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Has anyone opted their child out of 'worship'

(92 Posts)
ManateeEquineOhara Wed 13-Feb-13 21:12:40

We moved last year to a small town with one primary school which is CofE. Despite that not being ideal as an atheist I was keen for them to go to the local school, and anyway, the next 4 nearest schools are also all CofE.

At first there were no issues and my children were healthily critical of religious aspects of the school. However since then three issues have made me consider opting them out of 'worship'.

Firstly my daughter and a friend did not bow their heads to pray and were pointed out by the headmaster and he said he was very disappointed in them!

My son and a friend were doing some RE work and discussing god in the way of a story but were told they were not to talk of 'God' like that because he does exist and they must talk about him like he does exist!

Then in an Assembly (or as they call it, worship) the story of the three little pigs was read out. Then the children were told that the pigs whose houses were blown down did not trust in god, that is why they got eaten! And the pig whose house stayed up had trusted in god and that is why he was 'saved'.

In addition to this, I feel making a stand against the prevalence of CofE schools in this area as unless you go private you have to send your child to a faith based school.

So I found a local humanist website with a template letter and lots of good advice on opting out (although this website bizarrely reminds me of a religious cult website). Has anyone here done this? Has it been okay? Any advice please would be appreciated!

ChristmasJubilee Fri 15-Feb-13 16:53:21

My friend has withdrawn her children from the weekly assembly on religous grounds. She has to go in to supervise them at this time.

RaisinBoys Fri 15-Feb-13 16:54:25

It is something you need to know- it is quite possible that a community school is more religious than a faith school, RaisinBoys. I know community schools that have the vicar in and church schools that don't


What's the problem with having the local Vicar in? S(he) is part of the local community. I haven't got a problem with the local Vicar, Priest, Imam, Rabbi or representative of the Humanists coming in to my children's community school.

It's all part of the SMSC curriculum and an informed child can learn lots and then make up their own mind (as my non believing 9 year old has).

thesecretmusicteacher Fri 15-Feb-13 17:28:50

no but I can understand your concerns about your school.

mull it over a bit....perhaps a more personalised approach expressing your concerns, as the poster above suggested?

I can't solve the bonkers three little pigs story, but I think most heads would change their attitude if they knew that a child had been taught NOT to bow her head - they wouldn't think it was disobedience.

I used to go to weekly mass, but I would never have been forced to take communion IYSWIM, nor forced to say the words of Catholic liturgy - I was expected to be respectful of the majority faith.

exoticfruits Fri 15-Feb-13 19:10:56


You said 'However, beyond the Nativity and a couple of carols at Christmas (that all the children whatever their religion join in with as much or as little as they feel is compatible with their family beliefs) you would never know!

Not the same at all as opting for a CofE school, Catholic school, Jewish School, Muslim school etc''

It can be exactly the same as opting for a C of E school etc. That was my point.

exoticfruits Fri 15-Feb-13 19:12:32

Probably just the C of E though and not the others.

sunshine401 Fri 15-Feb-13 19:25:51

Why would you withdraw children from anything? They need to learn about religion it is a big part of societies life. They should not be made to physically join in, So I would raise this with the HT.

GrimmaTheNome Fri 15-Feb-13 19:47:00

>What's the problem with having the local Vicar in?
The problem is if its *only *the vicar who comes in (or alternates with the Evangelists). If they invite people from a range of religious and non-religious worldviews, fine - but that doesn't seem to happen so often.

Opting out seems unfair on the child - reminder for everyone that organisations such as the Accord Coalition and the BHA campaign for inclusivity (and there's lots of info on their website) - living in an area like the OPs surrounded by faith schools we went private for primary so the assemblies weren't too bad - how does your DD find it? Does it bother her or is it water off a duck's back?

>Being tolerant of a range of different beliefs is exactly how I want my children to be, so the school's lack of tolerance for atheism runs counter to this

Yes - and its not like you actively chose to send your DD there for its 'ethos' hmm. It is - to clarify to various posters on this thread who don't quite seem to understand your position - your local state school.

ManateeEquineOhara Sat 16-Feb-13 09:25:33

Msrisotto - good point and yes, I do appreciate that it is a good educational experience to listen to bible stories presented appropriately. Also it seems to be teaching them well that writing is not neutral and can be used to build an argument.

Sunshine - I would rather not have to withdraw them, but if the issue of being made to 'pray' is not resolved I can't see what else we could do. I am writing an email to the HT atm.

Grimma - I agree entirely with what you are saying. DD is only bothered by being told to pray, she and my DS found the Three Little Pigs story appropriately ridiculous and are unbothered by most of it.

Dromedary Sat 16-Feb-13 11:14:08

I'll be very interested to hear how the HT responds to your letter, OP, please do tell us! He may simply disregard your views on the basis that he is on God's side and you are not.

ManateeEquineOhara Sat 16-Feb-13 13:16:58

Dromedary - I do hope not! I will report back. I am quite nervous! I hope he doesn't just say 'well leave'! Although I have made it clear I want this resolved simply and praised the school in other ways so hopefully he won't! Surely he won't...that would be very unreasonable!

Wellthen Sun 17-Feb-13 11:34:45

I think you should write to the governors explaining your concerns that school worhsip is not inclusive. A child could be very religious themselves and yet not see the need to bow their head when praying. It isnt necessary, its personal choice. Explain that you see the school has an obligation to teach Christianity as true but that they cannot force the children to share this view, as long as they are being respectful.

Personally Id also be tempted to go down the 'fake concern' route and say that the Head is confusing 3 little pigs with the parable about a man building his house on the sand. I'm concerned about this man's actual religious understanding. Most governing bodies of Church schools require their Heads to be practicing Christians.

I agree I wouldnt withdraw as I think exposure to religious life is part of growing and understanding and if anything will make your children more confident in their own beliefs.

Wellthen Sun 17-Feb-13 11:35:13

Sorry, didnt see you have already written a letter!

ManateeEquineOhara Sun 17-Feb-13 21:59:33

He replied!

It was actually okay, he said he will make sure staff know not to single out children not in prayer position and can resolve this now he is aware of the issues (although surely he knew this happened, as HT he is in almost every assembly!).

He was also praised my DCs (distraction, or just being nice...?!) and he finally addressed me correctly as Ms after ages of calling me Mrs (that assumption also makes me mad, but that is another story!).

ManateeEquineOhara Sun 17-Feb-13 22:00:31

Sorry I mean 'he also', not 'he was also'!

Dromedary Mon 18-Feb-13 20:19:54

Wellthen - is the school obliged to teach that Christianity is true? Why can't the teacher just say - this is what Christians believe?
If it's a Christian private school - fair enough. But such a large percentage of state funded schools teaching on this basis when such a small minority of their pupils are from Christian families, and likewise so few taxpayers who are funding the school?
France is a far more religious country than England, but the state stays well away from religion.

thesecretmusicteacher Mon 18-Feb-13 21:08:44

Well done Manatee - sounds like a good result, with a Ms thrown in to boot!

The little pigs thing is so absurd I think they are in no danger from that....

Dromedary Mon 18-Feb-13 21:19:23

Yes - well done

Dromedary, I am quite sure that they do not have to say that it is true. They can say 'Christians believe' or even 'I believe'.

pooka Mon 18-Feb-13 22:02:05

I would say that while I am atheist and my dcs are not being brought up to follow any religion, I have instructed them to respect those who do believe by bowing their heads in assembly for example. I think that that shows respect for other beliefs.

Example - dfil's funeral last week in cofe church. Dd and I bowed our heads during the prayer and we both sang. Does it hurt my beliefs? No. Did it make dd confused? No.

By extension though, I feel that the teacher who disliked your dc speaking of god in the way of the story would have been better to have said "that's what some people feel about god - but many people also feel that he did exist" in a non-judgemental way.

The three pigs things is daft.

So while I would possibly have to thnk about discussing my concerns with school re the 2 latter incidents, with regards to the assembly and head bowing, I personally think that it wold have been polite for your dd to bow her head. You surely wouldn't expect her to talk during silent prayer?

Dromedary Mon 18-Feb-13 22:24:04

What about being forced to kneel, bow head and press hands together,as our school physically forced a small muslim child to do?

exoticfruits Mon 18-Feb-13 22:32:31

I have been in many, many schools as a supply teacher and have never seen a child forced to do anything. I am not saying that it doesn't happen, but it is very rare. The majority of teachers and Heads are not church goers anyway. They do have to sit in silence but that is just politeness.

BonzoDooDah Mon 18-Feb-13 23:15:03

RavenAK your suggested letter is superb. I may copy it in case I need it in the future!

Manatee - glad the head replied appropriately. A win!

Dromedary Mon 18-Feb-13 23:19:06

Yes, I was pretty surprised to see it. The teacher didn't notice that I was just outside the classroom and could see what she was doing. In fact one teacher was instructing the other to do it. It is a very religious school, and the vibes are that the Christian head and teachers are fed up with there being so many Muslims in a C of E school (far more Muslim than Christian children).

Wellthen Tue 19-Feb-13 09:03:41

Church schools are state schools but they are also funded by the church. In some cases (voluntary aided I think) the church do a large amount of the funding. Just as state funded schools have an obligation to suit the needs and desires of the state, so church schools must follow guidance from the church.

Im not sure they are explicitly oblidged to say that it is true but many of the staff and governors will be Christians and therefore believe it is. In a faith school it is accepted that worship and a certain amount of RE aren't just exposure to and education about religion, they are instruction IN CHRISTIANITY. You wouldnt expect to walk into a Church and hear the phrase 'some people believe' so therefore you may not hear it in a faith school assembly.

I often see this opinion on MN and I think many people are geuninely confused about church schools. Hence why some people call them faith schools - they are state schools but they are not secular. A faith school worth its money should be inclusive and encourage individuality in all its pupils. But they are always going to see spreading the word of Jesus as part of their job.

Wellthen Tue 19-Feb-13 09:06:53

Oh and 'well my DC church school never mentions Jesus' does not mean that what I have said isn't true! Many church schools are relaxed (some are just lax!) about the whole thing and others aren't. All church schools have church inspections - if they fail they lose their church status and a lot of their money. Just as schools ship bad children out and good teachers in for ofsted, so many church schools probably suddenly start saying the Lords Prayer every lesson when the inspectors are in.

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