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Should I let DD (7) go to a lunchtime Christian Reading Club?

(10 Posts)
pageturner Tue 07-Oct-08 12:10:48

The school timetable given out a couple of weeks ago listed a fortnightly lunchtime library club for Years 3 and 4 and DD was keen to go. She went, and brought back a book of Christmas poems and carols and told us that she got to keep the book for two weeks, then she could get another, they would collect stickers for books read and there would be prizes. I didn't realise that the club was specifically related to Christian reading until another parent told me.

I was uncomfortable with this because I don't think it is appropriate for a (non-CofE) primary school to be promoting a single religion. I particularly didn't like the way it was done: parents weren't notified and the Year 3 and 4 children were taken to the club, so they had to, in effect, opt out rather than opt in. One parent subsequently went in and challenged the head on the issue and suddenly a permission slip was sent out, explaining about the club. Though this is rather after the horse has bolted: if the permission slip had gone out before the club started I would have had fewer qualms about refusing. The club is not run by the school itself, but by some of the local Christian community.

I am in a quandary: DD is very keen on going to the club: she loves reading and she is going through a rather pious stage; also, of course, many of her friends were at the first session, though I think there will be many fewer at the next one! So, should I let her go and use it as a springboard for (more) conversations about the wider nature of religious belief, or vent my annoyance over the school's underhand approach to this by not letting her?

(I should probably say that DH is a committed atheist and I'm a wishy-washy I-don't-know-er! My approach with my children so far has been to try and make them aware of the breadth of religious belief and let them make up their own minds.)

ThreadieKrueger Tue 07-Oct-08 12:13:57

If it was me, I would happily let her go (but provide her with agnostic and athiest alternative viewpoints) and I would really have an angry word with the school about failing to give parents proper information.

Chaotica Tue 07-Oct-08 12:23:43

I would certainly refuse (and probably report the school for this) - it might be slightly better if the group was organised from within school (but not much). To do this without a permission slip first is outrageous.

You could get your daughter access to another club, different reading etc and explain to her why she can't go to that one. (Or do as threadie says and start discussions with her about it if you really can't bear for her to opt out...)

AMumInScotland Tue 07-Oct-08 12:50:15

I would definitely write a strongly worded letter to the school and the LEA about the way this has been done - they should have made it clear from the start that this is a Christian club, and should have given an option to opt-in (with permission slip from parents) rather than being taken there as the default. The fact that the club is pushing one particular world-view should have been made perfectly clear from the start - whether it was Christian, vegetarian, Socialist, or anything else.

Oh, and I am a Christian, so it's not that I have anything against it, but it should not be done in an underhanded way.

Up to you if you let her continue to go or not, if you discuss religion etc anyway then you can give her a different view on the subject.

pageturner Tue 07-Oct-08 13:49:11

Thanks, everyone, for your contributions. DH and I have discussed this at length, and while we would rather she didn't go, we are uncomfortable with banning her. As I said in my OP, my general practice is to let my children have all sides to an issue (as far as practicable!) and let them decide for themselves and banning her seems to be the opposite extreme. However, DH made the observation that this is problem some bright spark at the church's idea of a way to encourage young people to attend. I feel quite clear that if there is any suggestion made to my child that she should go to a service or Sunday school, then she will be withdrawn immediately. I'm at the limit of my tolerance letting her go, and that would be crossing the line.

When it comes to the way the school has handled the matter, I think I need to treat this as a separate issue. I think the head was unwise in the extreme to give approval to this club, and, frankly, stupid not to notify parents first (what the hell was she thinking?!). I need to make my concerns known and just need to think about the best way to proceed with that. As it happens, I'm a governor so there may be a few options open to me.

pageturner Wed 08-Oct-08 09:27:59

Any other thoughts?

Fennel Wed 08-Oct-08 10:04:28

Oh Pageturner I have lots of opinions and experience on this. It's one of my parental specialities, how to let them be free to explore their own beliefs while we are firmly atheist and the dds' grandparents, school teachers and neighbours/babysittes are plugging christianity far too hard.

Our (community) school recently sent home a notice about a "family service" in the local church, it was advertised by friendly new young vicar man and jolly songs, my dds were very keen to go. We live practically in the churchyard so the dds are used to playing around the churchyard and watching people go in and out of the church so they are interested.

I let them go but didn't go with them, this has happened a few times now, they go and ask our neighbour/babysitter/nice woman/churchwarden to take them and she does. I am not happy really about it all but I don't feel I can ban them from exploring their beliefs.

I do talk about religion and christianity and atheism a lot to the dds though, I find that easy, and I do insist they remember that they are too young to make decisions about what they believe and that they should NOT let any adult pressurise them into making any decisions about belief, that they can read, think, talk about it but wait til they are much older to make up their minds.

What annoys me is that we wanted to be tolerant and liberal about letting them grow up working out their own beliefs but they are getting regular firm evangelical targetting so there isn't a neutral ground to start from, it seems, in our case.

GooseyLoosey Wed 08-Oct-08 10:12:03

DH and I are both atheists and are not comfortable with religion at school. Equally we don't feel that we can ban out children from taking part in religious events as we don't want to make them stand out from their peers.

I think that my approach here would be to tackle the school/LEA. As they have foist this problem upon you, they should in part be resonsible for the solution and I think I would be suggesting that it would be more appropriate if the reading group was opened to look at a wider spectrum of beliefs (preferably including non-belief).

They should never have allowed non-teaching staff to run a club without parental consent and therefore, I think that they have assumed a degree of responsibility for what goes on. I'm sure that people from other religious groups would be happy to come along and explain their beliefs and if this were done, I would continue to let the dcs go.

I would be so angry about the school leaving my children in the custody of what I would probably view as fruitcakes without my consent that unless changes were made, I do not in all conscience think that I could let them continue to go.

swedishmum Wed 08-Oct-08 10:26:39

I think this is shocking as a parent, a one-time RE teacher and vicar's daughter. IF the school thinks it's OK to have a Christian Reading Club at primary age the parents should certainly be given much more information before it starts. Opting out sounds mad. I bet there'd have been an outcry if it was a Muslim reading club, or Scientology. I think even teaching of RE by evangelical teachers can be problematic.

cory Wed 08-Oct-08 10:27:05

Me too I'm a Christian and I'd write a strong letter to the school! Like the others had said, it's the underhand way!

If your child had found out about this club and herself decided she wanted to go, then that would be a different matter. My agnostic/atheist parents never put any obstacles in my way when I told them I wanted to start going to church.

But they've basically sneaked her into it- I'd take a very dim view of that. hmm

Incidentally, both my dc's are atheists and I support them too.

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