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Page 2 | Atheist family allocated C of E high school

(77 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...

OP’s posts: |
cabbageking Tue 14-Jan-20 18:51:08

RE is about comparing and contrasting religions.
No belief is needed.
Muslims believe xyz. Christians believe this, Hindus believe that.

Collective worship can be in class where a child may write their own prayer because granny is in hospital, the dog has died, mummy is having a baby, their brother is in trouble but they don't know why.

It can be a lesson about road safety ending with a prayer. It can be a celebration about school successes and then a prayer.
It might be a none religious lesson that ends with a prayer. It might be about Easter, Diwali, Christmas, any other special occasion that suits the make up of the school and a hymn and prayer.

You are free to pray or sit quietly as long as your respect others.

You can not appeal about the school you have been offered even on faith.
You appeal for the school you want.

Make an appointment and see what the school does and if you are confident in the school or not.

Sewingbea Tue 14-Jan-20 23:19:56

My DC attend a C of E secondary and the faith element is very much part of day to day life in the school. We're communicant Anglicans so very much wanted the school for our DC so this is not an issue for us. The school is very oversubscribed (admission set at 80% of pupils to be Protestant Christians and 20% from other faiths, and all families must provide a reference from their minister/imaan/rabbi etc) and parents know and expect that there will be prayers daily, visits to the cathedral and a chaplain in school most days of the week. This is absolutely not everyone's view of a good education and if you're an atheist I'm sure you'd find this very very difficult. So I think what I am saying is to really check out what the allocated school is like and if you're unhappy with what you find then fight for a different school for your DC. Some faith schools are truly faith schools and not just nominally/ historically so. I really hope you find a school that you are happy with OP.

alexdgr8 Tue 14-Jan-20 23:21:53

I think you have misunderstood the mission statement of the school. what I think they mean is that the Christian ethos values every student as being a child of god; that feeling such a sense of acceptance, the students can relax in that acceptance, and it encourages them to strive in their school work, and reach their full potential.
there would be no situation of sorting out, you are/ are not a child of god, ie a believer or not, therefore deserving of acceptance or not.
from a Christian point of view, everyone is a child of god.
that view has its origins in Christian, and other religious, belief. it is not making any comment on the belief /affiliation status or absence thereof of any person.
its like a christian hospital. I've never heard of one that treats only Christians. it relates to the origins of the hospital, the motivation of its founders, not its intended clientele. same with a school.

PickAChew Tue 14-Jan-20 23:24:17

It honestly makes no difference. All schools have the same rules for acts of worship and religious education.

Drabarni Tue 14-Jan-20 23:29:32

Most schools are faith where I live, Primary and Secondary, but once in them you wouldn't know any difference. All of ours are atheist and had no problem. You won't unless you go around calling other people's faith ridiculous.
Some community schools are more religious than the faith schools,too.
I heard some parents complaining about this the other day.
You can remove them from religious worship, too if you want to.

PickAChew Tue 14-Jan-20 23:37:01

I'm an atheist with O-level RE, btw. There was a little less comparative religion, when I was at school, but lots of philosophical stuff eg the types of love how much of our own custom, morality and law stems from Christian beliefs vs a more humanist view, and so on. I think the Gcse should be compulsory for all children of any faith or none because dispelling ignorance is the primary way of combating both intolerance and radicalisation.

8paws8legs Tue 14-Jan-20 23:44:20

I went to a c of e secondary school, there was quick prayer during assembly and we went to the nearest church at Christmas and easter time for a service where if you were confirmed would go for the bread and wine and stay put if you weren't, Re lessons covered all Faith's but no other subjects involved it.
All schools teach RE you cant and shouldn't get away from it, your children deserve a chance to hear about religion themselves and be able to make up their own minds if they want to follow any of them your views do not have to be their views on this.

Olly1uk Thu 16-Jan-20 04:12:52

Thanks again everyone for taking the time to reply. I appreciate ALL the comments and advice given. I'm feeling a little more optimistic now. I'll be speaking with the school this week hopefully and I'll arrange a visit for us. I've been showing my boys the school and discussing it with them, I think they are a little worried that they'll be the only children at the school without a "named" faith. I assured them, that I was certain this wouldn't be the case, I hope they don't change who they are just to fit in though.
Fingers crossed it will all be fine.
Sewingbea, can I ask what is a chaplain, and what is their role?

OP’s posts: |
prh47bridge Thu 16-Jan-20 07:22:20

A chaplain is a minister attached to the school. Their role is to provide pastoral support to pupils and staff, mainly by being a listening ear. They will be happy to provide pastoral support to anyone regardless of faith. They may also lead some assemblies.

sashh Thu 16-Jan-20 08:43:32


Have a look at the national secular society's website, they have information for people in your situation.

You can withdraw your children from religious worship. You will not get a truly secular school as acts of worship and RE are compulsory for all schools.

GCSE RE has various permutations so it might be one based on Christianity but your children will have to look at one other faith. Most schools choose to teach a GCSE that is more about ethics and faith rather than instruction.

As for science and computing, actually yes RE can be relevant, human computer interaction can be very different depending on faith / culture .

If your science loving child wants to be a Dr or work in health care then RE will be useful.

Mumtown Thu 16-Jan-20 08:52:03

I was a Muslim background apostate in a non-denominational private school (so not tied to a church). We had a re lessons and daily prayer in the mornings, chapel etc. It was fantastic. RE was by far one of the most useful subjects I studied (it was taught very critically with an emphasis on biblical analysis). If taught properly, faith in school can be hugely beneficial. I’d be more concerned about the ‘needs improvement’ than the religious aspect.

TheVanguardSix Thu 16-Jan-20 08:59:35

The 'needs improvement' would worry me far more than any of the faith aspects, tbh. If you have a SEN child, you need to make sure this school has the means to support pupils with special needs, not just box tick and warehouse them like many schools do.

Miljea Thu 16-Jan-20 10:23:07

Isn't it bats that in 2020, local schools can still be faith-based?

binmenoclock Thu 16-Jan-20 14:02:31

@Olly1uk the best place to look for advice is the Humanists UK website here:

They have recently helped a family in your position to win a court case (actually the case was dropped as the school couldn't win) to ensure that fully inclusive assemblies would be provided at their CofE school for families that wanted them, and claim that this has now set a precedent for all schools, so it's worth reading up about:

That said, I'm an atheist who sent my children to a CofE primary school out of choice, and I don't regret the decision. They very quickly developed strong critical thinking skills because they would come home asking so many questions about what they were being told. We very quickly got past the "teacher is always right" stage and it led to many interesting discussions round the dinner table. I always told them they could make their own decisions about what they believe, and both of them (now age 15 and 13) have so far had nothing but a curious, critical interest in religion. They're now at a non-faith secondary school which nevertheless has an outstanding RE department. They enjoy the subject because it has lots of ethical dimensions to it, and they learn about lots of other ways of looking at the world.

If your children do go to the CofE school, remember that, provided they are confident about expressing their own beliefs, they will be helping other children (and teachers) to understand that there are different ways of looking at the world. Often that is missing in the least inclusive religious schools.

prh47bridge Thu 16-Jan-20 14:52:54

actually the case was dropped as the school couldn't win

No, the school chose to back down rather than spend money fighting a court case. It is by no means clear that they would have lost. Indeed, various decisions by the ECHR related to this kind of subject suggests the parents would probably have lost.

claim that this has now set a precedent for all schools

I'm not aware of Humanists UK making such a claim but, if they do, they are clearly wrong. It would only be a precedent if there had been a decision by the courts.

SpruceTree Thu 16-Jan-20 16:45:38

Perhaps it will be good for your children to hear a different opinion to yours. They can then make up their own minds.

Sewingbea Thu 16-Jan-20 18:20:57

Isn't it bats that in 2020, local schools can still be faith-based?
Not if there is a genuine choice between schools. It's wrong if there is no option but a faith school, nobody should be forced to send their child to a faith school. However my family and the 220 other families with children in my daughter's year group alone actively chose a faith based education. The school had over 800 applications for those places, so clearly there are 800 people in our provincial city who want a faith based education. The city also has Roman Catholic secondary schools, a Sikh school and a Muslim school, all popular and oversubscribed. That's a lot of parents who don't think it is bats...

MonstranceClock Thu 16-Jan-20 18:24:21

I’m a satanist and my daughter goes to a Church of England school. It’s not so bad. They mostly just see it as silly stories.

MollyButton Thu 16-Jan-20 21:42:49

Isn't it bats that in 2020, local schools can still be faith-based?

Except that most C of E schools select few pupils on faith grounds, and I know of ones which are almost 100% Muslim (and not just inner city). For most C of E means little different from community schools.
And this dates back to the fact that originally the State was very slow to set up schools but the C of E as part of its "caring for the poor" set up a lot of schools, and filled a need. And when the state became involved they didn't give up all rights to all schools - for a variety of reasons.

And one good outcome close to me. The County Council decided to shut a village school because of small roles. But they also wanted to redevelop the site. However it became clear that the site had restrictive covenants, which meant it was only in the LAs control whilst it was being used for "educational purposes". If it stopped being used for education it reverted to the C of E. Its now being used by a special school.

TheSandman Thu 16-Jan-20 22:24:15

Isn't it bats that in 2020, local schools can still be faith-based?

I find it bats that people still believe in god/s - full stop.

Lougle Thu 16-Jan-20 22:38:10

I'm a governor at a CofE school. The ethos is to provide a Christian community for local children. They aren't indoctrinating in the Christian faith, but the ethos is to embed Christian values (love, warmth to all people, respect, kindness, etc.,) in the culture of the school. The SIAMS inspections emphasise educating the whole child, with the idea that if children aren't feeling valued and important, thriving as people, they can't learn. I would think that it's a good starting point for your children.

I do think you need to consider, on the subject of appeals, that you'd be appealing for the school you asked for. With two children who have very different needs, I presume, as one has ASD, you could find that you convince the panel of the need for one child to attend there, but not the other. In which case, you'd have the children at different schools.

sashh Fri 17-Jan-20 06:57:07

They aren't indoctrinating in the Christian faith, but the ethos is to embed Christian values (love, warmth to all people, respect, kindness, etc.,) in the culture of the school.

I think you need to check your own indoctrination, those values are not limited to Christianity or any other faith, they are human values.

Lougle Fri 17-Jan-20 07:19:34

sashh it's not indoctrination. I never said that a secular school can't have those values, or that a school with another faith system can't. I'm saying that the CofE school ethos is to reflect Christan values, and those are some of the things they will try to embed in the culture.

sashh Fri 17-Jan-20 08:40:41


But those are not Christian values. Christian values would be those that don't occur outside Christianity.

prh47bridge Fri 17-Jan-20 09:14:22

Christian values would be those that don't occur outside Christianity

Disagree. These values are shared with some (but not all) other religions and many people who have no religion. It doesn't stop them from being Christian values just because they are not unique to Christianity.

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