This is a Premium feature
Offered a place in a church school(51 Posts)
We have received an offer for reception this year for a school that wasn't on our choices list and it's a church school.
I've read up quite a bit about this school and it's rated highly so all good except that it has a very strong emphasis on religion and I believe it teaches Christianity as pretty much fact. As a family we are atheist and actually my dh was brought up in a very small Christian cultish denomination family and still has issues related to that so we really don't want dc being 'brainwashed' in school. We have obviously decided to leave DC on the wait list for our selected schools and I'm aware we don't have any grounds to appeal but assuming we do end up going to this church school how do we keep our children open minded?
It seems so unfair that a school effectively has more say in what our children will believe in terms of religion than their family.
There's different kinds of church school, most may mention religion in their prospectus but it won't form a major part of the curriculum. Get further information before you decide
How do you know they teach Christianity as fact? I would be very surprised. Is it CofE or RC? I teach in a CofE school and my DC go to one. We aren't allowed to teach as fact, we simply say Christians believe...... RE ia taught once a week and there is a focus on Christianity but we also teach other religions. Other than that, there is little difference to the non-CofE schools I've taught at. The vast majority of pupils at both my school and my DC's school are not church-goers.
I have taught in a Roman Catholic school which was a bit more religion-heavy but still had a lot of non church-attending pupils.
Some faith schools are not very religious. Indeed, some community schools are more religious than some faith schools. So, as the previous poster says, find out more about the school.
You do have the option of withdrawing your child from assembly and religious education.
I would also add that, even in the most religious of faith schools, I wouldn't class what they do a s "brainwashing". Even if it was, it clearly isn't very effective given the proportion of pupils are not converted to the faith.
It seems so unfair that a school effectively has more say in what our children will believe in terms of religion than their family
Why would the school have more say? You have the opportunity to teach your children whatever you want about religion or your beliefs at home. The only way the school could have a stronger influence is if you choose to say nothing about it, and then the school teaches something that your children choose to believe.
They have 'worship' written into their daily timetable in the school, say grace before lunch and once a week they have a service in the church.
Even on their website there is a very heavy emphasis on Christianity.
I feel a bit bad for being unhappy. It is meant to be a good school in most regards its just that we actively avoided adding any faith schools to our choices because we feel quite strongly about not taking kids to church etc (which my inlaws really want to do - even making us say grace at their house) unless the kids actually ask to go.
I went to a school like that and I turned out ok. So did my Muslim born DH. As long as they aren’t teaching that girls are second class and xyz religion are devils incarnate then I’d not be too worried.
All primary schools have a form of daily "worship" but these are not necessarily exclusively Christianity focussed. Have you visited the school? Are there other schools which were undersubscribed or have waiting lists. It sounds as if you have been allocated the nearest with a space after others preferences were taken into account bit there may be another a little further away.
Can you withdraw your child from assembly even at a faith school?
I'm not sure I would want them withdrawn from religious education if there is similar emphasis put on all religions its just the teaching of one above all others that I'm not happy with.
Maybe we should look into that as an option.
Why don’t you call the school after the holidays and have a chat with the head of RE? I used to teach at a cofe school and our head of RE was so strict about the language we could use (e.g. “Some people believe that... others believe...”, “Christianity teaches that... what do you think?”) and the RE lessons really focused more on morals. For example, assemblies focused on something like Perseverance/Kindness/Bravery and lessons would be based around these too. I never felt uncomfortable teaching these topics and the lessons were so open and accepting. If the school you’re child has been offered a place at isn’t like this, or you just aren’t happy with any faith based education, then you have a right to withdraw your child, but will need to provide something for them to do during the lessons (one child completed a workbook at the back of the room). I hope this helps.
All schools are required to have a daily act of collective worship that is "broadly Christian in nature". Every non-church school I've worked at has had a school prayer. Most of them have sung hymns, although Church schools tend to sing more (child-friendly ones like This Little Light of mine, usually). The only difference I've noticed working in a church school is that we say "The Lord is with you" at each collective worship.
Most of the content of assemblies is non-religious, eg we talk about internet safety, world events etc. I would add that I am the only teacher in my school that actually goes to church outside of the twice-yearly school services and I don't go regularly. The headteacher certainly doesn't go.
My DS (nonCatholic) went to a Catholic primary school between ages 4-11. He did not have to participate in any mass. Yes he had assemblies one of which was a church service a week the other form assemblies, stories etc. I am not aware they ever aaid grace etc- he certainly didn't want or try to at home. Yes they did the usual Christmas and Easter celebrations but most schools do too anyway. They also learned about other religions too the same as most other schools.
I wouldn't worry too much. They will be more influenced by you in this area.
All schools are legally required to hold a daily act of collective worship that is Christian (if a Christian faith school), follows the faith of the school if a non Christian faith school), or 'broadly Christian in character' if a non faith school. Different schools interpret this in different ways - at many schools just holding assemblies for different year groups each day, for example, fulfils the criteria. But even in a non faith school the requirement is there. There have been campaigns to scrap this law but I can't see it happening tbh. You can withdraw your child but may not wish them to stand out/feel left out of assemblies, Christmas events, Easter bonnet making etc.
As a previous poster said, you can end up with non faith schools that are more religious than faith schools. My DC's primary school was chosen due to it being a non faith school. New Head took over who is very involved with a local evangelical church and the whole ethos of the school has changed. My eldest DC attends a nominally 'faith' school but other than RE lessons which cover every religion and a yearly carol service there is nothing religious about their education.
Can you withdraw your child from assembly even at a faith school?
Yes, you can. Every school I ever attended, worked in or my DC attended had children who didn't take part in assemblies/religious events. Jehovah's Witness children, children of other faiths, children of atheists who felt strongly. Think hard about whether your discomfort is worth your DC not being able to join in making Christmas cards, the Nativity, Easter bonnets, and so on as well as assembly. I find it fairly easy to counteract the 'God presented as fact' at home by just telling my DC that yes, some people believe that, but I don't and we don't follow that religion at all. If they decide to believe later on that's up to them, but I believe it's just a nice story (or whatever is age appropriate).
I was in the same boat as you, although we're rural so it was the only school for miles. DH and I are atheist, so until eldest started school religion of any kind was just not on our radar.
DS came home from school fairly quickly saying "god is everywhere", "Jesus loves you" etc. We did lots of smiling + nodding, and when DS started saying "why don't you go to church" and asking our beliefs, we opted for the "it's important you make your own mind up about this" route. (We don't want him to be forced into atheism as much as into religion.)
Funnily enough it has prompted questions about religion when otherwise there probably would have been none and it's spurred loads of interesting discussions between us all. He was snapped at once when he told a teacher he didn't believe in god, but we had a great chat about why that teacher might have reacted that way, how he felt about it and importance of discussing these things sensitively. Religion is still out there, so it's useful for kids to know what it's like to exist with people of different beliefs.
So my advice is not to stress about it, if it's a good school that's all that matters - use the slightly sticky situations as a springboard for philosophical discussion! (And it is pretty sweet going to nativity plays - Little Donkey and all that malarkey 👍🏻)
Can you withdraw your child from assembly even at a faith school
Yes you can.
I was going to post more about the daily worship, etc. but I see other posters have beaten me to it!
My DC's school is very religious (very few children who aren't baptised go there) and Christianity is most definitely taught as fact. Eg. First subject with most space on report is religious studies and always describes some new understanding of the works of Jesus and their impact on the world and their life that the child has gained that year, no other religions mentioned. Traveling relics will come to school and be ceremonially encountered by the children. Praying etc obvs.
I probably sound unhelpful but felt that your perception of the school is being 'poopooed', maybe it is as you fear, maybe not. However, I went to a school the same and am an atheist and have chosen it for my DCs who have all developed healthy and varied ideas about religion.
Thanks all. Maybe I'm over thinking. I just know my dh has had bad experience with being brought up religiously and I don't want the same for my kids. I really do wish that something as potentially contraversial as religion wasn't part of the ethos of a school which receives state funding but that's a whole other matter I guess.
I will call or visit the school after Easter and see if I can get more of an idea of how they teach religion. If it's as stories - Christians believe etc then I'm OK with that.
Is church attendance on the admission criteria? Schools where it is sometimes have more of a focus on religion.
Nope it's not on the admissions criteria. It's just got the usual looked after children or SN, children of staff, siblings and then proximity to school. We must have got in on the proximity criteria.
I went to some very religious schools. I am a complete atheist and always have been. I do, however, have a very thorough knowledge of Christian beliefs and culture which I have found helpful in terms of understanding wider European history / arts / culture.
My dcs school is c of e and it is very religious however i wouldn't say it's brainwashing . In the younger years my kids did take everything very literally and would say things like 'well god says, god made this...' etc etc but by year 6 a lot of the kids are a bit more cynical and often say they're atheist according to my oldest so I wouldn't stress about it.
Personally I like all the nativities, hymns etc at primary age - and I think it can be quite reassuring and positive for young children- heaven, forgiveness, Good Samaritans etc
Going to a faith school is not the same as 'being brought up religiously' though, because your DC will return home to your non-religious home every night and you will have far greater influence on them than the school. I know this, because my kids go to a Catholic school and we're atheists. They have sometimes come home with misinformation based on religious teachings from school, but some gentle talking about the issues has always resolved it and as they've got older (they're 11 and 7 now), they are as atheist as we are. We don't go to church, we talk about the scientific and rational reasons for why things happen and while I don't discourage them in believing in God, if they want to, I've always made it clear that their DF and I don't. So I wouldn't stress. In fact, I'd be happy that your DC has got into a good school. So many parents this week are devastated that their DC has got into a failing school, I'd thank your lucky stars that you aren't one of them.
My daughter attends the C of E village school despite my atheism. It's the local school so it was a done deal.
I figured religion exists in the world so it's reasonable for her to learn about it, and at home she sees the counterpoint, our atheism.
It probably helps that I went to a C of E junior school and turned out like this so I'm not too worried about brainwashing.
I accept that not all faith schools operate the same way, you should definitely make enquiries if there are things you might potentially be uncomfortable about.