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Preparing child for a Church School

(37 Posts)
Squeezed Sun 21-May-17 09:47:12

Dd is due to start reception in September at a Church School. It was easily the best school to support her and all our closest schools are all church schools anyway. As DH and I are atheists, I spoke with the HT, teachers and some parents and was reassured that the focus was more on general Christian values which felt ok to us. Now we have more information and there is more of a focus on religion than we thought. It's still the best school for DD and I wouldn't want my beliefs to stop her getting the best support she needs. She knows the very basics of different religions but I'm not sure how I prepare her for a school that will communicate Christian beliefs when her parents don't share them. I know I might be overthinking it and it could be a non issue but if anyone has any tips they would be appreciated.

macaronip1e Sun 21-May-17 10:16:12

I'm not sure it's an issue. My eldest goes to a church aided school so they cover a reasonable amount of religious topics, with a focus on Christian values. when she tells me things about god making the world etc I just say something like "yes, that's what some people believe" - I don't agree or reinforce what she is saying, but equally don't feel I need to push my beliefs on her. I'm just a neutral sounding board about it!

MrsMulder Sun 21-May-17 10:16:19

It depends on the school op, ours is very religious, ds came home singing about Jesus on day one of reception! (He was only there for 2 hours) I am vaguely catholic if that makes sense so don't mind it as such as it is what I was brought up on. Whenever he tells me things he has learned about god I just explain that that is what we believe but some people believe other things and that's as far as it has got this year. I would just follow that line and be quite matter of fact about it.

Starfish28 Sun 21-May-17 10:23:45

I'm not sure how you can prepare them for this at reception age. It is so complex and I would have thought out of conceptual reach to young children. I would simply tackle it as it comes up. My niece goes to a religious school and has atheist parents. They have simply talked about what they believe in a gentle way. At the moment she is pretty committed to the religious path but I'm sure that will change in time. I live in an area where all the 'outstanding' schools are religiously selective and have had friends who have chosen to have their children baptised. I find this much harder morally to navigate because they had to essentially lie to get their children into school. At least in your situation you can be open with the school and your child.

Alexandra87 Sun 21-May-17 10:27:54

You don't need to prepare her. My children go to a faith school. She will get used to daily prayers and things really quickly. Things like class liturgy and whole school liturgy are mainly about friends and being kind and things and they will practice beforehand.

Squeezed Sun 21-May-17 10:54:10

Thanks for the responses. They're reassuring. It's quite tricky to try to explain the concept of religion to a 4 year old but I'm probably just over thinking it. The school gave us a pack that included getting the children aware of what praying involves before starting school and I wasn't expecting it.

TittyGolightly Sun 21-May-17 10:58:15

We'd homeschool before having DD step good Ina church school. (There's enough religious bollocks at her non-faith state school 😡.)

I can't get my head around atheists choosing a faith school for their children.

TittyGolightly Sun 21-May-17 10:58:44

*foot in a

bojorojo Mon 22-May-17 11:44:35

I would also say answer any questions as they come up and at 4 it will not be a hard core religious curriculum! There should be an agreed religious curriculum and even C of E schools have toteach about other religions and youmay even get no religions at all!

The depth of C of E involvement will depend whether the C of E school is Aided or Controlled and the local vicar. A lot of Aided schools are more conerned about religion than the Controlled schools. Some vicars love to go into schools, others do not and are occasional visitors.

I don't think parents should seek to tell their children what to believe either! You should guide but support if their views are differnt to yours eventually. Also, your child will be open to discussion and that is good. My children went to C of E Junior and senior schools and took no notice of it whatsoever apart from being chosen to read things in church and singing hymns and carols. Most chidren, who do not have religious parents, go through the motions and join in but don't truly believe what they are saying or being taught. They join in because it is OK to do so but they do not get brainwashed!

My elder DD (24) sings in a church choir but largely ignores the service. She just likes to sing!!!

Greatballs Mon 22-May-17 13:18:38

We're in a similar situation too (or were 3 years ago). Atheist parents sending our children to a church-y school with no real alternative school; so much so that we seriously considered home educating as PP have suggested. In the end we decided to go in with an open mind and give it a try.

DD is in year 2 now and DS in reception. I've been to a lot of the assemblies / things that parents can attend and am generally happy with what goes on. It is more religious than I ideally like ; lots of references to god and Jesus, lots of bible stories and songs etc. It was a bit uncomfortable at first because it's not stuff I'm familiar with, however when i looked beyond the "god talk" the messages align with very general values of friendship, kindness, forgiveness, respect and the like, things anyone from any background would be able to relate to and think of as positive attributes.

There's a difference between promoting Christian values and promoting Christianity (or insert religion of choice in here). The school are very conscious that they do that; most of the outside speakers are from various local churches and usually say something along the lines of "I believe" rather than "this is true" and "I'm going to say a prayer now, join in if you want to or just think about what we've been talking about"

DC come home with lots of questions which we answer as honestly as we can. We also bat some questions back to school and the school encourage challenging questions so it's all good. They're definitely not trying to convert non-believers, and mostly don't assume all the kids are from Christian families, although occasionally someone will say things like "we believe..." until a child very rapidly pipes up with "I don't!" or "so and so doesn't!" and there is an apology / correction.

Its a very laid back, informal school though so I can imagine that it potentially wouldn't be as good natured in another setting.

I don't think religion has a place in schools at all (apart from studying it in the broadest sense) and that families and communities should take care of that from within, so ideally my children could go to a school that had no emphasis on any religion. However, the school our DC go to is a really nice, caring place that's excellent at pastoral care and I think that's come about by their focus on their values ( of course, as an atheist I don't think people need a religion to have values) so it's worked out fine for us so far.

Get to know the school OP and see what you think. smile

bonbonours Mon 22-May-17 13:27:55

Titty I'm with you. Luckily we have a great infant and junior both non church and barely do any religious stuff, not even hymns or prayers in assembly. And the people who are going to come on here and say 'all schools have to provide a christian assembly' are WRONG because ours don't. So it is clearly down to the head.

I'm constantly amazed at people who are not religious but choose a church school for their kids and are willing to ignore the indoctrination they get as a result.

Personally if I had no nonchurch school choice locally, I would absolutely be withdrawing my kids from assembly and RE.

Rockhopper81 Mon 22-May-17 13:51:58

Schools absolutely don't have to provide a Christian assembly - they have to provide a 'daily act of collective worship', but this does not have to be Christian, and really just means when the school (or certain year groups) come together for assembly to listen/discuss themes.

I've worked in a church school and non-church school.

The church school was quite relaxed really - the local vicar did come in each week (or someone from the diocese did), but she was very much, 'Christians believe' rather than 'this is what is right'. She also always said, "I'm going to say a prayer - if you want it to be your prayer, you can say Amen at the end, otherwise you can just sit quietly". It worked well and the children loved her! The children in my class (YR/Y1) really enjoyed bible stories, which was great, but we talked about them in terms of the values they shared and how they linked to our lives today.

It wasn't an overly 'church-y' school in the sense that religion permeates everything, but there were elements underpinning things, if that makes sense. Partly because church schools are inspected for RE (in addition to, and at a different time to, OFSTED inspections), so they have to have the evidence it is 'there'. But in no way were any of the children at the school made to feel like they should think or believe certain things.

AndNoneForGretchenWieners Mon 22-May-17 14:01:20

DS went to a non faith primary and the issue of religion never really arose, we are atheists and my DH has very strong feelings about religion; his Catholic dad was excommunicated for marrying his C of E mum but only after they had had 4 kids - when DH was born (the 5th child) a new priest declared all the children bastards so whilst his older siblings were baptised as Catholic, DH and his younger siblings were brought up with no faith.

DS ended up with a place at an academy which is a non faith school but it turns out there is a Christian ethos which is not advertised or promoted to prospective parents. DS came home from school very enamoured with Christianity and started going to church, and then arranged to be christened. Teachers at the school are expected to be Christian and it is part of the way the curriculum is designed to include Christian values - I think if he had gone to a church school it wouldn't be any more religious than this.

I agree with PP that I wouldn't choose a church school for my children knowingly any believe that the French model is a good one.

TittyGolightly Mon 22-May-17 14:03:30

And the people who are going to come on here and say 'all schools have to provide a christian assembly' are WRONG because ours don't. So it is clearly down to the head.

Sadly in Wales they still do.

bojorojo Mon 22-May-17 14:59:03

Most C of E schools choose teachers on ability to teach, not religious values. That has more or less disappeared due to people being able to challenge why they have not been appointed. A school not appointing because a teacher is not C of E is not a good enough reason. A school must employ the demonstrably best candidate.

Whilst I am not a fan of religious schools, I do wonder why atheists do not see themselves as indoctrinating their children and only religions do this? Such sweeping and ill informed judgements about schools! C of E schools try and have suitable moral guidance for the children in just the same way as state schools. Many are not overtly religious and suit all children.

bonbonours Mon 22-May-17 15:50:52

bojo The reason i don't see being atheist as indoctrinating children is because atheism is not about a belief in something that you are telling children is true simply because you believe it.

The things that I teach my children about are either scientific fact e.g evolution, where babies come from etc, or they are human values that I feel are important such as kindness, tolerance, politeness etc. I am not saying, "I believe this therefore you should believe this too." I am not making them take part in any ceremonies, recite words they may not believe, make them say promises they cannot keep etc.

They know about religion and that other people believe various things that myself and my partner do not believe. I have never and would never forbid them to believe these or anything else themselves. It is up to them to decide if they want to believe in anything other than scientific fact. As I have said, I try to teach them to be tolerant, and would never be negative to them about people who are religious, and i would never try to persuade a religious person to give up their beliefs.

TittyGolightly Mon 22-May-17 15:56:57

I'm more than happy for my DD to have a religious education - i.e. to learn about all belief systems including "none".

I'm not happy her being forced to engage in regular religious instruction for one religion, ie prayers and hymns. Even DD's non faith school has an over the top amount of religious instruction through the day, with prayers morning and afternoon and grace at lunchtime. As a result extracting her from it is extremely difficult. I've asked each of her teachers (3) so far why they do it and the purpose and not one can give an answer. The Head says they do it because school inspections report on it. It's total horse shit, and one of the reasons we have very open discussions about exactly how we came to have Xmas and Easter, and about all the other belief systems that celebrate different things at different times at home.

TittyGolightly Mon 22-May-17 15:57:34

We want DD to make her own choices about what she wants to believe.

NotCitrus Mon 22-May-17 16:07:01

In many rural areas all the schools are CofE and there is no choice. Even in cities if the CofE school is the only one you live close enough to, that's where you'll end up.

Re child starting - from personal experience, it's worth explaining that the people who run the school and some of the teachers and other children really believe the Bible stories and that God really was the father somehow of Jesus, and they believe Jesus died and came back to life somehow. Because being a child and hearing that for the first time, and cracking up laughing really does not go down well. Child then justifying themselves by arguing that it's obviously stupid, with all the tact to be expected from a young kid, really wasnt good.

Ds has similar ASD and has been explicitly told that some families believe these things and that it's not kind to laugh at them.

NeoTrad Mon 22-May-17 16:12:56

Our DC have been schooled at a Catholic school - a proper one with nuns and a resident Mother Superior - even though we are an atheist Jew (DP) and an atheist Anglican (me). The DC went to secular schools in primary and, for one of them, middle school.

DD is still at school and I am grateful everyday for the strong Christian values that surround her and infuse the school. They are, IMO, an indispensable part of her moral education and a necessary counterpoint to the very distorted values of post modern society.

bonbonours Mon 22-May-17 17:23:37

Re school inspections, one of our schools which does no christian assembly whatsoever, the only time they sing any christian songs is Christmas, have an outstanding Ofsted. So clearly that is rubbish that they have to be christian to please inspectors.

I always find the phrase 'christian values' interesting. Many of the values that I find 'valuable' are not actually exhibited by many christians. Our non-religious schools help to encourage values like kindness, tolerance, open-mindedness, being helpful, sympathetic, honest and so on. They seem to manage to do this without the need for christianity.

TittyGolightly Mon 22-May-17 17:34:54

Re school inspections, one of our schools which does no christian assembly whatsoever, the only time they sing any christian songs is Christmas, have an outstanding Ofsted. So clearly that is rubbish that they have to be christian to please inspectors.

Welsh schools aren't inspected by ofsted. Estyn mark on it.

Squeezed Mon 22-May-17 20:38:56

Lots of different experiences, all very helpful, thank you. I don't think you really know how a school will approach religion or following Christian values, as they call it, until you experience it.

notcitrus That's really good advice. I've ordered a book on different religious stories and teachings to go through in a bit more detail so she knows what's going on.

bojorojo Mon 22-May-17 22:05:47

That's way more than I did. My children just went along with the C of E bit aged 8. We didn't tell them about any religion at all. We just don't see it as an issue. We just let the school get on with it and luckily it was low key.

sazzleevans Mon 22-May-17 22:25:26

All 3 of my kids go to a church school. They are in years 1-3. I wouldn't worry at all. They just include it in the life and ethos of the school. My kids all sing church songs and sometimes burst into song in public. I sound like i am a really happy clappy family but we arent really. Dont worry about it. It will be fine.

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