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Are (non-religious) UK schools Christian in practice?

(71 Posts)
threefeethighandrising Sun 01-Jan-12 20:53:00

We're right at the beginning of looking at schools, this is all new to me!

I'd love DS to learn about religions (fascinating subject IMO), but I'm a 3rd generation atheist and not at all keen on him actually practicing any kind of religious worship at school.

Having said that, I.m not sure we'd go as far as to pull him out of daily assemblies for example, as I feel uncomfortable about singling him out like that.

The first school prospectus I've looked at says there's a daily act of worship at assembly, and that 50% of their RE teaching is on Christianity.

Is this normal?

Are all non-religious state schools compelled to provide and act of worship?

Are there schools which are atheist in practice, even so?

TIA smile

solidgoldbrass Sun 01-Jan-12 20:57:01

Unfortunately yes they are. It is actually the Law that every school has to feature a daily interlude of talking to an imaginary friend, which is utterly ridiculous but there you go. I don't know where you live but if it's in a city, the more multicultural the school intake, the more likely the school assembly is to be bland and neutral rather than trying to peddle any specific brand of crap.

slavetofilofax Sun 01-Jan-12 21:01:49

I think schools do have to have a daily act of worship, but I could be wrong.

The school I work in is a primary school that is not supposed to be affiliate dot any church or religion. The reality is that it mat as well be a CofE school because they strongly celebrate all the Christian festivals, and I really can't see any difference in the way they do things compared to the CofE school my children attend. If anything, the CofE school teaches more about the other religions, I know my dc have studied all the major religions in depth.

I think if it's important to you, you have to look at each school individually and decide from there. I do know of another non religious primary school that doesn't seem to be at all religious, so I think it varies a lot from school to school.

slavetofilofax Sun 01-Jan-12 21:02:50

Auto correct has been at it again, sorry! blush

threefeethighandrising Sun 01-Jan-12 21:06:39

Thanks for the replies smile

"utterly ridiculous but there you go." I couldn't agree more!

It seems so unfair on the child to have to pull them out of something all their friends are at to avoid it, doesn't it?

"I think it varies a lot from school to school." I hope one of them is OK then!

We're moving before we have to apply, and a good school for DS is right at the top of our house-hunting criteria. Having said that we've got a choice of two relatively small towns so the choice isn't huge.

threefeethighandrising Sun 01-Jan-12 21:07:03

Autocorrect is a pain! grin

joanofarchitrave Sun 01-Jan-12 21:11:26

Not only is it the law that a state school has to have a daily act of worship, but since 1986 (?) it has to be Christian.

Ds's community primary had a very 'traditional' Christmas celebration this year and although for me it was lovely in some ways, I chose that school partly because it wasn't a religious school and it really did feel a bit odd to have a LOT of religious elements in the school day.

tigana Sun 01-Jan-12 21:14:43

ds goes to a non-religious school... but they have a 'pastor' who seems to be there rather often...not noticed any similar people from non-christian religions mooching about, so it's not about general religious education.

DH and I are both atheists. We don't pull him out of anything, he does assemblies and he nativity play etc. DS knows we don't believe in god or jesus...but he can if he wants too. He had a week or so of gently chiding us for not believing, then it stopped bothering him!

mrz Sun 01-Jan-12 21:21:16

The law states that all pupils in primary and secondary schools must participate in a daily act of worship that is "wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character".

Almost two thirds of schools in England are ignoring their legal duty to provide a daily act of worship according to a BBC survey.

slavetofilofax Sun 01-Jan-12 21:27:43

FWIW, my ds, who is at a CofE, decided he didn't believe in God himself when he was 7 or 8, and I think the school had something to do with that. What they were saying about God just didn't always make sense to him, especially when they started learning about evolution, so he made up his own mind. He knows that his Dad and I believe in God although we are not religious, and he has always been free to make up his own mind.

I think as long as it is explained to children that they can choose to believe or not believe, then they have a good foundation from which to form their own opinions, no matter what the school or their parents say.

hocuspontas Sun 01-Jan-12 21:27:59

Unfortunately the amount of God in the school day is down to the HT and/or governors. So a change of HT could increase or decrease any Christian bias in delivering the NC. A community school could be more religious than a C of E school. You just can't tell! Madness. Because the C of E is part of the Establishment in England, worshipping is mandatory, but again, the level and depth is down to the individual school. (And won't necessarily be apparent from the prospectus). Good luck!

threefeethighandrising Sun 01-Jan-12 21:28:28

Actually I don't really mind DS celebrating religious festivals. They're fun, and anyway as Christmas isn't really Jesus's birthday at all - much more likely Mithras I figure if the Christian's can nick celebrations from other religions us atheists shouldn't worry too much about joining in if we want to wink

And Easter - I mean come on - bunnies, lambs and a celebration of life?! So obviously a Pagan celebration of Spring and fertility (The Goddess Ēostre a clue perhaps?!)

However the act of daily worship troubles me more, it feels much more like indoctrination.

threefeethighandrising Sun 01-Jan-12 21:29:28

"Almost two thirds of schools in England are ignoring their legal duty to provide a daily act of worship according to a BBC survey."

Thanks mrz, that's reassuring.

threefeethighandrising Sun 01-Jan-12 21:35:56

DP's shocked it's law. He's Scottish, I think maybe is isn't there?

HouseOfBambooootiful Sun 01-Jan-12 21:55:06

It is mad, isn't it. And it gets better - if you move to an area where the popular oversubscribed state schools happen to be C of E or Catholic schools, then you may be discriminated against for not being of the 'right' faith, or for not being sufficiently church-going even if you are of the 'right' faith.

mrz Sun 01-Jan-12 22:04:37

Religious observance is a statutory requirement in schools under the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, which repeats the legislation of previous Acts in giving education authorities 'liberty to continue the said custom' and prohibits them from discontinuing it without a poll of local electors. Parents have the legal right to withdraw their children if they wish.

threefeethighandrising Sun 01-Jan-12 22:15:04

One of the areas we'd really like to live in (the centre of town) has a "choice" of three CofE primaries and one Catholic. Not one single non-faith schools! Looks like we won't be moving there then! Shame.

However ... just found two nice-looking schools on the edge of town with good / outstanding OFSTED ratings and which talk about stuff like their creative curriculum, ICT facilities and happy pupils on their website and prospectus, but not one mention of religion. Feel hopeful now!

MissAnnersley Sun 01-Jan-12 23:34:53

religious observance in Scottish schools

startail Mon 02-Jan-12 01:54:46

There is no escape a 1/2 GCSE in RE is compulsory at DD1s non church secondary.
I thought that had been "solved" 30 years ago.
I didn't have to do RE O'level because previous years had so totally taken the piss writing Mickey mouse etc as answers that school refused to waste the money entering anyone who didn't choose to do it. I think that was exactly no one.

OneLittleBabyGirl Mon 02-Jan-12 05:03:16

My DH and I are from NZ and our state schools are all secular. Our DD is 9mo but we are already worried about RE since our catchment school is CofE! My worry is if we tell DD that Jesus is no more real than Santa Claus, what if she repeats it at school? But I can't bring myself telling her that imaginary god is anymore real than Harry Potter or the tooth fairy. It's really difficult.

RiversideMum Mon 02-Jan-12 09:12:01

I work in an ordinary maintined school and there are 3 whole school assemblies a week but they are generally not particularly religious in flavour. There may be a prayer, but most of the teachers suggest quiet thinking time to respect others who do wish to pray.

All the major religions are covered in the RE curriculum. Most schools are sensitive to their catchments but I agree that atheism (sp?) is not sufficiently acknowledged.

HouseOfBambooootiful Mon 02-Jan-12 09:21:52

OLBG - I wouldn't worry so much about RE lessons per se, I would imagine that in most schools they go along the lines of 'this is what the scriptures say' rather than pushing belief in god. And hopefully include study of religions other than Christianity. Although I do think it should be a subject that is chosen rather than compulsory at GCSE stage.

The thing I really object to is the assumption that all children should believe in a Christian god in assemblies etc. Also there's a lot of scope for head teachers and teachers to push their religious views onto the children, even in non-faith schools, which is an abuse of power imo. Not that they all do of course, it's just bad that there's scope for it.

Himalaya Mon 02-Jan-12 09:34:43

As others have said, it's the law, bit some schools follow it more wholeheartedly than others.seconaries are also supposed to do daily worship but most find a way to ignore it.

IME inner city schools/those with a diverse intake tend to go for a more common-values and festivals based approach, while schools that are more dominantly white British go for a more traditional CofE approach. All schools should recognise and respect that not all kids come from families that go in for religion though.

Ask when you go for a visit. Although they will have to give you an answer that reflects the law, buy should give you an idea of how they implement it and their ethos.

RE curriculum is set by the local authority and is of the "some people believe..." variety, but very insipid.

ProfessorSunny Mon 02-Jan-12 09:39:04

Yes, they are.

prh47bridge Mon 02-Jan-12 09:42:15

Firstly to state the legal situation for England accurately, schools are required to have a daily act of collective worship. For non-faith schools these must be wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character (so in theory up to 49% of assemblies could be non-Christian). There are some circumstances in which the head teacher can apply to the local Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education to have the requirement for assemblies to be of a broadly Christian character removed. Faith schools are exempt from this requirement - there are a number of non-Christian faith schools around.

RE is compulsory and covers the study of various religions, moral themes, etc. For non-faith schools the curriculum must reflect the fact that religious traditions in the UK are generally Christian but must also take account of the other main religions in the UK. The syllabus for non-faith schools is drawn up by a local conference consisting of teachers, local churches, faith groups and the LA. Faith schools are free to follow a syllabus in line with the school's faith.

In practise many schools ignore the statutory requirement for a daily act of collective worship. The religious character of schools varies widely. Some non-faith schools are more religious than some faith schools. It is not necessarily the case that all teachers at a faith school are members of that faith.

OneLittleBabyGirl - Most historians would disagree with your view that Jesus is no more real than Santa Claus, given that Santa never existed. Whilst a small number of scholars argue that Jesus never existed that is very much a minority view. The majority view is that Jesus existed and his baptism and crucifixion are historical events. Whether he was the Son of God, said the things he is supposed to have said, performed the miracles attributed to him and rose from the dead is, of course, a matter of faith. Having said that I doubt your daughter would get into any trouble in a CofE school if she said that Jesus is not real.

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