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Church of England Primary Schools (how religious?)

(36 Posts)
YorkshireRobbo Tue 18-Oct-11 16:29:52

Dear All,

This is my first post and I hope not to cause a furore with it, but here goes.

We are in the process of moving deep into the Yorkshire Dales where there are several lovely little CofE primary schools, our daughter is 4 years old will be ready to join as we move.

I come from a non religious family and in fact would class myself as a rank and file atheist. Whilst I defend the right of every individual to believe in what they choose, I would not want our children thinking as they grow up that believing in a god is the norm. I will leave it down to them to decide once they are of an age where they can.

We have to accept though when living out in remote villages that the CofE does provide very good schools and they come highly recommended.

When speaking with schools they always offer the advice that religion is taught to children just as much as it would be in any RE class in any kind of school, BUT, I wonder how strongly it will be taught and where the bias lies in the teaching?

I have a friend who is head of RE at a very large public school, he is in fact an agnostic himself and teaches all aspects of religion, good, bad and ugly - this I accept. Religion (fortunately or unfortunately) is everywhere in the world and he teaches his classes about all aspects. He does not promote religion.

Also some of the schools seem to offer over and above the standard 10 minute daily assembly with hymn and prayer and actively promote daily worship and study. This is seems to me an idealistic way of a CofE school teaching and promoting what they believe to be the truth, as opposed to offering a broad view of religion.

I do know that schools offer the option for parents to opt their children out of any religious teachings, assemblies or sessions BUT how lambasted is a parent for doing so and how is the parents child viewed in doing so?

Do many parents opt their children out of religious teachings, is it the norm.

The simple answer would be to send our children to a normal school out of the area. This is not really an option.

Am I being over sceptical of religion in schools? Is there nothing to worry about? Is religious teaching watered down today?

I left school in the early 1990's and remember as clearly as if it was yesterday the moment in RE when I put my hand up and said to our teacher at the time, Reverend Green, that I thought the science lesson we had just had offered a far better explanation as to why we all exist than his "Adam & Eve" story ever could. I was sent straight to the head master for detention on the basis that I had removed my blazer without asking the Reverends permission....?

Maybe I owe Rev Green for my views over school and religion and my uneasyness at sending our children to a CofE school.

No offence meant to anyone, I am simply airing my views, all of which we have and welcome any comments.

Thank you.

malinois Tue 18-Oct-11 16:40:21

Rural CoE primaries tone it down a bit because they realise parents don't have any choice. We would have to go at least 15 miles to find a non-CoE primary school and would never get a place anyway. Certainly at our village primary only a very small minority of parents are churchgoers - the church is lucky if they manage four old ladies and a sheep that's wandered in by accident on a Sunday.

mrsbaffled Tue 18-Oct-11 16:44:07

I think they vary. My local school is CofE. We are Christians and the school is not nearly as Christian as I would like it to be!

ASuitableGirl Tue 18-Oct-11 16:46:18

DS and DD go to a CE school. Definite Christian ethos and local vicar does do services quite often but no overt Christian "teaching".

YorkshireRobbo Tue 18-Oct-11 17:10:54

Wow, thansk for the very quick responses, especially the 4 old ladies and sheep in church,it did make me chuckle.

It would be interesting to hear from anyone who has opted their children out of religious teachings and involvement, however reading other threads it seems to be a case of my non religious views being in a majority rather than minority when it comes to village CofE primary schools.

PS, what do people mean when they refer to their children in posts as DD or DS? I have onyl just got used to 'text speak'

roadkillbunny Tue 18-Oct-11 17:29:53

Being rural we have no choice but the send dd (dear daughter btw) to the village CofE school. As somebody else said these village schools understand that parents have little to no option but to send their children to a church school.
With our school the religious aspect is very much a small background noise, sing a hymn, they say a prayer and listen to a parable (normally one adapted to modern life) at assembly in the morning but after that there is little religion in their day, they say a little prayer before lunch and have RE lessons about lots of different religions.
I was brought up quite strict Catholic and went to catholic schools but even then I didn't feel the religion was laid on heavy at school and my schools were far more faith driven then dd's. I came away at the end with very distinct ideas about religion that did not hold with Catholicism.
Now, I don't know what you would call me, I lean towards CofE more out of convenience but I don't hold much with organised religion, I go to service when I can, I attend the school services (4 a year, start of year, harvest, Christmas and leavers) and any I can make in between (I work Sundays), my dh (dear husband) does not hold with religion at all so doesn't take the children although they enjoy it when I take them. DD is in Y2 now and has her own ideas about it all, she enjoys church but she hasn't yet made a decision about what she personally believes, I asked her is she wanted to be christened and she told me not yet, she doesn't know if it would be the right thing yet so she has formed a very healthy opinion about it all from within a CofE education.
The problem is all this depends greatly on the school, city schools tend to be more full on as they have far more people who are actively choosing to have a church education were village schools accept there is little choice in the matter and tone it down. The only way for you to know how it may work for you is go and visit the schools involved.

mummytime Tue 18-Oct-11 20:10:43

C of E schools vary a lot. For instance my DCs very Christian C of E would never ban Harry Potter, has lots of children of other faiths and none. Also I would guess that almost all the staff whilst mainly Christians believe in evolution (as do most Christians).
Very few children do opt out of assemblies etc. (and they are usually Jehoviahs Witnesses).
You really need to go and look at the schools, and ask questions. That is the only way to find out if you are happy with a school.

florist Tue 18-Oct-11 20:14:07

So what is the point of CofE schools?

emlu67 Tue 18-Oct-11 20:58:51

Although I am not religious DCs attend the local village school which is Cof E. A small school with only 30 pupils per year. The main thing I have found is that they teach what they call 'gospel values' which can probably be applied to most religions. These values are lacking in a lot of schools these days no matter what religion(s) the children are!

I am so glad that I chose this school as all the children are happy and so considerate of others and love to be there.

If you are at all uncomfortable I would suggest making an appointment to see the head to explain fully, all schools are different.

The children do say grace before they go to lunch, all very well until I got to the supermarket checkout one day and DS (4) started singing 'For health and strength and daily food we praise your name our lord, ahmen'!

birdofthenorth Tue 18-Oct-11 21:16:00

I am Chair of Governors at a CofE primary. Christianity is part of the whole school ethos and does permeate beyond RE lessons, especially in morning worship & at festival periods (Xmas, Easter, Harvest festival etc). Other religions are covered in RE but Christianity is not presented objectively (nor would the Christian parents expect it to be). However, where we live there are 3 non faith schools within a mile's radius so parents do have plenty of choice (our's is currently rated highest by Ofsted so a fair few non-religious parents stomach the Christian ethos -and possibly undermine it/ provide a more objective view elsewhere). I grew up in a much more rural area where CofE schools were the only option & mine was only moderately religious, and I imagine there is even more variance in this day & age. However, all I would say is if you do knowingly send kids you do not wish to believe in God to a Christian school, please don't openly undermine the ethos, and please try to support your kids' involvement in stuff like Christmas Carol services. Obviously what you teach your kids at home is wholly up to you & I respect you for given them a pluralist view of all faiths & none.

mycatoscar Wed 19-Oct-11 11:12:44

I teach in a c of e aided school and we say prayers 3 times a day, have a daily Christian worship session and teach Christianity as fact. We also attend church as a whole school once a week for a private service done by the local rector and at least four other times in the year for harvest, Easter, Xmas and leavers service where each child is blessed and presented with a bible.

My dd goes to a c of e controlled school where they do things in a much more toned down way.

So I would say that schools vary massively and one funded by the diocese is likely to be a lot more overtly Christian than an ordinary c of e school.

You need to go and look at schools and get a feel for them, also ask specifically about prayers, worship and re lessons.

An0therName Wed 19-Oct-11 11:46:08

the issue is that you may not have masses of choice - in my case our local village scool is CofE - and fairly full on I think - although lots of people from different countries which helpd its a very good school otherwise - and I wasn't personally prepared to transport him to the nearest non-faith school - which isn't perhaps as good - and have all the downside of non local friends and not being as part of the community - I also wouldn't pull DS out of religious contents - and it would be quite tricky anyway - as that could mean assembly every day - the bishop came to visist - would that count?. We have interesting dicussion about what we believe- why isn't he christined was one
and I am happy with that - my view is I am happy for him to know lots of different views and them make up his own mind
http://www.mumsnet.com/info/acronyms

TimmyTimeRules Wed 19-Oct-11 11:51:49

My children attend a non-selective CofE Junior school because it is either that or a Catholic school where we live. Every school in a 10 mile radius is a faith school.

For a non selective CofE school it is very religious and as a result my children have been withdrawn from assemblies as have the Muslim and Jehovah Witness children who attend.When the school has any festivals at the local church my children miss the time of school and go in later.

DrNortherner Wed 19-Oct-11 11:57:27

ds= darling son, dd = darling daughter

My ds is 9 and attends the local CofE primary school. You ovbioulsy do get more focus on RE in a faith school than in a secular school. And of course they don't teach it in a 'this is what some people believe' manner they teach it in a 'this is what hapenned' way with no opportunity for discussion.

My ds is now 9 and has decided all by himself that he does not believe in God, though of course he is not free to air this opinion at school. He is adamant he does not want to attend the local CofE high school.....

DrNortherner Wed 19-Oct-11 11:59:36

They also visit church on a regular basis, have the vicar into school lots and the kids work in groups and have weekly TAG sessions (thinking about God).

They also have prayer groups in the staff room for parents to attend.

An0therName Wed 19-Oct-11 12:14:35

DrNortherner - I think my DS would be free to say he didn't believe in God - although he says he does..
our school has a prayer group as well although its organised by some parents ..
its does drive me mad though that I do effectively have no choice as I would prefer a non faithbased school

emlu67 - from what I know about other schools that are not faith based they also do teach strong values

Mandy21 Wed 19-Oct-11 12:19:29

I agree with birdofthenorth. My DC attend a C of E primary school (in a suburb rather than in a rural community) and the whole school ethos is based around being good Christians and God being central to every day life. The "formal" involvement is as others have said - 4 or 5 church services but they have an assembly taken by the vicar each week, songs are sung each day with a religious foundation, projects can have some involvement and they say prayers once a day. To say that you would consider your children opt out of religious activities like that would be unworkable (in my opinion). There are other schools that parents can opt for locally if they do not have faith.

TimmyTimeRules Wed 19-Oct-11 12:27:22

That's the problem where we live Mandy21.
There are no non faith juniors or primary schools anywhere near and we are in a small town with loads of villages around.
Because a non selective CofE school is the only option we did hope that it would have toned down the religion side but it hasn't and even the school ethos is heavily Christianised.
The school has assembly everyday with an element of Christianity in it and they say Grace before lunch as well.
I have no problem with religion as a whole and my children do RE at school I just don't like the fact that where we live there is only faith schools.

Blu Wed 19-Oct-11 12:45:41

I am a raving atheist but wouldn't pull my child out of RE lessons or services. My DS has taken part in Hindu ceremonies, church parade and other christian church services, and Eid celebrations (all in connection with his extended family). Children very quickly deal with pluralism. I wouldn't choose to send my child to a faith school if there was an alternative, but I would not make an issue by removing my DS from any lessons or events - that would be making an issue of it, or believing that my DS has no decision making capacity of his own.
My school was more traditionally CoE based than DS's and I recognise that DS is missing a lot by being far less literate in the basics of christian lore - the parables, for e.g, form the basis of so much literature and language, he knows not the poetry of the psalms nor the good rousing hymns and carols that have cultural as wll as religious resonance.

I also feel for the boy at his inner-city london primary whose christian family would not allow bim to attend an educational visit to a Hindu temple, and had to sit in another class while the others enjoyed an introduction to hindu philosophy, and explanation of Sanskrit and a tour of the gods who form the basis of some of the greatest adventure epics.

If the school is good, has a lovely atmosphere and ethos, they will care for the development of all thier pupils, whatever the home beliefs.

Blu Wed 19-Oct-11 12:49:40

Having said that I would keep an eye out for things about family values - my DN and DN were genuinely aghast to hear that they would soon have a baby cousin and were adamant that it was not possible nor all right to have a baby unless you were married. (they had know DP for ages, but knew we were not married). Thank you, vicar of St***'s Primary in on-Cart-track!

But again, easily dealt with.

YorkshireRobbo Wed 19-Oct-11 18:06:38

Thanks for the further replies and advice, this is going to be somewhat of a balancing act and all has to be done with the emphasis on our DD's and DS's (when he is older) development, putting aside my views on religion.

We have chosen the country life, or rather heading deeper into the country, therefore we have to accept that schools are limited and they are all pretty much going to be CofE.

I welcome anyone to hammer home the basic principals of common humanity and behaviour to our children. Do not steel, do not lie, be good etc are all the building blocks of any sound human being. What does get my goat though is when they are preceeded by "because god says".

As one comment noted, concern over religious teaching could be mitigated and RE would be more palitable if followed by "we happen to believe" or "some people believe" rather than what seems to be taught being "this is fact"

DD idolises her pre-school teachers and I really worry about the day when she comes home from a CofE shool and asks "we have to be good as god is watching, my teacher told me so"

It will simply be a process of flitering down where we are in the process:
The village is stunning, the locals are lovely, the school is perfect, the kids love it and seem to do well, yes RE is taught and yes all children should be aware of what religion is and why some people follow it BUT not taught it as fact.

All we can do is go around the 4 or 5 schools and meet with the teachers. I don't think I would ever remove our children from classes, if we felt that the teachers and the religious teaching were too strong we simply would have to look elsewhere from the start.

An interesting discussion non the less.

As my Mother keeps remidning me I went to a CofE primary and I loved every minute of it, they were very tame with regards to religion. Hopefully our kids can enjoy the same.

frostyberries Wed 19-Oct-11 21:46:48

Our local CofE school is rated outstanding. They pray before lunch and before going home, have church services and regular visits of the vicar. I wasn't too worried about that. What really got me going is when they had a project about dinosaurs and my dc took a book about dinosaurs which started off with the big bang etc. It was not read in class, all other books were. When I asked the teacher she said it was not suitable because we all know that God created earth. I then moved dc to a state school, 40 minute drive each way. They also pray before lunch and at end of the day, have assemblies with bible stories with local clergy, lots of hymn singing etc, they throw in a day about hinduism, a day about islam and a day about the jewish religion. However, at least they teach about big bang theory as well. They are still a lot more religious then I would consider healthy though, but there is not much you can do about it. I would not want to exclude dc as it would probably result in dc being stigmatised by some of the very religious staff.

PointyBlackHat Wed 19-Oct-11 22:04:29

My younger DD is still at a C of E aided school (DD1 is now at non-denominational middle school). It was OK, not very full on at all. I am an atheist, though not a very raving one, and I made this very clear on my application both times - we got places nevertheless.

They are very open to all religious and none, and that seems to be the underlying principle of C of E schools in the diocese here - to offer God but not push Him on people IYSWIM. I like that - I offer atheism as an option to my DDs but do not push it on them as I feel it is up to them what they believe, or do not believe.

I did complain about a particular hymn at one point - it went something like 'God, I know I am a sinner and I do not deserve anything' - I didn't think that was a suitable messages for young children. The hymn was removed from the list, the vicar agreed with me. There are loads of lovely uplifting hymns around and replacing it was not difficult.

The children do go to church - for harvest festival, Christmas service, Easter and so on - that is all fine with me, it's part of offering them a choice of faiths.

Last year we had lots of conversations about religion, and now both my DDs have decided that they do not believe in God. The school is fine with this, and it just goes to show that reason and intelligence will out.

I would find it difficult to send my DDs to a very full-on evangelical type school though, even if that was the only one on offer...

malinois Thu 20-Oct-11 08:25:01

florist CoE schools exist as something of a historical anachronism. The Church built the first schools open to the poor. As populations in the cities increased in the 20th century other schools were built but in rural areas, where populations have not changed much there was no need to build lots of new schools so the CoE schools still dominate.

In my case every school within 15 miles (5 schools in total) is a CoE school.

howlingheadlessmunsters Thu 20-Oct-11 09:41:54

DS attends a village C of E school funded by the Diocese. Yes there are prayers in assembley and the vicar does go in. The whole school goes to the church for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter services. Other religions are discussed, this term it's the meaning of bar mitzvah.

I'm not religious and had to not splutter when DS told me we were all part of God's family. However I would never pull him out of services as there are many good messages about being kind and considerate etc. I also think learning about Christmas, Romans & Christianity etc should be part of the curriculum as C of E is our cultural heritage. When he is older I'm sure he will question things but then he'll be able to come to an informed opinion.
(Trying to steer clear of Scouts and even more church though!)

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