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RE - what to expect

(20 Posts)
IamAporcupine Wed 15-Jun-16 23:56:58

My son is starting reception in September. DH and I are both agnostics.
None of us grew up in this country and in our home countries schools are either religious (ie run by nuns etc) or 100% secular.
I asked some questions at the school meeting, and was told the school follows the curriculum, whatever that means, and that once a week during assembly they read a bible story, and that some may pray. They were being a bit vague, and somehow implied that they were trying to move away from it.

I understand that every school is different so no one can really tell m what to expect, but would you mind telling me your experience?
Also, if you are non-religious is it possible to ask for your child not to attend bible readings or prayers?


TheFirie Thu 16-Jun-16 00:12:34

Is it a faith school?

NewIdeasToday Thu 16-Jun-16 00:13:28

Hi. We are a completely atheist household - although my kids are free to make up their own minds of course. One of my kids is actually taking philosophy and religious studies A level and finding it fascinating. I think you can approach this subject as helping you to understand more about the world and the different cultures in it.

Obviously it's different in Reception but in my experience it doesn't do any harm at all. I would never have withdrawn my kids from RE as I think that would have made them feel very self conscious.

CharleyDavidson Thu 16-Jun-16 00:19:46

They aren't allowed to 'move away from it'. If it's a state school then they are required, by law, to have a daily act of worship that is mostly, or wholly of Christian nature. Most schools I have been in have a prayer in their assembly. Some also have a moment of reflection. Most have a story or a theme that's discussed that's to do with morals/rules and sometimes is related to being a christian. Some schools sing more traditional hymns, some sing more modern, less churchy songs and some a mix of the two.
You can request that your child be excused from assemblies, but you need to write to the headteacher to arrange it if that's what you want.

The RE will be a separate lesson and there's a syllabus that they will be following.

catkind Thu 16-Jun-16 00:31:36

Yes it's definitely possible to ask for them not to attend things. We have asked for DS not to attend "acts of worship". You could also ask for them not to attend RE if the bible readings are under the guise of RE.

We gave the school a letter (I think they asked for one) requesting DS to be removed for acts of worship, and the teacher had a chat with us about what exactly we were/weren't okay with.

I'm really not clear to what extent they do or don't to be honest. When we looked round I was asking about religion as an atheist, and another parent was asking as a Christian, and the head rather tied herself in knots trying to please both of us in one answer!

They claim that religion is usually presented as RE in the "Christians believe that ..." sense. Which might have been a bit subtle for 4 yr olds. There was some awkward manoevering with harvest festival songs and "oh yes we're thanking the farmers". It's difficult to ask for your child to be taken out of something fun like that. The termly visiting vicar's assembly easier. We were okay with nativity play as it was just presented as a story, no indication that the baby in a manger bit might be any more true than the singing snowmen. And we tried to talk to DS about different religions at home so he had some context for anything that came up in school.

catkind Thu 16-Jun-16 00:33:28

PS if they did remove DS from anything, they did it subtly enough he didn't notice.

TeenAndTween Thu 16-Jun-16 07:13:53

If you ask for your child to be removed from Worship, they will/should also be removed from things like nativity Plays, Easter concerts etc. You can't pick and choose.

The RE side in lesson time should cover a variety of mainstream beliefs and should be on a 'Hindus believe' 'Christians believe' basis.

Sounds to me that your school is playing lip service to the 'Daily act of worship of broadly Christian nature' requirement (or whatever it is called), and so it should be very low key, so just go with the flow.

Artandco Thu 16-Jun-16 07:19:24

We aren't religious, school does religion but in all religions I think. Ie they celebrate Christmas, teach Ramadan, explain Hanukkah. All at basic 4/5 year old levels

catkind Thu 16-Jun-16 12:40:39

Teen, there's a fair amount of flexibility between what counts as worship and what counts as RE. As long as it's not presented as a true story and doesn't involve saying prayers, a nativity play could easily be classed as RE. Or just a story. I don't think any non-singing-snowman-ists asked for their kids to be removed either wink.

Our school were quite common sense about it all and asked us if they weren't sure about specific events.

catkind Thu 16-Jun-16 12:41:29

Or should that be a-snowman-ists?

citykat Thu 16-Jun-16 13:04:10

Ours is a community primary. The 'daily act of worship' has never happened in any way that could be described as religious. Prizes, morals ( be kind etc), quiet reflection but never any mention of God. RE involved making tea light holders for divali, bits on Judaism, Islam, visit to Hindu temple. Obviously not all in Reception year! But the daily act of worship thing is interpreted very differently in different schools.

noramum Thu 16-Jun-16 13:16:31

It very much varies between schools. DD attended a non-religious Infant where the head really did the daily act of worship by including it into the daily assembly. Her friends on the other side of town attend a CoE where it is done more in large clusters, once a week or in connection with religious holidays/events.

DD now attends Junior school and this head hardly does anything at all.

RE is a subject designed to teach all mainstream religions. DD learned about Islam (currently due to Ramadan), Hindu (festival of light in autum), Christianity (Easter/Christmas) and Judaism (Hannukah). The teacher does it very impartial and respectful. Obviously not everything every year.

In my opinion only if you learn about religion you can understand our culture, history and geographic problems so I am very much supportive despite DH and me totally non-believer. DD has a children bible, we talk about religion and while she says she believes, she knows not everyone does and that we allow her to make up her own mind.

DD recently announced "I believe in Jesus, Father Christmas and the Easter Bunny". Personally, I think this says it all.

IamAporcupine Fri 17-Jun-16 00:42:24

many thanks everyone!

I totally agree that RE, if it is done impartially and about all faiths is an important subject. I was more concerned about worship and forced prayers.

I was thinking along the lines of catkind's comment - I do not have a huge problem with a nativity play (although DH might have) as it can be told as a story, what I do not want is DS to be told he has to pray to God, etc.

Found a thread about something similar, for anyone that is interested

ReallyTired Sun 19-Jun-16 21:05:53

Both my children's school follow the local council agreed syallabus. They learn about the five most popular religions of world and a smattering about humanism. The subject is taught much like geography. Children are told buddhists belive ..., hindus believe, ... christians believe etc. They are not told what to believe and teachers attempt to teach the critical thinking for them to come to their own conclusions.

Ofcourse faith schools are allowed to set their own curriculum.

tinytreefrog Mon 20-Jun-16 11:10:26

At 4 it is not going to make any impact what so ever on their future beliefs whether the school does prayers in assembly, acts of worship or what ever.

There is plenty of time for them to make up their own minds exactly what they believe and a little bit of Christian ethos in primary school is not going to change that. Let's face it, most atheists went to a primary school where worship was part of the daily routine, and they still managed to turn out to be non believers. It really isn't going to make much difference.

Both of my children have been to a c of e primary. They have both been in the same assembly, saying the same payers and singing the same hymes. One believes in God, the other does not. Either way it's fine with me.
Home influences will have a far greater part to play than the little bit of religion they have in school. And if it's part of the routine of the school day I wouldn't want to exclude them from it.

catkind Mon 20-Jun-16 15:45:55

tinytreefrog, speaking for myself only, I care far more at 4 than I do at 8 or 9 when they a) have a much better idea what religion is, and what other religions there are, and that it is optional, and b) are much less inclined to hang on the teacher's every word.

Their beliefs now matter to me, not just their beliefs in the future. I don't want my bright bubbly learning child being told to bow her head and give thanks. I don't want her fobbed off with (what to me are) false answers to the big questions she asks, I want her to keep wondering and enquiring. I don't want her later to have to go through the painful process of questioning and realization and guilt that it took me to get out of religion again after primary school got me in. Stuff that goes in at 4 is hard to get out again, particularly religion which explicitly teaches that belief is a virtue.

ReallyTired Mon 20-Jun-16 16:48:31

the Jesuit maxim "Give me a child for for his first seven years and I'll give you the man"

You are right in that a four year old is vulnerable to indoctrination. However plenty of atheists had a very religious background. Both my husband and sil were brought up as staunch atheists and are both active Christians.

catkind Tue 21-Jun-16 00:23:21

Their eventual faith or lack of it is not really my concern. Eventually they will choose to be religious or not according to their own understanding of the world. I don't have any particular objective to breed atheists.

My concern is giving them a happy childhood and putting them in a position to make an informed choice when they're old enough to do that. I don't believe that for a child from an atheist background, the introduction of Christianity as a matter of fact from age 4 is a good way to do that.

toobreathless Tue 21-Jun-16 21:04:42

Both atheists here, DD is in reception in a non faith very average primary.

She has come home with some statements about God/Jesus that have been presented as fact. We have gently told her that No, that is not what we believe to be true. This then lead to a conversation about how her teachers are not 'wrong' because to them these facts are true.

DD does not appear to have found this particularly difficult to understand.

catkind Tue 21-Jun-16 22:44:07

Ha, DS wouldn't even believe us about how tree was spelled in reception until his teacher confirmed it!

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