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C of E indoctrination at school?

Posted: 20 Jun 2010, 11:07
by emmao1111
Greeting to One and All,

I wonder if any of you have any helpful suggestions for me?

My daughter starts school in September 2010. There is a huge Christian influence in school these days and I am looking for tips to help her understand that the Church of England way is not the only way.

I don't have a problem with Christianity in itself - like all faiths it contains some very valuable lessons. I do try to teach her about World Religions already as well as including her in all aspects of my own Pagan daily life - everything from Composting, to blessing the house! I believe that understanding other people in the community breaks down barriers and promotes tolerance and sharing the best of ourselves.

One of my friends daughters came home from (a different) school recently, convinced her Mum was evil becuase her teacher had expressed negative opinions about Paganism.

Does anyone have any experience of this? How do you all go about balancing your own family teachings with the sometimes opposing views taught by their teachers and peers?

Any practical suggestions would be hugely appreciated.

Re: C of E indoctrination at school?

Posted: 20 Jun 2010, 19:58
by Julysea
I reckon having some dialogue with the school about the subject would be the first step. Asking them how they deal with the situation of having children from other faiths than C of E in their school and how much C of E teaching colours school life. I would also meet with your daughter's teacher in advance of her starting and discuss with her your family faith so that she knows something about it.

Re: C of E indoctrination at school?

Posted: 20 Jun 2010, 20:31
by emmao1111
That is a really good idea. I am going into the school with my daughter in two days time. I have already stated on all the forms that I am Pagan but that I don't want her excluded from assemblies of anything like that. I am really keen to broach and resolve any potential issues so that my little girl isn't caught inbetween like my friends daughter. Perhaps on the plus side I can offer my expertise on apple bobbing and nature tables :grin:

Re: C of E indoctrination at school?

Posted: 20 Jun 2010, 21:37
by Dathi
Well, umm, no harm in mentioning this connection....

A shared tradition from Primrose Hill;-)



Re: C of E indoctrination at school?

Posted: 20 Jun 2010, 21:53
by emmao1111
Brilliant! I think perhaps alot will depend on personalities in the school. In my experience if people are prepared to listen to what you have to say about our ways it actually seems to make more sense to them than they expect.

I suppose there is another fear skulking beneath all this, and that is whether my daughter will start to question what has up to now been normal for her all her life. I suppose all I can do is answer her with honesty and trust that her connection will guide her through the rest.

Thank you for the link Dathi - very interesting and definitley being kept for reference.

Re: C of E indoctrination at school?

Posted: 21 Jun 2010, 13:22
by Julysea
Let us know how the visit goes!

Re: C of E indoctrination at school?

Posted: 22 Jun 2010, 22:09
by emmao1111
I went to the school today and spoke with the head teacher who explained that they follow the Church of England curriculum for Religious Studies but that they do look at other faiths. They do not look at Paganism at all, but they do country dancing, maypole dancing etc so there would be some refection of our ways at school. She then went on to say that they are expected to say prayers before lunch!

I said that I didn't want my daughter excluded, but equally there was a difference between learning about a faith and being made to practice it. She didn't really have a answer for that.

I think that really, if I make an issue of it I could make things worse or highlight things to my little girl that she may not otherwise have noticed? If she asks the questions that I expect to come up e.g who is God etc? I will simply explain that some people call it God, some people call it Goddess, some people call it Mother Earth and as long as she knows what she thinks IT is then the words don't matter so much.

At the end of the day the majority of our children's time is still spent with us and as parents we are likely to be their greatest influence. I think I am coming to terms with the fact that my freaking out about it (even though a little part of me still wants to scream!) is ultimately going to be more damaging than just explaining honestly and letting her have the freedom to make her own choices.

I have offered my services in the "seeds at Imbolc", "nature table", "maypole dancing" area in the hope that I will improve things and make my daughter happy by building a firm relationship with people who will be very important in her early years.

Whatta ya reckon?

Re: C of E indoctrination at school?

Posted: 22 Jun 2010, 23:25
by mwyalchen
It sounds like a good approach.

I quite agree that she shouldn't be made to say prayers before lunch, unless the prayers are in a form that you feel is suitable - a lot depends on how it's worded, I see no problem myself with a simple acknowledgment of gratitude for what is in front of us, maybe you'll find that the form they use is acceptable to you or to your daughter. But if your daughter doesn't feel comfortable with their prayer (yes, she's young, but she may still have feelings about it) they should at least let her miss out the reponses if she doesn't want to join in, and they should make sure that she doesn't get picked on about this.

But I do know several pagan mothers who've managed to reach a good accomodation with religious schools about this; to some extent, it's been as though they were happy to have another parent who had (what they see as) some form of faith, rather than none.

By the way, in case this interests you: I don't have chapter and verse on this, but I was told by Steve Wilson of PEBBLE that schools are supposed to include the faith of every child in the school in their RE syllabus. So if they have a Hindu child, they must teach at least something about Hinduism; and if they have a pagan child, they must teach something about paganism. As I said, I don't know the details on this. It might be easier to offer it to them initially rather than demand it - maybe you might get to be the one who did the assembly! In the end, though, they have an obligation to include every child in their school, and that means (among many other things) sympathetic treatment of the faith their parents practise.

Re: C of E indoctrination at school?

Posted: 23 Jun 2010, 09:03
by Art
This is old news but it may give you a talking point: ... asses.html

Re: C of E indoctrination at school?

Posted: 23 Jun 2010, 12:07
by emmao1111
Hi Art - I tried the link but unfortunately it doesn't work? I wonder if you could let me know roughly what the aritcle was talking about?

Re: C of E indoctrination at school?

Posted: 07 Jul 2010, 12:48
by Annaoj
Just to add my two penny's worth:
My daughter (age 5) goes to a non-church school, but there's an awful lot of Christianity throughout, mostly not even recognised by the teachers until I point it out! (Jesus even makes an appearance in the Happy Birthday song they sing to each other!)

They say a Christian grace before lunch, have a 'broadly Christian' assembly each day, and in RE look mainly at Chrisitanity, with other religions (only the big 5) tagged on. When I took issue with this I was told that it was what they have to teach, but that my daughter was welcome to sit out these lessons and assemblies.

I didn't want that. It's a tiny village school and she would be the only one sitting out. Plus missing assembly also means missing school announcements and so on. She would also have had to miss the school play (nativity based of course!) and it's not that I am anti-Christianity, just anti-brainwashing!

So I let her attend, but she's a feisty little thing and has told her teachers that she doesn't want to say the prayers, but is prepared "to sit quietly and respectfully while others say them" (her words!). The teachers are fine about this, and when occasionally my daughter says that someone told her to join in, I only have to mention it to her class teacher and it's dealt with.

They are also deeeeeeeeeelighted to hear I'm a Druid, and say they will want me to come into the school to lead some sessions, which is brill.

Finally, I am also a school governor, responsible for diversity . . . so I am chipping away at that angle too!

The national secular society campaigns to remove all religion from schools (not as a subject). I think this is the way to go.

J x

Re: C of E indoctrination at school?

Posted: 07 Jul 2010, 13:15
by Paul Mitchell
Hi there

my son (now 10) has attended the local village CoE school for all his formal schooling so far. He went through a phase of telling us he was a christian, and I believe this was as a direct result of the way the school teaches. Whilst the majority of teachers seem dismissive of the christian ethos in the school when we discuss it with them, it is clear that the local church do use assemblies and the like to promote their religious view exclusively.

An example of the local church's influence was presented on Monday evening. The kids offered an evening of singing and music. The school orchestra has come on fantasticly over the last year. At the end the school choir sang some more songs. It was explained to us that, as the school is a CoE school, they are asked to perform at the local church and learn a variety of christian "action songs". One of these songs had the lyrics "I will not lean on my own understanding, I will have faith in the lord". My jaw dropped through the floor! But, it IS a CoE school and so this type of teaching is to be expected.

We have found that our son is more than able to accommodate the teachings of christianity within the school. He will happily take part in the christmas service, for example. The teachers are quite willing to nod and smile and say "of course" when we discuss possible areas of conflict. However it is not the school that creates potential problems, it is the associated church and the army of willing helpers it engages. The church are over represented on the governing body and the PTA. They have banned the "spooky Halloween Disco", but not the anti-catholic Guy Fawkes night (I have been advised by my wife that the bonfire chant is not appropriate!). They use assemblies as an opportunity to promote their faith. They supply volunteers to run activities and insert their faith message in these.

I would suggest you are wise to have some faith in the school (if what you have said so far holds), but don't fall into the trap of believing that just because they say something must happen they are right. They can be remarkably authoritarian places if you let them, with head teachers honestly believing that they should manage parents. Mostly have faith in yourself and (thus) your child.

But do keep an eye out for the connected church - it is clear that CoE support for schools is as much about recruiting as about formal education!

Re: C of E indoctrination at school?

Posted: 07 Jul 2010, 13:35
by emmao1111
Thank you for taking the time to note down all your thoughts. I have to say I agree with many of the points raised. When I mentioned my concern about religion the head teacher told me about saying prayers at lunch time with a grin on her face that suggested it was a plus point! I think I will just have to watch and learn and see what comes out of it and act accordingly.

I have an informal meeting with her actual teacher coming up soon so I will be very clear about my views during that discussion.

Will keep you all posted. x

Re: C of E indoctrination at school?

Posted: 14 Aug 2010, 00:34
by Ghostrider
The head teach just said: prayers at lunch?

Did he / she also stipulate a subject to which prayer is to be made?
My foster-daughter is a cheeky one, and also attends a Christian school and as a result..also has to pray at start of the lessons.
She does make it a point however... to substitute the word God / Jesus with the word: Goddess.

Schools down here are not supposed to actively RECRUIT, so they cannot forbid her her own interpretation of prayer. Just a thought :wink:

Re: C of E indoctrination at school?

Posted: 17 Sep 2010, 09:30
by wolfsbane
Although i know your daughter has already started school but we are really lucky where we live in wiltshire we have a really nice Non-denominational school around the corner from us that all 3 of my girls have attended. They got to learn about different religions like Muslim, Sihkism as well as christianity. I run a holistic/new age shop and converted some of my like minded customers to this primary school. Maybe there is something like that round by you.

Re: C of E indoctrination at school?

Posted: 17 Sep 2010, 13:56
by emmao1111
Sadly not and my daughter has already come home with a prayer she has written for harvest festival. ARGH!

My Mum said to me that I had gone to a school like that but still gone my own way etc so does it really matter. I asked her how she would feel if I had been sent to a Jewsish or Muslim scchool and came telling her all about it - she thought that was completely different somehow but it's not. It's exactly the same.

I have no problem with my daughter being taught about Christiantity or anything else, I am just miffed that she is being forced to practice it.

Re: C of E indoctrination at school?

Posted: 17 Sep 2010, 16:19
by Oneonine
Philosophy and Spirituality and Comparative Religious Studies should have taken over from R.E. long ago. Do schools with mostly muslim populations in their area get to choose to make all the pupils practice it? I thought you had to be registered as a faith school to have one faith taught and practiced in a school now.

Human Rights Act 1998, Part 2, First Protocol, Article 2:
NO PERSON shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions that it assumes in relation to education and teaching, the state shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching are in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.

Re: C of E indoctrination at school?

Posted: 17 Sep 2010, 18:02
by Huathe

Here in the United States, the public school system has very little Christian, or any other religious practices. That has not been always so. I can remember prayers in school and Bible reading in my early years. The government promoted " Separation of Church and State " policies have changed much concerning religion in the US public school system. Now with private schools that is another matter entirely.


Re: C of E indoctrination at school?

Posted: 17 Sep 2010, 18:21
by emmao1111
They do teach some things about other religions, but don't make them practice them. I have the option of excluding her, but I don't want to segrogate her. Let's face it at four years old a trip to a church service is a trip out with friends to sing a few songs.

It just annoys me that this is not supposed to be a faith school and yet they actively promote Christianity. They say prayers before lunch and everything. Drives me nuts.

I think another chat with the teacher is in order.

Re: C of E indoctrination at school?

Posted: 17 Sep 2010, 19:34
by Oneonine
If they aren't a faith school there are regulations about group religious activities which recognise that the parent is the one who is supposed to choose if a child is brought up in any one religion, and anything which indoctrinates a child to a religion other than that of their parents becomes illegal. Group religious activities is seen as the biggest source of indoctrinisation, and non participation is not seen as a suitable option, as it excludes and isolates the child. The best options are generic non religious formats, and comparative formats drawing on all the major religions for inspiration.

I don't really care about the debate, better heads than me sat down and thought about human rights, and decided it was wrong to do so. The school is duty bound to provide you with the relevant legislation and guidelines concerning this, but perhaps a parents group might be a better way forward. It's hard to believe that there is absolutely no diversity of belief within the catchment area of this school, apart from you.