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Church schools - your experiences?

(19 Posts)
Wyrdesista Thu 07-Dec-17 22:31:53

We are in an area surrounded by church schools,there are some community schools further away.

If your dcs go to a faith school,what are your experiences of it?I’ve realised that many of our local schools seem to be more churchy than I originally thought.They pray 3 x a day,etc.

Elvisola Thu 07-Dec-17 22:34:47

My children went to a CofE school. It was lovely. There was a really nice community spirit with the the church and they attended 4 times a year for services.

Nativity play obviously and some emphasis on all religions as per the curriculum.

BubblesBuddy Fri 08-Dec-17 01:10:59

My children went to a C of E junior school. The Vicar changed mid way through and the new one was in school a lot more. The school welcomed this but it felt more religious than it had been. It had Christmas and Harvest in Church but not much else. They now have a leavers service I believe.

The main issue with C of E schools is whether they are Aided or Controlled. Aided schools have much more autonomy and are closely linked with the Diocese Education service. They take a lot of training and advice from them. They have a significant number of Church appointed (Foundation) Governors and they can be very influential.
Aided schools control their admissions, employ their staff and have a lot more influence over the school.

Controlled schools still have lots of Church Governors but are often more relaxed in their approach to religion. At our school we had the standard daily act of worship, but no more. It wasn’t any friendlier than any other school. Possibly less so because the Church going parents thought they were superior and didn’t mix with anyone else.

C of E schools are great if you fit in with the ethos and I would check the ethos very carefully. Do not expect them to be more nurturing or friendly than anywhere else. Do look for high quality teaching, an excellent Head, good progress by the children and an interesting and stimulating curriculum. I think this is more important than any C of E input.

Bowerbird5 Fri 08-Dec-17 04:04:47

My children went to the village school( 2 minutes around the corner) and it was C of E. It was a lovely school were initially the children (38) took care of their school. Year 6 answered the telephone, wrote messages, answered the door, kept the cloakroom area tidy, swept the yard ( can you believe they used to argue about turns because they loved doing it), helped serve dinners and often read the afternoon story ( 3pm -3:15pm) to the infants. Later on it changed and they didn't do many of these little jobs. It was a shame really because in my eldest son's year they were an articulate, mature and polite bunch of kids. By the time my daughter was in the leavers class(60 por) the behaviour had deteroited quite a bit. Still high expectations but a few Prima donnas. Those days they had about 4-6 services a year, prayers first and last thing and regular RE. Some Governors were conntected to the church but only two had to be.

I recently went to a service where the children attended sang and then left. It was an anniversary of the church and the Bishop was there. Lunch was served afterwards where it was commented on about the children leaving and not continueing in the service( readers) and offertory. Behaviour was still as expected.there are now over 100 pupils at the school and it has an outstanding from Ofsted.

I am a Catholic and go to mass I have attended services were the children are involved. In October I went to a service were the whole school attended all 250 from Reception up. The behaviour was excellent you could hear a pin drop in the Gospel Reading. They pray three times. Morning, lunch and home time. Just short prayers and the school ethos is Christian. They have links with other countries and the Year Six have a spiritual week away in Yorkshire. It is an outstanding.

I work in a school. We have a prayer in assembly, a Nativity and occasional trip. They are supposed to have RE once a week but it gets shelved for other subjects. We have a good. Behaviour is mixed. The kids might tell you to FO if you asked them to sweep the yard/ pick up the litter.
I hope this gives you a bit of insight. I would advice going and looking at the schools during the day and make your mind up after looking at several. Think about " what suits your child" have a few days to consider.

Wyrdesista Fri 08-Dec-17 08:18:28

Interesting viewpoints,thanks.

The school is voluntary aided and according to the HT they pray three times a day.It sounds like the Vicar is a governor and has considerable influence on admissions.Its a smallish school and they didn’t even get the full quota of 15 children in Reception last year.They since had a very good Ofsted so I expect it to change.

It did feel very religious when we went round but what appeals to me is the behaviour is outstanding and the teaching excellent.Dd didn’t really like it much though,I’m not sure why.

We went to the Xmas fair and dm said she felt it was a bit cliquey which is what I thought too but I’m not sure any of this is important compared to the educational benefits.

soimpressed Fri 08-Dec-17 08:34:17

My DS went to a C of E school. Like you we didn't really have much choice as there were no other schools nearby that we could have gone to. My Ds was thrilled a few weeks after starting because he had learnt how the world was made - by God. Because I am not a christian so I explained that that was just the belief of some people. At one harvest festival a guest speaker told the children that Christians would blossom and bear fruit whilst others would not which really upset him. Again I had to explain that there are good and bad people who are christian just as there are good and bad people with other views.

The saddest thing for me is that the school has made DS opposed to all religions and he is dismissive of all religious thinking. Hopefully he will develop a more thoughtful approach in the future now he is in a secular secondary school.

Ragwort Fri 08-Dec-17 08:40:16

My DS went to three different schools (due to house moves) and, without question, the RC one was the best. We are Christian (but not RC) so I had no 'issues' with it being a Faith school - the teachers were outstanding, the behaviour was excellent and it was just a great, all round school. Very supportive and involved parents.

Wyrdesista Fri 08-Dec-17 08:55:00

That is one of my fears I think,we are very interested in sciences and although I don’t mind a nod to religion I’m not keen on it playing such a major influence.

It sounds very unChristian for your school to have said those things at harvest,Ive not heard anything like this from our Vicar (we attend very sporadically mainly for Easter and Xmas) but he is money obsessed and has made several digs at us all for not putting enough in the collection.

Its all in the guise of a joke but he goes on about never having seen so many 2pences in his life.I only ever see £1 coins in there! Many of the congregation are very old and probably on limited means so I imagine it mustn’t be easy for them.

The HT is religious too,when I asked about how the school deals with bullying she pointed to their Christian values displayed on the wall and said they were governed by them.She said she wouldn’t lie,they do have low level bullying but it’s not much.She said she never shouts at anyone but tells them she’s disappointed in them.It sounded very honest,I’m not sure if being disappointed is enough sometimes though.Id be concerned if there was a real troublemaker that it would require a stronger approach.

I’m probably over analysing, just some of the things that are worrying me.

zippies Fri 08-Dec-17 09:53:26

My children go to a CE school.

We are not religious / I am a very lapsed Catholic.

My eldest son is science mad and often brings up that he can't see how god can exist and there is no scientific basis etc.

So far the school have been great - they have their values but I feel very welcomed by the teachers. Teaching is really good.

They also do a lot, just loads of practical stuff for struggling families - without those families feeling marginalised - I know this on a more confidential basis and the way they involve families and offer a support to children going through hard times if just fantastic - and the children help out with food bank collections.

As an example a friend (who incidentally is not religious) but has a child at the school and she had an alcoholic abusive partner and this had an impact on her little boy. She has left the partner and the school and teachers could not have been more helpful - helping with her sons behaviour really working with him. It is really truly fantastic what they do. I feel that the teachers are such great role models.

I know some other pupils dip out of anything overtly religious and that seems fine too.

The school do have church services and lots of things to do around Christmas but I also feel the children learn about other festivals too.

I never feel any of their religion is pushed on me or the kids but I feel they really live their values if that makes sense?

brilliotic Fri 08-Dec-17 12:45:00

I think you will have to try to judge for yourself, as all faith schools are different. Some put less emphasis on the faith than some non-faith schools!

We are a science-y family, unmarried, DP is RC but before we had kids and started thinking about schools he hadn't been to mass for years. DC are baptised RC and DS attends a RC school.

Our school put A LOT of emphasis on faith/religion. In KS1 they have 2h of RE/week, 2.5h in KS2, the vast majority of which is RC-shaded. It rarely/never gets bumped off in favour of other stuff; they're more likely to miss maths or English. Plus it colours all the rest of the curriculum too. E.g. music is mostly hymns, a lot of reading and writing gets done around religious topics, the first ever school trip was to the church, learning about our local community meant learning about the RC community, when the topic was 'families' the focus was on 'our catholic family', when they talk about behaviour/friendship issues in circle time it is used to show why kind behaviour is required.
When I mentioned to the teacher that there had been a death in the family, the response was 'We will pray for you.' Children pray 4x/day (morning, before lunch, after lunch, at home time). They are taught the Lord's Prayer and the Hail Mary. Children ask for the class to pray for their sick relatives etc. Assemblies (parents invited) invariably focus on a religious theme, and start with a prayer. Parent info sessions are opened with 'Let's pray together'.

At age 4 DS came home really concerned about the devil, and worrying that I and DP would go to hell (as we aren't married). We had lots of conversations about symbols (that were too abstract for 4yo DS, he chose to believe in concrete 'true' things e.g. a person-like figure of devil who might come visit you) and about how bible stories, though hugely important and influential and a source for learning, are still stories and not 'truth' or 'fact' (again, DS chose to believe in them being 'true').

Now he's 7 and a lot more critical towards things he's told at school. He's starting to think for himself more. Though in his 'personal prayer' that he brought home recently he did say 'please god help me to pray more at home' (which would be very easy to achieve... ;) )

I think faith schools CAN be quite the brainwashing, and at 4 most young minds are still very predisposed to simply believing what they are told. Not all schools are though. And by being steady and constant at home, querying things, being curious, asking the whys, you can provide that alternative mode of thinking, ready for them when they are ready for it. Also you can model how to deal respectfully with people who believe differently to you, whilst keeping up the boundaries. (Respecting their faith does not mean accepting actions as ok in all cases. Someone doing something terrible in the name of 'faith' does not make that terrible thing acceptable.)

Regarding the often claimed better behaviour at faith schools, I do think it can be the case. I'd say that perhaps some of it is due to the selective intake many faith schools have. And some due to values such as kindness and forgiveness being quite likely to be found in Christian schools (though not a given). However religion does not have exclusive claims to morals and values. Some faithful will ask 'but how can you have values without faith?' implying that values must be derived from some axiomatic faith system. But you will know as well as I that you can have 'christian' values without the christian faith. You can derive values e.g. of kindness without having to assume a god. What I'm saying in a roundabout way is, values of kindness etc depend on each individual school and how it is managed and lead, rather than on the faith/non-faith aspect of it.

BrendansDanceShoes Fri 08-Dec-17 13:17:21

Kids at village C of E primary. As others have said, fact it was C of E was not the deciding factor in going there, it is the only local school . Myself and DH have no religion, and kids have always been brought up to understand this, but also that everyone makes their own choice. My eldest has been remarkably resilient in some lessons/ discussions where class mates have thought him weird because he isn't Christened, that parents got married in a hotel and now states that he doesn't believe in God if asked. He hates signing the hymns where it refers to God making the earth etc. He even told the Church school inspector this! I have taught both of my kids just to bow their head and be quiet when prayers are said, in assembly, before lunch and at hometime. This was acceptable to all but one teacher, when DD told to put her hands together in prayer stance (she would put her hands in her lap) but a little chat to teacher when I was aware of this stopped this (me thinks the children of other religion in DD class would not have been told the same....) As a non believer i do think the religion is quite heavy, but kids are learning to shape their own views and not take it all at face value, which will hopefully serve them better later in life. It's also served to open up debate at home.

BackforGood Fri 08-Dec-17 17:03:38

All faith schools are very different from one another.
My dc never prayed at school outside of assembly (when they did). However, apart from the fact they would say a prayer together, the assemblies were very much the same as in any other Primary school - fables, moral tales, etc., stores from all faiths, celebration assemblies, etc.

BubblesBuddy Fri 08-Dec-17 18:16:20

I think the differences are usually that the Aided schools are more religious and have greater involvement from the Church. Half the Governors are probably Church appointed.

Are admissions on catchment or do they select on whether you attend church as well? Many church school have children who are very well behaved as they are a self selecting bunch! As it is not full, it tells you something! It might be educationally good but other factors appear to prevent parents flocking to it.

Will you fit in? Wil your child fit in? 15 is small so friends will have to be maintained or he will be lonely.

What about sport, art, extra curricular, drama and music? Do you value any of these? A religious Head would not be my ideal and praying three times a day means they a taking the religious bit seriously. It would not do for me.

All schools have an agreed RE syllabus where children learn about other religions. Some religious schools try and gloss over this. They only see one religion as being important. I would weigh up everything you want in a school and see if the good points outweigh the questionable.

Wyrdesista Fri 08-Dec-17 21:18:09

Bubbles yes that’s the big question,will we fit in?Im not sure about that,we got the impression it was all a bit cliquey and that could be one of the reasons they are very undersubscribed.

A few years ago there was only 8 children in Reception!Massively undersubscribed and I really think that must b3 hard in terms of friendships.

The Vicar is very involved but I have found him a bit strange tbh.All the talk about money,constant donations to the church,etc has put me off him.Ive been polite but I am wondering if he will be trying to squeeze more money out of us if dd attends school there.

If the school becomes oversubscribed then the admissions criteria asks for once monthly church attendance for at least the past 12 months and baptism cert.

I’m not really happy for dd to pray three times a day,or learn that God made the world in 7 days,or that I’m probably evil because I’m not married and on my own.I mostly worry that if there is a clique it could make our lives lonely.

sallythesheep73 Sat 09-Dec-17 18:05:44

I am a scientist and a christian. I can cope with both at once. If you don't want your child to go a faith school pick another school. It's a simple as that.

BubblesBuddy Sat 09-Dec-17 19:58:39

I think some Church schools give out very strange messages that are not remotely inclusive. As ours was a 380 junior school, so the Church clique was only a small proportion but they were over-represented on the Governing Body. It can feel that you are allowed in, but they are the ones in charge. In a larger school, we could get around that to some extent, but in a small school it could be claustrophobic.

The Vicars tend to dip in and out at some Church schools but can have a very strong impact at others. On a Governing Body, for example, no-one stands up to them even if they are wrong.

Around me, the Diocese Education Board has pressed for schools to be become Aided to control admissions. For some schools, they know perfectly well this would exclude areas where children have always attended the C of E school, but because these areas have less Church attendance they knew exactly what they were doing. In effect it would exclude the Council estate and replace them with Church-goers from further away. How Christian is that???

If they are continually asking for money, they don’t have enough children. 8 just is not sustainable unless they have recruited more into the class. This would worry me. If you are correct and a good Ofsted brings in more children, it is sustainable but, if they appear exclusive, then they may not be flooded out with applicants.

Were most parents typical Church families or have you seen any single parents or ethnic mjnoritues? Do they have a PTA that holds events such as a Christmas Fair? Could you go along? Could you go to the school’s Christmas celebration to see what it’s like?

Does your child go to a nursery? Where are those children going to school? I am assuming you are catchment for the school?

BubblesBuddy Sat 09-Dec-17 20:00:50

The views of sallythesheep show exactly what the problem is! Sadly. Buy into the ethos or shove off!

mindutopia Sun 10-Dec-17 14:00:58

We are the same, not Christian, but no community schools within about 10 miles of us, so our dd goes to a CofE school. If you are in the UK, all schools still have to follow the national curriculum. Our dd goes to a church school. I am Jewish and we practice Jewish holidays at home and my dh is an atheist (though raised Christian). It's been fine.

I'm not crazy about the religion stuff, but as we don't practice christianity at home, it doesn't get reinforced and I'm fine with it as it is part of British culture and it's good she is exposed to it. So far most of RE seems to be just about values and ethics, nothing about practice. Anyway, it's a good experience for kids to learn that not everyone does things the way they do, so if you aren't religious, your dc can learn about what others do and also teach them about your own traditions at home if you have some. For us, it's been good for stimulating those sorts of conversations. Personally, I don't think schools have much influence on beliefs. My dh was raised in a Christian family and when to CofE schools and he's an atheist. My family is also Christian and I went to Christian schools as well and I converted to Judaism as an adult! So obviously didn't do us too much damage!

BubblesBuddy Sun 10-Dec-17 17:10:54

The RE taught syllabus is very different to
Multiple daily acts of worship. There is an agreed syllabus for RE lessons but not for praying. A lot of C of E informal teaching can be done when praying. I don’t think schools do have a huge influence either but if everyone around you goes to the Church and your child is the outsider it has other effects.

In our small town, the community infant school was the best school. No C of E affiliation at the junior school could make up for a poor Head there!

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