about it but I think it did take her a bit by surprise.
(I'm a committed atheist and don't think religious schools should be state sponsored btw so obviously I'd never consider it for mine.)

ks Mon 07-Feb-05 13:26:49

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Caligula Mon 07-Feb-05 13:28:25

I went to a catholic convent school where religion was rammed down our throats non-stop (but in the nicest possible way) and am now a raging atheist.

So I wouldn't worry about your DS converting! If anything, it might put him off!

Caligula Mon 07-Feb-05 13:29:25

Ah, but the Jesuits had the advantage of the Inquisition. Not available to them nowadays, so they're not as effective as they used to be!

Lonelymum Mon 07-Feb-05 13:30:03

Don't know the answer. we are about to move and I am thinking of getting my children into the local RC school. They have been going to a C of E one and I just like the moral tone of the school and am not sure if a secular school would necessarily provide it. Dh and I are RC but mainly non practicing and kids haven't been baptised though I would like them to be.

When I read the RC school prospectus, the Rc side of things does seem very strong, but I think that is just their aims that they have to include in their prospectus. I don't think the reality is as strong, but I think each school is different and you would need to visit and ask questions to find out about your RC school.

ks Mon 07-Feb-05 13:30:53

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crumpet Mon 07-Feb-05 13:31:49

Maybe avoid the Jesuit schools then! I'd agree with elliot that to send a child to any faith school you'd need to be neutral at least.

From memory, I think my brother even served as alter boy at one time, but I'm sure if you were to ask him for his most memorable moment it would probably be finally having access to the school bar when he entered the 6th form!

Like any other school each one will be different - some more hard core than others.

Carla Mon 07-Feb-05 13:34:00

I'd say, from watching mass at school, that ours has slightly more non-Catholics than Catholics. The whole school attend mass, say prayers at assembly, lunchtime and at the end of the school day. They sometimes have a class mass at our local church. I was talking about this to one of the other mums when dd1 first started. She is an athiest, her husband a lapsed Hindu, and she said she was told by the head 'this is what we do here, if you're not happy with it please feel free to find another school'.

I think because it is such a lovely school, and has good academic results, most non-Catholic parents are prepared to put up with the above. Goodness knows, they come from miles away to attend it!

Let us know your concerns .....

crumpet Mon 07-Feb-05 13:34:42

altar

Lonelymum Mon 07-Feb-05 13:34:44

Oh yes if you are all out atheist, then you maybe don't want your son going to a RC school. As a dithering RC, I like the fact that my children come home from their C of E school and sing hymns with Salvation Army-like fervour and discuss the miracle of the 2 loaves and 5 fishes with such seriousness. But it would p* me off if I was an atheist!

Carla Mon 07-Feb-05 13:35:36

elliot! How come your friend's child takes communion?

marialuisa Mon 07-Feb-05 13:35:54

OK, KS, I'm RC and DD is in RC school. Her RC school is definitely what I'd call "Catholicism-lite", although it's run by the Christian Brothers (of beat it into them renown) there are no priests/monks/nuns in school regularly. They have divorced/unmarried parents on the staff. They have mass approx. twice per term, (usually beginning and end) otherwise just normal assembly.

As I said, to me it's very "lite" but DH (atheist, brought up with no religion) finds it terrifying because school has the obligatory crucifixes, statues of Mary etc. As an RC who has grown up with the stuff it doesn't even register on my radar, but I imagine it must look pretty weird to you secular types.I can honestly say that I have witnessed more "indoctrination" style proceedings in Anglican and non-denominational schools with enthusiastic born-again heads.

If it's not reinforced at home, I can't imagine your DS getting any more from it than he would any other R.E. lessons. For me, the one advantage of being in a RC school (possibly any faith school) is that kids don't get ridiculed as "God-botherers" etc. for going to Church. I understand your concerns though, as when we move DD will be attending a Moravian school (no RC alternative)and I'm quietly worrying about what they'll teach her, even if it' just to say the Lord's prayer wrong

Lonelymum Mon 07-Feb-05 13:36:27

I read it as the child wants his mother to take communion.

ks Mon 07-Feb-05 13:37:26

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piffle Mon 07-Feb-05 13:38:58

my son went into an RC primary this yr after all his schooling life being essentially devoid of any religion aside from infrequent and laughable RE lessons
He loves his new school (he is yr 6) they have many interesting things they do and the rise of standards academically is not to be sneezed at.
You can really be ont as involved if you do not want to embrace it.
I am RC and so is my DH well we were born and baptised but we are so lapsed and non practicing as to be heathens really.
But this has not prevented ds doing well and loving the school.

frogs Mon 07-Feb-05 13:39:01

Is this private or state, ks?

What you'll probably find is that private Catholic schools are in the same market as other independent schools, ie. in full-blown pursuit of Results. Hence most will take non-Catholics and will go out of their way to emphasise inclusiveness. Possible exceptions would be the old monastic schools (Ampleforth, St. Mary's Ascot etc).

For state schools, it will vary on how oversubscribed the school is. If they are inundated with applications from practising Catholics you would probably find that almost every child in the school is a baptised Catholic, and lots of them are from practising families. In this kind of situation, although I'm sure they wouldn't use the word 'indoctrination', there will be an assumption of shared underlying values which can translate into quite high-octane RE -- frankly if you say you'd be 'horrified' if ds became a catholic, you probably wouldn't want to send him to our school!

If a school is undersubscribed with practising Catholics, they may be more liberal. But then again there may be a reason why they're undersubscribed.

You could ask the following:

How many hours RE do they have a week? In our school it's 2.5 hrs, ie. 30 mins a day. This is a LOT, and squeezes out other things that secular schools do in this time. Would they be happy for you to withdraw your child from RE? (The answer to this, I suspect, will be NO.)

How often do they have Mass/liturgy in school? In our school it's once a week, on a Friday.

How do they celebrate Holy Days of Obligation? Our lot get taken to church for Mass on Holy Days, from Reception upwards. Quite a lot of preparation goes into these Masses, too, in the form of practising readings, music etc.

What are the arrangements for making 1st Holy Communion? If almost all the class will be making their Communion together (this will be in Y3) a non-Catholic child would feel seriously left out -- it's a BIG deal.

Is the Parish Priest on the board of Governors? What proportion of the Governors/Teachers are Catholics?

Hope this isn't too depressing. You're right to think about this beforehand, as it is a big commitment. in the end, Catholic schools are set up (and partly funded) by the Church to provide a Catholic education for Catholic kids, and if you send your child to one, there will probably be an assumption that you're at least supporting them in that, even if not actively participating. If you're not OK with that, it might be best to look elsewhere.

Oh, and my mattress recommendation would be Argos -- top of the range, still going strong four years later, and great service too!

Lonelymum Mon 07-Feb-05 13:40:29

It won't do the RC teachers and children any harm to have your ds question their faith if that is what he would do. iT is more to do with can you bear it if he goes the other way and likes RCism or can he bear to be with RCs when he doesn't believe a word of it.
If the school says it takes non RCs, it must be used to a bit of dissention.

Caligula Mon 07-Feb-05 13:42:06

TBH KS, if you’re already worried about your DS asking about the moral of a story because of his C of E school, then I wouldn't send him to a catholic school. He's going to be asking lots more of those sorts of questions simply because catholicism will permeate the whole school, in all situations. While I don't think that means he'll eventually become a catholic or anything, it will mean that of course that will influence his thinking and his questions, and it sounds to me like that will make you very uncomfortable. I guess it's a balance between whether you really think it's worth putting up with it for a potentially (but by no means guaranteed) better education.

Mum2girls Mon 07-Feb-05 13:42:14

Well, I went to a catholic primary school, although it was during the 60s so I guess times have changed.

We had to attend mass at the neighbouring church every Weds am and an afternoon service every Friday. We had a religious assembly and RE lessons. I also attended a RC Secondary school.

I have no religious leanings whatsoever now, although both schools were at that time among the best in the city.

marialuisa Mon 07-Feb-05 13:43:10

OH, and unless you're considering Ampleforth the private RC schools are often barely RC at all. DD's school is possibly an exception because we live in an area with a RC majority.

TBH I think how religious the state schools get depends on how big the Catholic community in the area is and what the whims of the parish priest are. My siblings' school is a Convent state school but only 50% of pupils are RC, parish priest is on his last legs and so very relaxed.

Agree that you may need to think carefully about how you'd cope with it though, as not right to send him and then moan about the religious side of things IMO.

ks Mon 07-Feb-05 13:44:54

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ks Mon 07-Feb-05 13:45:53

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Tommy Mon 07-Feb-05 13:46:37

Agree with frogs - thank you for syaing everything I wanted to say but more eloquently....

Where are you in the country ks? That may determine a lot about the style of Catholicism and, therefore, the schools

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