Faking it to get your DC into a good church school

(46 Posts)
lost11cause Thu 01-Aug-19 15:50:03

Saw a documentary about parents pretending to be Christian and attending services to get their DC into a good school. The local priest said they generally stop as soon as their DC is offered a place.
I was wondering - how long do the parents have to attend services to convince the priest they are genuine?
Do they have to observe the sacraments of confession and holy communion?
If they don't - doesn't the priest become suspicious?
If they stop going to church once their DC has been accepted or soon after the start of the school year why doesn't the school expel their DC on the grounds of fraud?
This would only have to happen once all over the country to put a stop to what is - after all - fraud and deception.
If they have to attend services for at least a year and many non-believers are doing this (according to the documentary) it does not say very much for the abilities of the various priests that they generally fail to touch, move and inspire these people into becoming genuine Christians.
The C of E is in crisis as fewer and fewer people are practising Christians these days and yet these fake Christians should represent a golden opportunity for parish priests to win souls back to the faith - if they have to attend mass for about 50 times that's a lot of contact with true believers and Sunday sermons - and yet very few appear to be converted by their experience - is this because the priests are uninspiring lack-lustre preachers?
Or are the parents hard core atheists cynically going through the motions (making a mockery of the true believers praying in the pew next to them)?
I would think with a guaranteed captive audience of desperate parents the churches would be doing a better job of winning new converts - any idea why they aren't?
Does the DC end up a devout Christian as a result of going to a church school and how do the non-believer parents cope with this clash of values in the home and how do they maintain the fiction that they are Christians - do they lie to their DC or tell their DC to lie to the school?
PS I am an atheist who respects people of genuine faith so I am just curious why we haven't seen an upturn in Christianity as a result of this widespread practice.
I do not have any children.

OP’s posts: |
JoJoSM2 Thu 01-Aug-19 16:45:59

I’ve ever met an atheist pretending to be Christian for a school place.

TeenTimesTwo Thu 01-Aug-19 17:00:43

You don't generally have to 'pretend to be Christian' for a CofE school. You have to attend church regularly. (Like Elizabeth I wanting outward conformance, not looking into men's hearts and souls).
(I think Catholic schools are more likely to want certificates of baptism etc).

However I agree, if someone attends church regularly you'd hope the 'morals' would rub off even if they don't convert.

JoJo I think this kind of thing is very area-dependent, as people would only do this if there weren't sufficiently good non-faith schools nearby. Doesn't happen near us, as the CofE school is actually the least good of the4 local offers.

AllFourOfThem Thu 01-Aug-19 17:06:58

For my local schools you need to regularly attend the local church for a minimum of 18 months (I believe it is at least two or three times per month).

I gather some churches find that some of these parents do continue to attend the church to some capacity afterwards (especially if they have more than one child they want to get into the school). Church attendance is not an ongoing requirement once the child has the place at school confirmed so that wouldn’t constitute fraud. I would imagine the view is that you can still believe in the particular religion without going to church on a near weekly basis, so it would be hard to prove otherwise.

Witchend Thu 01-Aug-19 19:00:53

The majority of people doing that would probably describe themselves as "Christian". So they listen vaguely without any real thought behind and think they're doing very well.
Once the pressure of going to church weekly (or whatever) is lifted, they give themselves a few weekends off. They tell each other that they'll go next week, at the next big service, when they're not quite so tired.
A year later they feel a bit embarrassed at turning up, perhaps they do, and find a different set of parents there, maybe the minister's changed and it suddenly doesn't feel like it used to, they're now the regulars who know what happened, they're the newbies, which is really awkward because they're not really...

It's not that they didn't plan on going back. It's just that other things got in the way.

RandomMess Thu 01-Aug-19 19:08:51

Our secondary school it's attendance over three years, plenty of people attend church for this reason and then moan about the End of term church services and that RE is compulsory confused

School are VERY up front, have their own chapel, church choir, chaplain etc...

If you have church attendance prior to the three years they are worth more points.

Floralnomad Thu 01-Aug-19 19:09:49

I doubt it’s actual atheists , it’s just people who are C of E but don’t go to church . It used to happen at our local school until they doubled the intake , I’m an atheist and didn’t do it so my dc didn’t get a place ( before expansion) . Personally I can’t see the problem if someone is committed enough to give up their Sunday morning for a year or 18 months


prh47bridge Thu 01-Aug-19 19:26:43

As TeenTimesTwo says, the requirement for most CofE and some Catholic schools is simply church attendance. If you meet the requirement you are entitled to priority for admissions. They are not allowed to make subjective judgements of your level of faith. If they do any parent refused priority despite meeting the stated requirements would have a good case for appeal.

It is not fraud or deception. It is entirely within the rules. Schools cannot expel pupils just because the parents only attended church to get a place.

prh47bridge Thu 01-Aug-19 19:28:40

By the way, you don't need to convince the priest you are genuine. You just have to attend church and make sure your attendance is recorded. The priest may be absolutely certain you are devil worshippers who will never set foot inside the church again, but they must still sign the papers saying you have attended as required.

admission Thu 01-Aug-19 19:55:16

Different schools have different requirements. In my opinion there has been a realisation in the last two or three years amongst the clergy that signing to say that a family meets the criteria is something that needs to be treated seriously. Previously it was not unknown for the clergy to sign anybody as meeting the criteria but now more and more are incorporating some kind of signing in form to ensure they are signing on the basis of actual facts not that they have seen them at church a few times.
However it is still by no means perfect and is one area where a new admission code might want to change things on.

Happysummer Thu 01-Aug-19 20:10:58

As an atheist, I would never consider a faith school. It goes against everything I (don't) believe in and I couldn't support their teachings on any level.

I have friends whose children are in faith schools and what they say about assemblies being all God orientated, Bible readings and the awards are given based on how God views the children....just no. Nothing would make me want my children in a faith school.

I can only imagine those who do, are believers, just not very active. How could an atheist, agnostic or person of a different religion condone the school's ethos and teachings otherwise?

BubblesBuddy Thu 01-Aug-19 20:26:05

Where I live, our local junior school is C of E controlled and it takes everyone from catchment and a few others who wish to go. It’s not brilliant and never has been. Most DC transfer to it from the very good infant school next door that’s a community school.

However the new Head at the Junior has introduced prayers 3 times a day, religious pictures all over the school and religion is now a major emphasis in the school day. It nodded to religion previously and certainly followed the agreed syllabus but now it’s a God is Everything school and its not even VA. People have no choice but to go there because other schools are full. I think this change is deeply unfair when people cannot get into other schools and it’s far too God Squad now. It’s an unnecessary change and is upsetting many decent parents who didn’t sign up to this.

JassyRadlett Thu 01-Aug-19 20:36:56

Apparently attendance at the CofE church associated with the school my son attends nosedived after it received a ‘needs improvement’ Ofsted. (the same Ofsted meant my son was able to get in on distance. No non-faith schools local enough, nearest is about 1100m away and the faith schools mess up the catchments so much we had no chance of that.)

I have no problem with parents abiding by the letter of the rules to get their children into a faith school. The concept of state-funded schools being able to discriminate against four year olds on the basis of their parents’ religion is so abhorrent and morally corrupt that I can’t really blame people who work the system as it stands.

As an atheist, I would never consider a faith school. It goes against everything I (don't) believe in and I couldn't support their teachings on any level.

I used to think that. But when your choice is faith school, faith school, or failing faith school 40 mins away (where the kids who miss out on all their preferences are sent in our oversubscribed borough) you find some flexibility. Moving (would have had to be some distance to avoid being in a similar situation) or private were not realistic options.

Was listening to 7 year old and his mate (whose mum teaches at the local Catholic school) calmly discussing how they didn’t believe god existed in the back of the car the other day. School doesn’t seem to be having an undue impact....

FossiPajuZeka Thu 01-Aug-19 20:49:38

No one needs to fake anything. Schools aren't allowed to have criteria of anything so subjective and unmeasurable as faith. You can be as honestly atheist as you wish. Church school criteria are solely based on where your body is physically located. If it is in church during a service for the required number of times then all is well. No dishonesty has occurred.

Of course some people choose to go through the motions and stop up their ears and harden their hearts and make sure they don't get affected in the slightest. Their choice. Doesn't hurt anyone if that's what they want to do with their time.

stucknoue Thu 01-Aug-19 20:56:35

Around September/October every year I have parents panicking demanding that we baptise their kids the following week, we can predict the date based on the date of the open day at the (very good) local church school. Some have tried several vicars before they end up at my door and I explain that they either need to live in the parish or attend our church regularly to have their child baptised, we generally allow them to book the baptism for about 4 weeks time on condition they attend each week ... then (having not attended church in the 3 months since the baptism) they arrive with a form for us to state that they are members of our church, I refuse to sign, it's an over subscribed school and the only c of e one in the city, genuine Christians can't get places because of sharp elbowed middle class parents who live closer (it's in one of the most expensive streets in the city). Only those who attend at least monthly get any endorsement from us

prh47bridge Thu 01-Aug-19 20:58:20

I have friends whose children are in faith schools and what they say about assemblies being all God orientated, Bible readings and the awards are given based on how God views the children....just no

Assemblies at all schools are supposed (apart from faith schools of non-Christian faiths) are supposed to be Christian.

I've never come across a faith school that gives awards based on how God views the children. I would have serious questions about one that did.

The reality is that many faith schools are no more religious than non-faith schools. Indeed, some non-faith schools are far more religious than most faith schools.

BubblesBuddy Thu 01-Aug-19 22:16:52

That’s how they should be! Welcome everyone. CofE Controlled especially. However they can change and make people feel unwelcome and it seems a few people like the Head and Governors can dictate ethos.

BubblesBuddy Thu 01-Aug-19 22:18:31

And ignore the majority of the parent body who want broadly Christian and not pushy Christian when they cannot go anywhere else within miles! Not 1km!

Birdsfoottrefoil Fri 02-Aug-19 01:40:53

They are not ‘faith’ and ‘non-faith’ schools; they are ‘denominational’ and ‘non-denominational’ schools.

ConstanzaAndSalieri Fri 02-Aug-19 01:50:48

It’s nearly 30 years since I went to secondary school. The non-denominational choices (kids from my primary school went to one of at least six secondaries) were various definitions of “poor” apart from the grammar in the next borough over, so there was always a massive amount of junior school kids and parents at church hoping to get into one of the two local Anglican secondaries. They’d stay and get confirmed in yr7 and then never darken the church door again. Mind you of the five primary schools in my town only one was non-denominational so we were already quite a church school area.

GADDay Fri 02-Aug-19 02:19:34

IMO there should be no place for religion in any school, other than as part of standard curriculum to provide students with objective information about different religions.

Alislia17 Fri 02-Aug-19 02:42:14

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FossiPajuZeka Fri 02-Aug-19 06:56:34

@Birdsfoottrefoil not always true - the church school that's near us & is outstanding has entry criteria accepting religious observance in any recognised Christian denomination or any of the major non-Christian world faiths as all being equally valid for entry priority.

SnuggyBuggy Fri 02-Aug-19 07:02:13

My church school was full of parents doing this. My DM admitted she asked around to find the primary school that demanded the least church attendance to sign the form.

I don't blame my parents, the default secondary school for me was a comprehensive in special measures. My secondary school turned out to be awful but I'm guessing the failing one would have been worse.

Kittywampus Fri 02-Aug-19 07:07:45

I have no problem with parents abiding by the letter of the rules to get their children into a faith school. The concept of state-funded schools being able to discriminate against four year olds on the basis of their parents’ religion is so abhorrent and morally corrupt that I can’t really blame people who work the system as it stands.

I agree with this.

I also think that the church schools benefit from an intake whose parents are prepared to jump through hoops to get their children into their chosen school. With parents who are so invested in their children's education the school is likely to get very good results. There's no incentive for them to change the system.

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