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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: |
latenightjazz Tue 21-Jan-20 11:42:56

I also understood the arguments for doing Christianity, given that it is the country's predominant faith and many of the students already had a solid grounding in it, which would help them to do well in the exam

Before somebody else points it out, I'm fully aware that 52% of the British population have no religion. However, they don't all have an academic grounding in Humanism or any other non-religious world view. It's all a bit chicken and egg really. Our head of RE is typical of many in that he describes himself as a "lapsed Catholic" rather than a Humanist, but his outlook on life is Humanistic. As more of our children are now being brought up as non-religious, I think it's becoming much more important to learn about non-religious ethical frameworks, but schools are only starting to catch on slowly. The national guidance for RE says that non-religious viewpoints such as Humanism should be included in RE lessons, but it's not compulsory.

Comefromaway Tue 21-Jan-20 11:12:29

*@Olly1uk, the GCSE in Religious Studies mandates the study of two religions or world views. Part of the remit is to compare and contrast their teachings.*

There is an alternate Catholic based syllabus which focuses almost entirely on the Catholic faith with just one section on Judaism (or Islam)

latenightjazz Tue 21-Jan-20 10:48:24

@Olly1uk, the GCSE in Religious Studies mandates the study of two religions or world views. Part of the remit is to compare and contrast their teachings.

My children covered a few different world religions at their CofE primary and in Key Stage 3 of their non-faith secondary (Hinduism, Islam, Judaism) as well as Christianity. Then for their GCSE they are studying Christianity and Islam. However there are also doing two ethics modules - War and Peace, and Relationships & Family - so they can bring in viewpoints from other religions to those discussions if they want to.

It is actually possible for schools to choose Humanism as one of their two World Views, but there is only one exam board that does it. I'm a governor at my children's school so I know the Head of RE did consider it, but didn't like the syllabus. I didn't mind too much though, because I think it's important to learn about Islam in the current climate, and I also understood the arguments for doing Christianity, given that it is the country's predominant faith and many of the students already had a solid grounding in it, which would help them to do well in the exam.

Comefromaway Tue 21-Jan-20 09:22:36

If the c of e school was the outstanding oversubscribed one I have no doubt you would be clamouring over yourself to get your children in.

Not necessarily. I know that the very spiritual c of e school in my area is, on paper a better school than the one I chose to send ds to but I knew he would not thrive there.

memberofseven Tue 21-Jan-20 09:14:50

If the c of e school was the outstanding oversubscribed one I have no doubt you would be clamouring over yourself to get your children in.

Olly1uk Tue 21-Jan-20 08:11:27

I think one of the things I have a problem with (besides the fact that they believe in God and I don't) is this “Christian values” ethos.

Like someone mentioned, these are, I’d like to think human values. I know my children are certainly kind, caring and thoughtful people already. These values shouldn’t need to be attached to any particular faith.

I also attended a C of E school, (this was at primary though, so a long time ago) and took exams in R.E. in secondary school. We didn’t learn about any other religion, had to attend church with the school, recited the Lord’s Prayer at every morning assembly and read the bible. I was a firm believer long into my young adult years. I suppose there wasn’t any other option then. I did question religion, but that was frowned upon really. This is the sort of thing I want to avoid.

Having done some digging, this particular school does seem to be inclusive like they claim, and as many have stated, my choices are limited so I’ll have to just go with it for now at least.

Thanks for that
Interestingly the last few Ofsted reports for this particular school have been “requires improvement” (with a “good” for “the behaviour and personal development of the children”) but reading in detail, it does seem to be improving. The headteacher, however, decided to resign, so will be replaced this September I believe.

Thank you for that link, I had no idea these groups even existed. Very interesting read.
I would like to think that my children are confident in their own beliefs, however, I know what it is like to change schools and hope they don’t “conform” just to fit in.

I have no idea! It would certainly warrant lots of discussions, wouldn’t it!

I don’t think I would have even looked at the “better” school initially if it were the C of E one.
When I visited the area looking for schools, I purposely didn’t even consider, or visit the “offered” school, as 1) I was totally opposed to my children attending a faith school and 2) I just assumed one had to be baptised to attend.

OP’s posts: |
madcatladyforever Tue 21-Jan-20 02:20:31

I went to a Catholic school run by nuns not being Catholic myself and there was no compulsion to take part in religious life whatsoever. Would you have tolerated it if this school had been the better one closer to home?

alexdgr8 Tue 21-Jan-20 01:55:52

i agree with that statement re Christian values.
family values include a sense of belonging and caring for each other.
does that mean that a group of friends do not care for each other.
muddled thinking.

Comefromaway Mon 20-Jan-20 13:51:45

ONe one point dd is a staunch atheist. RE was her favourite subject at GCSE and she chose to study it at A level. However ds hated the subject and I c ould not have sent hi anywhere it was compulsory. He has autism and refuses to engage with anything religious.

Some local c of e schools are c of e in name only but there is one local school near to me where religion underpins everything where the children "meet with Jesus" every morning and "invite Jesus to be with us through the day" , where church governors regularly "visit to support the learning of the children" .

I would visit the school, see which of the types it in, you can withdraw your child from collective worship if you wish.

BasiliskStare Sun 19-Jan-20 01:19:23

@Olly1uK have PMed but I agree with @Blouseandskirt , RE as my son was taught it , deals with a great deal of ethical problems not just bible stories so not irrelevant to a scientist. In latter years , a good deal of philosophy / ethics. I would not worry one jot about RE in junior years ( as an atheist)

1066vegan Sat 18-Jan-20 21:59:06

Haven't RTFT so apologies if this is repeating what others have said.

I think that C of E schools seem to be a bit more open than Catholic schools. I'm an atheist and would have preferred a non-denominational for my dd but she chose a C of E school and got in even though it wasn't our nearest school.

The assemblies seemed to be pretty religious but in RE lessons children were able to express their views whatever their religion - or lack of religion.

Dd's beliefs had fluctuated throughout primary school, but she became a firm atheist while at her C of E secondary school so it didn't do her any harm.

BlouseAndSkirt Sat 18-Jan-20 21:18:45

In practice, the fact that the school 'requires improvement' is probably more of a problem for you than the religion, which is probably not as all-pervading as it seems on the website.

As others have said: get on the waiting list of each and every school you would consider and can be reached by public transport. You can go on as many waiting lists as you like, and in neighbouring boroughs.

As soon as one Dc gets a place the other will shoot to the top of the waiting list as a sibling. But you might find it hard to get both onto the same 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 My scientist DC spent much of RE discussing the ethical considerations of stem cell research and abortion etc. The emphasis was on how to explore a question philosophically and ethically. The emphasis was on teaching ABOUT a range of beliefs, not ramming faith down their throats. If you want a school to be open minded you could meet them half way on that and not be so closed minded yourself. wink

I say that as an atheist who believes that religion, as in worship and a way to select pupils, has no place in the state system.

VerbenaGirl Sat 18-Jan-20 19:48:47

Have you contacted schools you prefer directly? Many will take in-year admissions directly if they have space - so it is well worth looking into that ASAP. Local Authorities don’t always have totally up to date info, whereas the school tends to know if they have students who might be leaving soon and places about to come up.

Gliese163 Sat 18-Jan-20 19:41:13

It ridiculous that you should have to send their kids to a school where they're taught that god exists.

chumbawum Sat 18-Jan-20 10:38:36

OP I'm an atheist and I went to CofE schools and it didn't turn me into a believer.

My son goes to one. He's not showing signs of sudden Christianity.

You'll find a lot of the kids will be from non religious backgrounds, I'm afraid you'll have to take what you can get.

Afrigginggoat Sat 18-Jan-20 10:07:10

What are you going to do if one of your kids comes home one day and says they believe in God?

Just curious.

Lougle Sat 18-Jan-20 08:35:46

@sashh Christian values have faith in God and a belief in the Bible at their core. Many other people who do not share that faith also believe in 'doing good' but for other reasons (i.e. not because they believe it is how God would want us to treat others). There is no contradiction there. Same behaviour, different motivation.

I'm not digging at other Christians. I'm saying that for the people in the picture you showed, their belief tells them that they are acting correctly and they are acting on their faith. I interpret things differently and I would not be at any rally denouncing the behaviour of other people.

I'm not sure how this helps the OP, though, so perhaps you'd be better to post in Philosophy and Religion to vent your anger at Christianity?

@Olly1uk I hope you are satisfied when you see the school, or get a better outcome if not.

Chipmonkeypoopoo Sat 18-Jan-20 06:46:04

*The world... not works.

Chipmonkeypoopoo Sat 18-Jan-20 06:45:41

More kids should do subjects like RE. It doesn't teach religion. It teaches understanding and respect of peoples of various faiths. The works needs more of that, not less. You don't have to believe in order to respect those who do. The world is less black and white (in every sense) these days than ever before. I say this as a highly trained and very good scientist. Who also teaches chemistry and also teaches politics. I wouldn't let RE be the deterrent. I wouldn't make my boy go to prayer sessions though. I would allow him to choose whether he does or doesn't without voicing my own opinions on organised religion.

Bovneydazzlers Sat 18-Jan-20 05:55:12

Is it an established school going for generations, or a newly created Christian free school? I think there is a huge difference in the nominally C of E schools with assemblies, a hymn and prayer a day, and the very evangelically linked schools. What are the key messages of the church it is attached to, could you attend a service to find out?

It sounds like your choices are a bit limited, I think you may have to go for it, but put your name down on waiting lists for every other possible school for when a place might come available elsewhere.

Gatehouse77 Sat 18-Jan-20 05:27:37

You can redress the balance of religious teachings at home. We’re ardent atheists in this house but RE has given them other skills and understanding.

Critical thinking, tolerance, empathy, to name a few. And the ability to form their own opinion.

Our went to a CofE primary school and they did look at other religions but we did more at home, including discussions about atheism.

SexlessBoulderBelly Sat 18-Jan-20 05:16:01

I went to a C of E school, very heavily religious, however I have never had any belief as such. Each to their own.

sashh Sat 18-Jan-20 04:34:49


OK you are confusing me.

Christian values are not Christian values unless the motivation behind them is God. Have I got that right? Because it seems to me that that is also something shared by other faiths.

BTW nice little digs at other Christians there, how does that square with your faith?

Sewingbea Fri 17-Jan-20 17:36:47

@Lougle exactly that.

Lougle Fri 17-Jan-20 15:51:03

It isn't the values themselves that are Christian, it's the motivation behind the value. The CofE schools will have a motivation that 'all children belong to God and are loved by Him, so we must treat them as x,y,z.' That ethos needs to be embraced by staff, even if they don't themselves have the Faith of the school. There is no requirement for staff or children to be Christians (unlike many Catholic schools which will seek Catholic staff). It is simply the underpinning ethos of the school.

(As an aside, lots of people claim to be Christian and interpret the Bible differently, which explains why I (a Christian) behave very differently to those seen in the picture).

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