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Atheist family allocated C of E high school

(68 Posts)
Olly1uk Tue 14-Jan-20 11:30:21

Good morning all you lovely mums out there.

Can anyone please help or give me some advice or opinions,,,, please!... I'm really stressing about the school situation for my 2 boys.

We are an English family relocating to the UK (due to work circumstances) with our 2 boys (years 7 & 8). Due to our non religious beliefs , we have requested that our children go to a non faith school, with the perfect school, with an excellent reputation being under 1 mile from our house.

The children have always had the option of following a non religious education where we currently live and, although have learned about different faiths, have never ever studied R.E

I found out yesterday that we have been allocated a Church of England school. It is slightly further away from our preferred school and the ofsted reports state 'needs improvement'. Looking on their website, they promote the following of god, jesus and the bible heavily and worship every morning with their own prayer. They state that worship is central to the school day, have regular church services and bible readings. I read the outcome of their church school inspection the SIAMS report, I belive it is called, and this statement worries me "students are valued as god's children, so feel accepted and are eager to learn" This implies that if they don't believe in god, they won't be or feel they should be accepted.

We are atheist and have purposely raised our children without this religious nonsense and now we feel it will be pushed on them.

Has anyone else been in the same situation? Can anyone, please give me some advice. What happens if/when we decline this offer?

The school has contacted me informing me that they supposedly accept all faiths and are inclusive (inclusive, what does that mean exactly? They are an undersubscribed school; are they just trying to boost their numbers? ) and should I have any questions just call them.
What questions should I ask?... My fear is that the religion will be favoured over the quality of teaching other subjects like maths and science, and that it will filter down into other subjects. I believe I read that GCSE religious studies is compulsory at this school? I have one child who wants to be a scientist and the other who wants to be a computer programmer, where does RE fit in with this. It's useless.

Anyway, we only move in 2 weeks time so, I'm hoping to sort something out before we get to our new address....
Any advice much appreciated...

Wheresthebiffer2 Tue 14-Jan-20 11:37:14

inclusive means they accept pupils of all faiths and none. (ie muslims and atheists as well as Christians).

In my experience, the other subjects (English, science, history) will be totally unaffected by the CofE status of the school. Yes, they will have assemblies, and possibly prayers every morning in Form, but the main part of the children's day will be regular school lessons. with normal teachers not nuns or anything).

GU24Mum Tue 14-Jan-20 11:41:08

Hi OP,
If the school you prefer is full then you won't be able to get a place and definitely wouldn't win an appeal based on the fact that you'd prefer a non-religious school. You can go on the waiting list for the school you'd prefer and/or can see if there are spaces at another school you'd like in preference to the one you've been allocated. Unfortunately lots of people don't get the school they'd really like. We put on our form last year for Y7 and got none of them!

RedskyAtnight Tue 14-Jan-20 11:52:10

If you decline the offer there is no requirement to make you another one.

You can request a list of all schools that have places in your boys' years and see if any of these would be more acceptable to you (this might mean them going to different schools).

You can appeal for the school you do want (or any others that you would like that don't currently have places). However, you will probably need a better reason that "it has a good reputation and is close to our house".

You can also go on the waiting list for any such schools (clearly no guarantee of a place).

You should also be aware that some form of religious teaching is mandatory in all schools, so you will not be able to avoid it altogether. However, you also have the option to remove your children from this.

TheSandman Tue 14-Jan-20 11:55:20

As a fellow atheist parent I sympathise but I have no idea about anything helpful to add. I think you can get your kids opt outed out of services - and be the envy of of all their school mates. When I was at high school a long time ago this was true. I and the the few Muslim Jewish and other kids who were similarly not getting to do the god stuff in the hall would use the time to frantically do the homework we were supposed to have done the night before - while everyone else was pointlessly wearing their knees out and doing group wishing.

enjoyingscience Tue 14-Jan-20 11:57:17

I’m an atheist chair of govs at a CofE primary. You can withdraw from collective worship if you like, but please don’t worry. CofE schools are explicitly for the community of all faiths and none.

I’ve been through a SIAMS inspection before and although Christian practice is an important part (of course), wellbeing and results are too. This can have a really positive impact on the pastoral approach of a school (not guaranteeing it would be superior to a non faith school, but it is important).

I hope they settle well whichever direction you go in smile

Aroundtheworldin80moves Tue 14-Jan-20 11:57:41

If it's undersubscribed, there's a high possibility that many of the other pupils won't be practicing Christians anyway, at most 'cultural' Christians.

sugarbum Tue 14-Jan-20 11:58:13

If there are no spaces in your preferred school/s, there are no spaces. You need to check with the local authority to see what availability there is, but the fact that you were allocated the c of e school suggests that this was the only place with space. 'I'm an athiest' doesn't cut the mustard. Put their names on the waiting list for their preferred school - thats all you can do. If you decline the offer, you will end up with no school for your kids to attend. As I said, check with the LA for availability of spaces.

Also I wouldn't worry too much if they have to attend, even for a little while. A CofE school still teaches the 'important' stuff. And all the schools round here teach RE regardless of religious affiliation. FWIW my son attends a cathedral school (so heavily involved with the church) and they study all religions in RE - they are very much encouraged to give their own opinions even if they don't believe in god/s. A child is not punished in any way for not being Christian. There are many Muslims who attend the school (its partially selective). Its not an issue.

So as other posters have said, whilst there will be an aspect of religion - morning assembly and prayers - and in our case (which is the exception not the norm) they spend the last half day of term at the cathedral - its just a normal school. Just a normal school that happens to have a chapel the kids can go to if they need some god-assistance (I can safely say that my Y8 DS won't ever be asking for it!)

coragreta Tue 14-Jan-20 11:59:59

Their website will make much more of it than it really applies. They are a church school so have to have that on their website. It will definitely not be prioritised over other subjects which will be completely unaffected by the religious status of the school.
Lots of schools make RE Compulosry and it will simply be teaching about all faiths etc. I think learning about other religions would be important for everyone.
They may say prayers or sing hymns in assembly but I doubt it will go much further.
Go look round.
The bottom line is They go here, you home educate, you send them to a school further away or you pay private.

Olly1uk Tue 14-Jan-20 12:06:30

Thanks for your replies....

RedskyAtnight. .. Would I get this information from the local authority or the schools themselves? and do you mean we could opt out of the subject RE or the worship segments?.. Do you know what alternative would be provided? I suppose I need to ask the school really don't I.

The reason we chose our 1st choice of school, wasn't to do with it having a good reputation ( I only found that out after we had visited) Our eldest has high functioning autism (Aspergers) and talking with the school and looking around the facilities, I was reasurred that this wouldn't be an issue in the slightest and he would settle well (he has been bullied in his current school) . It is also easy to reach without supervision. Where we live currently, Aspergers is not recognised, and Autism is seen as a mental health issue!

Olly1uk Tue 14-Jan-20 12:13:57

Sorry, I'm a little behind and have only just read the other posts..!
Thank you everyone, I'm starting to feel a little less stressed now... I will give the school a call and have a chat with them and make arrangements to visit.
Thesandman Do you think if we were to opt out of the worship, they would be the envy of the other kids lol... I was thinking the opposite,, that they would be picked on...

LIZS Tue 14-Jan-20 12:15:51

You can probably find online how places were allocated in past few years between those applying under Faith criteria and community places. That would give you a sense of the balance of the community. All state schools are required to hold assemblies and reflect diversity, so you may find it less specifically religious than you fear. Declining a place there will not open places at the preferred school but you coukd appeal once you have moved. There may be another school with vacancies further away but particularly for year 7 a space would be unusual unless it was undersubscribed initially and that may mean it is perceived as less good locally.

Olly1uk Tue 14-Jan-20 12:20:30

enjoyingscience thanks for you input. Very informative and reassuring. If we were to withdraw from collective worship, would the children be offered an alternative do you know, or just be expected to entertain themselves? I'm assuming the worship wouldn't be for very long?

It's interesting what you say about pastoral care, this will be very important for my eldest who is on the autistic spectrum.

ChazsBrilliantAttitude Tue 14-Jan-20 12:28:09

You can appeal for the school you want. However, doing so on the basis of religion will not work.
That said, your DC has Autism so if you can demonstrate why that specific school better meets their needs you might be lucky.

There are some experts on Admissions appeals on these boards so if you want to explore that route I would start a thread with appeal in the title.

MsJaneAusten Tue 14-Jan-20 12:29:33

Collective worship is usually the equivalent of assembly. Non-Christian pupils at the c of e school I worked in were able to be removed from that (to read in the library) but most tended to remain in and just to sit quietly during the (very short) prayers. They only tended to actually sit out of the assemblies led by the local vicar.

GCSE RE is compulsory in many schools. It’s a useful subject: essay writing, structuring an argument, understanding alternative viewpoints. It should not be evangelical.

In my experience, the local C of E school has great pastoral support and if certainly top of my list for my son who has ASC and ADHD. That obviously won’t be the case in all C of E schools but it’s worth asking.

They won’t get a place at the local school if there are no places, but you can go on the waiting list.

LaurieFairyCake Tue 14-Jan-20 12:30:02

Can I also just pick you up on what you say about RE - it has nothing to do with religious practice but is a rigorous academic humanities subject just like History.

RE (or RS) is mostly compulsory to gcse level in Uk secondary schools and they investigate/report/learn about religions and practice around the world in an academic fashion.

PrayingandHoping Tue 14-Jan-20 12:31:09

I studied RE at gcse and a level from a not particularly religious family. We never went to church other than perhaps at Christmas. It was not something we talked about at home

RE teaches what many different religions believe, it's not teaching a particular religion or for your child to be religious. It also covers ethics and encourages critical thinking. I found it very interesting which is why I studied it (alongside maths and economics at a level and went on to study economics at uni!). At a level it was a well thought of subject by universities.

doritosdip Tue 14-Jan-20 12:42:28

I am an atheist and have kids at a non-religious secondary.

My kids have learned some useful stuff in RE (primary). They know the story behind Diwali, Ramadan, Easter... which is cultural general knowledge if you live in the UK IMO.

Secondary RE has been surprisingly philosophy based rather than the rehashing of bible stories that I recall back in the day. It won't make your child religious knowing about Judaism or Sikhism. Tbh I think more adults should know that people in turbans aren't Muslim etc

JeansNTees Tue 14-Jan-20 12:50:54

Same as doritos, our non-faith secondary teaches RE to GCSE level where it becomes an option rather than a timetabled compulsory class. They've covered atheism quite heavily too.

Were you clear on the Admissions form that your son has SEN? That can make a difference, although then you'd run the risk of having 2 kids in 2 different schools if only one gets in.

admission Tue 14-Jan-20 12:51:22

Think that you need to accept that your preferred school is full and that even if you appeal the chance of success at appeal is going to no more than 30%. If you go to appeal then each of your children will be considered separately and it is quite possible that your eldest with some SEND issues may be offered a place but your youngest not.
As such you need to look at the CofE school in a more favourable light and go and visit without any preconceived ideas over the level of religion taught in the school.
As others have said it is legally allowed to opt out of religous assemblies if you wish, though in many CoE schools the religious assembly is much less religious than it is assembly.

titchy Tue 14-Jan-20 12:56:45

I believe I read that GCSE religious studies is compulsory at this school? I have one child who wants to be a scientist and the other who wants to be a computer programmer, where does RE fit in with this. It's useless.

GCSE RE is a well regarded subject. Kids are NOT expected to believe anything - just to know how different religions view topics such as abortion, euthanasia etc. It's VERY interesting, particularly from an ethics point of view. It is NOT useless at all - and will make no difference whatsoever to your kids' STEM ambitions so don't worry about that.

FWIW my atheist kids went to church primary and secondary schools, did GCSE RE because is was compulsory and are both Science undergrads.

Collaborate Tue 14-Jan-20 13:01:18

My son is at a catholic school - about to do A levels. Including computer science.

There is really no need for you to think that the religious aspect will impact upon the quality of teaching.

BTW my son is an atheist. He was praised by his RE teacher for questioning things in class and not accepting that there is a God.

BubblesBuddy Tue 14-Jan-20 13:04:11

A broad education is vital for DC. They are not specialising in the first few years at secondary school. You could argue most humanities and arts are of little value for computer programming but they are important for the development of the brain and understanding our world. Don’t be so keen to narrow down education and learning.

Straycatstrut Tue 14-Jan-20 13:36:06

I thought RE was compulsory in all schools - to teach children about Religion? It's a huuuge part of the world they need to learn about it.

That's just the odd half hour lesson though. My eldest does it in Primary (Y3) they're visiting a Religious Temple next week. No issues from me.

However I'd really hate my DC going and praying and "worshipping" every day. Talk about forcing something on children.

MollyButton Tue 14-Jan-20 17:18:47

You do realise that no schools in England are totally non-religious. They are expected for example to provide assemblies which are "broadly Christian" unless there is another dominant faith (although most wiggle around this). All have to teach RE to 16 (my DC's sat the exam in year 10, and then covered some RE subjects in PSHE, mainly ethical issues).

You can however withdraw your DC from all assemblies and RE. However most RE is not religious indoctrination (which is forbidden actually), but is education in world religions. For GCSE I believe all schools (even Catholic ones) have to study 2 World Religions, and most schools study more than this in the younger years. And then a lot of it involves discussion of ethical issues.

Choice doesn't really exist - you have the right to express a preference for a school. You are very fortunate (unless you are ex-military or crown agents) to be offered a school at all before you are actually resident in the Country.

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