What exactly is a 'Christian ethos'?

(16 Posts)
polymama Thu 07-Apr-11 11:37:24

My kids aren't going to school for a couple years, but threads I've seen here have me worried.

We live in an area of London where all the schools are oversubscribed. There's about 8 local schools, one is Catholic (not great but most oversubscribed), one 'community' and the rest CofE, but with only half the places reserved for church attenders - you choose whether to apply for a church place or an open place, and then it comes down to distance. Which school we get is likely to come down to which ones are forced to have a bulge class that year.

I was thinking I wasn't too bothered about the school being technically CofE - learning great tunes from hymns, learning bible stories, hearing a moralistic tale in assembly each day are all fine by me. But then I read some of the blurb and got scared.

"X School has a distinctive Christian ethos ... we ask all parents to respect the Christian ethos of our school and its importance to our community."

Does this mean they can kick a child out if I don't 'respect' their ethos? What do they want me/my child to do? I know corporal punishment is banned so my kids can't be hit on the knuckles for reciting the days of the week starting with Sunday like I was, but will they get shouted at if they just sit quietly and don't recite Our Father in assembly, or given bad marks if they write up RE stories in a way that shows they don't believe them? And they talk about trips to church and priests coming in which never happened when I was a kid - is this normal??

JWIM Thu 07-Apr-11 12:00:31

Best to go to the school and look around and ask the question of the Headteacher. A Christian Ethos in our school means that you support the aim to respect everyone within the school community, treat others as you expect to be treated, be kind, well behaved - really adopting a 'moral' way of behaving. Our school also has some symbols to demonstrate that we are a CoE school - so a cross is visible in assembly.

We have some services in the local church and the vicar takes some in school assemblies. We also celebrate other religious festivals and have visits to places of worship for other religions. Does any of that give you cause for concern?

sparkle12mar08 Thu 07-Apr-11 12:13:17

They will teach the existence of God as fact, and yes, the church they're attached to will be heavily involved in the day to day life of the school. I could never send my child to a church school personally.

Blu Thu 07-Apr-11 12:17:31

Best to check with them - after all their Christian Ethos could be based on either the spirit of the Crusades, or the Quakers, or anything in between, really.

polymama Thu 07-Apr-11 12:52:44

Thanks JWIM - Does any of that give you cause for concern? - it depends on what the vicar and teachers are saying, doesn't it! Visits to places of worship in principle I think is a good thing, but I guess my main worry is that the offspring will be made to feel inferior for not having their 'own' place of worship - the admissions policy for the school dss may go to is very much 'we value people of other Christian and faith backgrounds' and no mention of 'all faiths and none'.

If half of the pupils are non-Christian-applicants (a mixture of Muslims, evangelical Christians that don't qualify for the Christian places, and non-practicing people), is that likely to dilute the message? If ds ends up telling a teacher that god is just a story that people believed when they didn't know any better, I'm quite happy for him to be told that's bad manners and that many people nowadays do believe in a god - it's the idea of telling him he has to believe that worries me.

I'm probably happier with religious education coming from a vicar or similar who will have thought about their religion, than many practicing religionists (who could be in any school) who stifle debate on their religion (eg child pointing out discrepancies in Genesis).

Sigh. It's going to be a least-worst-option choice - can't afford to go private at least for primary, not that I know of any secular private schools, and home ed would be a very last resort if the kids were actively unhappy, so will have to see where the council throws us. And offer to go into the schools or source speakers to provide a humanist or secular perspective.

IloveJudgeJudy Thu 07-Apr-11 12:57:17

My DC's old primary was just like JWIM's, but theirs was Catholic. The Christian ethos was mostly being kind, treating others as you would like to be treated, etc.

There were quite a few people of other faiths at the school (even though not in London), but everyone joined in all school life, no difference between anyone at all.

JWIM Thu 07-Apr-11 14:13:35

Now feeling like an 'old hand' parent at this Primary School lark (10 years and counting), I would say - rather than assume the worst and try to do something about it in anticipation, just see how things pan out.

I know that some have very strongly held views about the fact that by law schools should have some element of Christian based daily worship. Until that is changed the system is as it is. If you feel strongly then maybe joining one of the campaigns for change might suit?

Yes - you might find that i teh school your children attend the Christian teaching is full on and other religions/no religion very much in the background or ignored, but that would probably be the exception rather than the norm.

On the other hand there could well be a happy school community celebrating the diverse community that our children are part of, where children experience some religious teaching but other views are ackowledged too.

blackeyedsusan Thu 07-Apr-11 14:54:07

they vary. the coe school dd attends is very Christian, some others are not so. I think you will need to visit and find out a bit more if it bothers you.

UnSerpentQuiCourt Thu 07-Apr-11 21:04:32

I teach in a church school. I would say that there is a certain assumption that the existence of God is a fact, but it is in no way aggressive; the vicar, head teacher and some staff believe but have no issues with anyone, adult or child, who doesn't. As often as we remember, we say 'Christians believe that Jesus died on the cross', etc, rather than 'Jesus died on the cross.' Certainly no child would be told off for expressing any personal view, although they would be expected to be polite and respectful of others and their views. I nearly had a stand-up fight in the year one class last week as the children debated their parents' views about life after death; we certainly tolerate diversity of opinion!

polymama Thu 07-Apr-11 21:32:21

Thank you serpent - sounds like it might all be less scary than the website. I'm sure I'll learn a lot more about the local schools over the next year as friends' kids join them.

Greenwing Thu 07-Apr-11 22:30:52

I work in a Church school.
Some CofE schools are more religious than others. The ones which are 'Voluntary Aided' usually have a closer link to the Parish.
Others are called CofE more for historical reasons because they were set up by the Church in Victorian times.

Any church school will be expected to teach the Christian religion, especially the Christmas and Easter stories and common prayers like the Lord's Prayer.

A Christian ethos means that children will be taught to follow Jesus teaching. In a nutshell that is 'to love God and to love your neighbour as yourself', your neighbour being everybody in the world. They would emphasize self-respect, respect for others, respect for the environment because God created the world (but not in six days - they don't teach Creationism). There should be am emphasis on community, helping others and raising money for charities.

MyWildAnimals Thu 07-Apr-11 23:08:32

UnSerpentQuiCourt - that all sounds nice and I understand that you are specifically talking about a church school.

However it's a shame that any child should be in the position of having their views 'tolerated' rather than 'accepted as equal' when you are are (presumably) talking about a state school, which many parents won't have chosen BECAUSE it is a church school (ie they might have chosen it because it is a good state school close to home, their children's friends go there etc).

UnSerpentQuiCourt Fri 08-Apr-11 20:18:56

Animals, you are reading far too much into the choice of one word - we totally accept that we are the village school which is there for everyone, regardless of religious persuasion. We have a Muslim family, a Jewish family, some CofE families and most with (to us) unknown religious/non-religious views. The children do hear stories from the bible sometimes in assembly, and sing a hymn most days. No-one tells them they must or should believe anything in particular. Many of the children seem to accept bible stories as true; quite a few do not, quite vociferously when they get into year 5 and 6. Nobody gets upset; I have just been writing reports where I have been commenting favourably on those children who 'respond sensitively and respectfully of others' beliefs'.

ComeIntoTheGardenMaud Fri 08-Apr-11 20:37:25

In the C of E school where I'm a governor, the head teacher explains to new parents that the "Christian ethos" means emphasising Christian values of kindness and respect. She also explains that the school is well aware that Christianity does not have a monopoly on these values, but they are the values that the school promotes. The school hopes that parents will be comfortable enough with the Christian ethos that they won't withdraw their children from assemblies - although it recognises their right to do so - but we are in an urban area with a lot of other schools nearby, so parents who would not be comfortable with religious assemblies and RE are unlikely to apply, as there are local alternatives.

Rosebud05 Fri 08-Apr-11 21:33:37

Make an appointment with the school and talk it through with them.

My friend got a bit intimidated by the school blurb as you describe, but when she asked the school they weren't particularly interested in religion; it was something to do with some of their funding if I remember rightly.

meditrina Fri 08-Apr-11 21:37:42

I agree - check with the school.

My first thought was that it's likely to be entirely innocuous - simply meaning that as it's a Christian school they want you to respect that and not have a public anti-Christian stance which would undermine that ethos. But it could be more than that, and the only way you'd find out is to ask.

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