Campaign for Secular Education

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Latest addition to the site - (see also resources)


Atheists and secular- humanists believe that this life is all we have and that all   our efforts should go into making it as enjoyable and satisfying as possible for everyone. We believe that morals are rooted in our human experience and that to teach opinion as fact to children is an abuse of their trust, and their rights.;

    (Voltaire, , A.J. Ayer, Robert Ingersoll  Thomas Huxley, Bertrand Russell, Thomas Paine, Charles Darwin, David Hume, Mark Twain, Charles Bradlaugh, Carl Sagan. Richard  Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennet. Anthony Grayling

    Mary Woolstencraft, Francis Wright, Hariet Martineau, Ernestine Rose, 'George Eliot',Annie Bessant, Josephine Semple, Hypatia Bradalugh Bonner, Emma Goldman, Dora Russell,  Anne Nicol Gaylor, Taslima Nasrin, Barbara Smoker

    We believe that supernatural beliefs are at best an irrelevant diversion and at worst a dangerous obstacle to peaceful ethical societies. Because of this we want to see our atheist opinions considered and not censored out of philosophical and ethical discussions.

    d Objectives:-

    Statement of Aims and Objectives:-

  1. Our aim is to have every child educated to the highest standards of intellectual honesty appropriate to their age and stage of development - in local schools where they can mix freely with and socialise freely with children of other races, classes, and creeds.

  2. Instruction in religion should be the province of parents and their religions, in homes and churches if they insist on indoctrinating their children in their particular faith. It should be not be the business of the state education system to do other than educate, or to condone indoctrination.

  3. Children have rights over and above those of their parents and they deserve objectivity.

  4. Teachers should be free to teach their subject/s without having to undergo vetting on their religious affiliations, or lifestyle choices, and should be qualified and allowed to answer questions of ethics, belief etc. in an objective way.

  5. There should be a programme of integration of Religous Schools.

  6. This is a purely independent site, but intended to present clearly the points of view and areas of activities of  secular humanists.

  7. While the organisations have different priorities and ways of approaching the problems of religion in the education system, their basic belief in the harm that sectarianism can do, is I hope, not in question. There is more than enough work for all of us who believe in secular education as a good foundation for a modern secular state in which all opinions can flourish without the dangers of competing 'truth' claims.


Using this website

Using this website

In its present form you can either scroll down the entire site, or use the links. Use your PC's back-arrow, or right click and then 'back' to navigate easily.

Correspondence to the site should be sent to the site administrator:- e-mail -






Statement of Aims and Objectives
Using this website
The issues in black and white



 Teachers Notes) on:


Secular and Secularism




More Definitions and Index of Subjects


         Looking for children's books that don't pass on stereotypes and sexist, racist, homophobic, 

religious & class - prejudice and discrimination? LINK

Primary School

Secondary School

Colleges and Universities - Adult Education

Videos & CDs youTube videos for children and adults - sample link here

youTube video on how superstition works

and many more including  Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris
Why Atheism? -Team Video Resource Available from the NSS
Gender Identity Issues in Children and Adolescents

Common Fallacies Used to Confuse Debate


Directory of Independent Atheist & Secularist Websites



Information and history of  church  manipulation of  British Society

http@//  - 1811 National Society - campaign to overcome the Enlightenment
A philanthopic act or self preservation? - The falsifcation of history.

Teachers Worried  about Sectarian Schools

'Education' as the Inculcation of Ideas not Critical Thinking

'Catching them Young' & 'Playing them false'

Two Books by Bob Dixon

How Toys, Games, Puzzles and fiction are  used to inculcate stereotypes, 

attitudes and beliefs and violence


 Morals Without Religion Margaret Knight - (exerpt)

Common sense moral teaching for the 'ordinary parent'

Reprinted in Women Without Superstition "No Gods No Masters" by AL Gaylor

Ethnic Minorities Against Faith Schools

The history of Catholic schools in Britain






THE WAY AHEAD?  - How Anglicans manipulate their school intake


Change in School Year


Beyond The Bible - history of moral education in Great Britain


NEW  Is religion GOOD for children?




No Worship in schools. 

Education must be honest and objective


National Secular Society




The Education Issues in Black and White!


1) RE or RI - Education or Instruction? - The Educational Argument

Children have a right to be given information on all philosophical life stances including those of non-belief - atheism, secularism and secular humanism, objectively and with equal respect and liability to criticism.

It is an abuse of young minds if their teachers do not respect their integrity and take advantage of their immaturity to present one sided views as fact when they know that there are opposing opinions.

There are many 'facts' about religion, but they are not 'truths' if they depend upon opinion or belief.

There can be no place in Education for the teaching of opinion as fact.

For RE to be taught honestly, the many evil results of religion must be included- conflict and divisiveness, prejudice and discrimination, cruelty, abuse and killings throughout history and throughout the world today.


2)  Discrimination and Human Rights?

Prejudice and discrimination against church employees, all  teachers, children, parents and the wider society is  a Human Rights Issue 

No teacher qualified to teach their subject/s should be discriminated against on grounds of religious belief or life stance.

No child should be discriminated against because of their parents religion, and should never have to be withdrawn from any class without acceptable alternative provision of equal quality.

No community or individual parents, should feel that they have to create their 'own' school' or withdraw their children in order to avoid unfair presentation of their beliefs or lifestyle.

Prejudice and discrimination against women, gays, Jews, and other minority groups is rooted in religious belief, not to mention the systematic suppression of the views of non-believers


3) 'Religious ' Schools

Parents should be able to send their children to local schools and not have to travel because of selection

Segregating  ethnic minority children gives control over them and their parents to clerics or community 'leaders' and enables pressure to be exerted on them to conform to 'cultural' or religious demands. It also takes them out of mainstream schools so that those who do will be in an even smaller minority.

A multi-cultural society has a right to expect that any system that causes inequality and segregation of children into sectarian groups should not be paid for by the state, or condoned.

There is more than enough evidence to prove that segregation leads to strife. Segregated schooling leads to segregated housing, and ghettoisation, as parents are tempted to move to catchment areas around schools or churches or mosques.

Religions cannot be relied upon to teach religion objectively.

4) Act of Worship

It is intolerable that children should be required to  worship in school

No parent should have to withdraw their child from any part of the school curriculum because it is against their religious or secular beliefs.

To require worship from a child is an abuse of their rights since they are not of an age to make adult judgements on what worship means, and whether it is justified or desirable.


        5) Societal Problems

      • The problems associated with difficulty of finding suitable schools for children in different religious groups within any given area, adding selection on religious criteria as well as ability, class and wealth increase with every new 'faith' school.


  • Transporting children to and from schools outside their locality adds to road congestion and lengthens the school day for young people and their parents. It adds to the stresses and strains on family life and weakens the social relationships within communities, when children are dispersed to widespread schools their sense of identity with children in their locality is disrupted and can cause a sense of social isolation, that can affect their confidence and social development.








Teachers in this country regularly call for  a ban on new faith schools, and have voted for a move towards a totally secular state education system.

Government  plans to allow, and even encourage more 'faith' schools  has come under heavy fire with the rise of racial violence, public fear of immigrants and a rise in the religious aspects of 'faith' on attitudes and Islamist pressure in international politics. The National Union of Teachers and the National Association of School-masters and Union of Women Teachers consistently  vote in favour of ending this  long-standing tradition in England and Wales of denominational schools. In 2002 the  NASUWT voted by 66,461 votes to 51,300 (majority 15,161) in favour of a secular state school system, as exists in the US.

See The Big Debate on the secular future of RE






Latest Research show minimal differences between church and non-church schools, and it is possible that even these differences are not due to the influence of religion



Ian Schagen

Sandie Schagen


National value-added datasets covering key stages 3 and 4 have been linked to information about schools' religious affiliation. Analysis of pupil progress across key stages controlling for a range of factors has given information about the apparent impact of these types of school. Jewish schools, though very few in number, seem to be linked to good pupil progress in most outcomes. Church schools (both Roman Catholic and Church of England) tended to have above-average results for English, lower for science, but for other outcomes their performance was not consistently distinguishable from that of non-religious schools. The figures may well be due to the selection procedures of church schools.




Anglicans manipulate their sectarian schools provision to make them appear better and more in demand - by selection on ability, keeping them over subscribed and having less deprived children than community schools

The Way Ahead?

A comment I saw recently* on the CofE report on Church Schools 'The Way ahead' suggested that the adverse response to the original proposal and the subsequent Government initiative appeared to have shaken Anglican hierarchy.

Does the CofE accentuate the image and reputation of church schools, by deliberately manipulating the extent to which they are 'over subscribed'?

The report glossed over the obvious way of resolving the issue of 'over- subscription' that the CofE could take if it wanted to accommodate more children in its sectarian schools, even previous Governments have advocated the expansion of popular schools. Increasing a 6 FE secondary school to 8 or ten, could have a major impact by increasing provision by a third or two thirds without the consequential expense of establishing a new school. The fact that this approach has not been widely taken up reflects recognition by 'popular' schools that popularity in part relies on the difficulty or exclusiveness of entry. Almost by definition a small (6 FE) church school that requires certain minimum qualifications is more likely to be 'successful' than a 'bog standard' community comprehensive, regardless of the quality of teaching. Thus manipulating parental demand in favour of church schools.

That approach would seem to deliberately create a restricted admission to the school and thus a demand for places. Restricting admissions is useful for them in several respects, as other Foundation and Aided schools fully understand, it provides an effective means of selection in a comprehensive system of education, which does not rely on 11-plus type tests,. Without selection the Christian ethos provides little more than any other ethos. The key to the success of the church schools is undoubtedly Selection.

"In this respect the work being undertaken by Prof Gorard, whilst being essentially of technical interest, does highlight the issue of selection and the divisive nature of such provision. "

The importance of Schools to the Anglican Mission

'The Way ahead' makes it clear that church schools are important to the Anglican cause. The church claims kudos from 'their' schools being seen as popular and better than other schools, for the obvious advantages of keeping parents in contact with the church, and influencing (to use the mildest word) the minds of the children in the school.

We could take some comfort however, that although they recognise that their schools are perceived in the wider world as being successful and popular, within the church community they are seen as a drain on limited human and financial resources. The ephemeral nature of those attending church to ensure that their passports are stamped is all too obvious to the faithful, and the publicity surrounding parents obvious cynicism at having to get a 'clerics note' has exposed the hypocrisy with which the church is seen to be fully compliant.

" Aspects of this are to be seen in the report, with a whole chapter on the 'ministry, Church and parish'. For the CofE nationally the schools represent the only successful part of the organisation, for whilst congregations and parish's are rapidly declining the one factor holding back the collapse of the Church are the schools with their demand for passport stamps.

One area that seems to have been skated over is the link between children attending church schools and then becoming active church members. Surely if these schools were that successful in passing on the 'good news' then the churches should be full, but instead they just pander to a form of class based snobbery.

Conversely if the demand for passport stamps where to be removed then so too would the need to attend church be removed for many middle class aspirant parents. Ergo the further collapse of the church as a viable national body of authority".

Free School Meals (FSM) as a contextual variable

    "Free School Meals (FSM), denotes the proportion of children eligible for meals without charge at school. This is a widely used and easily understood indicator of poverty has the added advantages of being an administrative measure (the most appropriate and convenient measure of disadvantage). The Education Office in Wales has certainly collected this information as the STATS1 form, and a similar data may have taken place in England.
    The use of FSM, as a proxy indicator of poverty and social disadvantage, has been long standing within 'the political arithmetic' tradition of social research. More recently however, we have employed a new derivative of this measure, the FSM segregation index. The consequential studies give weight to the previously established strong link between the socio-economic characteristics of school intakes and later public examination results, but have also challenged other orthodoxy's."
    * Source Unknown (I would appreciate any information on this)





The Big R.E Debate

In the past the debate was between RE and RI and it seems it still is.

There is growing awareness of the social divisiveness of  'faith' schools. It has always been there, as many brought up in the north of England, Scotland and Ireland will testify, mainly at local level between Catholic schools and state schools. This deprives community  schools of their mixed status - that should reflect the community.

Much of this was based, then as now, on class lines when Catholic Schools claimed to be 'better' than the state schools, and the children who were sent to them were often encouraged to consider themselves to be better  than those in the state sector. What was little realised by many in the general population, because of the lack of research, on how the 'merit' of a school  can be artificially enhanced  by selective admissions procedures and other social manipulation.

This segregation of children by the religion of their parents has taken on a new life with the increased immigration of Muslims.

However, serious anxiety over discussion of social cohesion in a multicultural society,  has lead to serious examination of religion in schools and how to teach the role of religion in conflict, past and present; its religious  teaching and  prejudice against homosexuals, on the role of women in society, in the home and in schools  and above all its supernatural  beliefs as 'true' without complaints from the religions. The demand for worship, prayer  and obedience to the superstitions, myths and beliefs of the past are being questioned as never before.

Three recent documents illustrate the divergent opinions of humanists and secularists on the future of religion in schools:  whether it should be in schools at all or whether it should be treated as a serious educational issue and what is the best way to achieve that, Whether it should be taught  as a separate subject called 'Religious Education', or taught within other subjects, history or philosophy. And further how is the line to be drawn between  objective evidence-based teaching and the teaching of faith, based on unsubstantiated belief.

The Current Debate

There is however, serious discussion within the secular humanist movement, of what is the right way to address the problem of religion in schools if it leads to no serious examination of religion and its role in shaping our culture, on sectarian conflict, its other social effects and  its effects on the teaching, for instance,of safe sex to the young and above all its demand for worship and obedience to the superstitions, myths and beliefs.

See the divergent views of humanists and secularists on the future of religion in schools:  if it should be there at all, or whether it should be treated as a serious educational issue and what is the best way to achieved.

Overview - of the main issues

Draft Policy Document

Documents etc.-

1) A Humanist Unit for Religious Education  by Norman Bacrac (South Place Ethical Society)

2) NSS National Secular Society policy

3) The BHA Education Policy and its promotion of 'accommodating religions'

4) The BHA as part of the 'Accord' Campaign

5) Scotland

6) More Information on the campaign against RI in schools & letter to humanists

7) 2008 - coverage of NUT take-up of BHA 'accommodations policy'

Union wants to replace faith schools with something just as bad - NSS quoted

on front page


Guardian, 25 March 2008,,2267916,00.html


Union calls for return of religious indoctrination in schools -

BBC, 25 March 2008


Also piece in Independent







Subscribe to secular-newsline for the most up to date information on education and other secularist issues by e-mailing 'subscribe'

    The National Secular Society
    Is an organisation where the emphasis is on creating a secular society where religion is regarded as a private matter.
    Its emphasis is strongly against sectarianism and religious indoctrination of children, it is also against state-funding of religious schools. Although the State pays the lion's share of the costs, religious institutions have a huge influence over the running of these schools which use their position to indoctrinate children with their relevant doctrines. .
    The Society also considers that religious schools are a divisive force in our multi-cultural society. It is convinced that the best - and sometimes the only - time for those of all races and backgrounds to learn about and to live peaceably with each other is during their period at school.
    The government is eager to increase commitment to religious input throughout the curriculum. It has even promised to increase in the number of religious schools, especially secondary ones,
    Other areas in which the NSS is active is on the Human Rights issues involved in compulsory worship, and supporting wherever possible teachers and pupils who object to religious pressure in whatever form it takes.
    It also campaigns at National and European level on improve the position of non-religious teachers (who are discriminated against under the School Standards and Framework Act 1998), and it is active in trying to uphold the rights of parents who feel discriminated against by the current privileged position of religion in education.
    The NSS is a campaigning body and does not have the advantage of charity status, and is therefor at a considerable disadvantage, compared to the churches when it comes to promoting its cause, in this and the many other secular issues.

     Statement on NSS attitude to Religious Education in schools & SACREs

    Information on current activities on the education front from Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director on 


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AtheismUK is a relatively new organisation that asserts positive atheism and IS against all worship in schools as an infringement of children's rights, the censorship of atheist views and perspectives on religion in schools, its false claims and the promotion of opinion and mythology as fact as 'education', the suppression of children's critical thinking - of which this is a prime example and the biased teaching of religion as 'good', despite the evidence of history and current events. LINK

British Humanist Association

    There appear to be two main thrusts of policy with regard to Humanism and education.
    The first is an emphasis on the teaching of morality and ethics, outside of a religious context, which is bound to be important as fewer people believe in religions and gods. 'Morality Without Religion' is a particular theme of humanism.
    The second is the inclusion of Humanism along with other teaching of comparative religion.

    There is however one serious problem with their policy. In their 2005 election  manifesto they say "religious worship should be permitted in community schools as an ’opt in’ extra " This opens the door to religious instruction - the only  step forward on this issue in the last 50 years!

    Two documents on this:-

    Policy on 'Accommodating' religion in schools
    Read the policy, statements, arguments and supporting material from secular humanist and other perspectives

    For the BHA to condone religious worship in any school, least of all state schools is seriously misguided. The place to worship, is in church not school.

    Incorporating worship into school life, is a way of confirming belief, worship and prayer and condoning religion, superstition. It should have no place in education, which is a place in which to learn.

    The British Humanist Association, the Humanist Society of Scotland and Association of Irish Humanists are particularly relevant with regard to the educational issues as there are differences in the law, particularly in Scotland.
    As already noted on other pages the Humanist Organisations have done a lot of work trying to effect change through the local authority and political structures, particularly SACES (See 'SACRES' Item Later) and by promoting their views at local and national level. To date, their efforts have not been rewarded by significant changes in these institutions, because of the entrenched position of the people who make up these bodies, church nominations and politicians who are religious, or wary of alienating the religious vote.
    This organisation does not represent all humanists, many members of the NSS are also humanists. It has an education discussion forum which is open to members and only by invitation from their education officer.
    For teachers and schools for who wish to avoid the worst aspects of religion in schools, the BHA has produced support material and draft syllabuses when asked.


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    Pre-school, Primary, (Infants and Junior)

    Overall view on the approach to personal development. Answering questions from children of this age group in a sensitive, honest and unbiased way

    There are of course thousands of teachers doing just that in every school in all parts of the country. But in some schools and for some parents, honest, unbiased answers are not what they want.

    It is difficult for some people, brought up in some of the religions and with some ideologies to accept the idea that there are opinions other than their own which might just be true.

    Many parents too see their children as their property, and while one can see why if you think your child will go to hell if he/she becomes a non-believer, and that morality is dependent upon religious belief. But children are individual people, and have rights of their own, one of which is respect from the adults who care for them and educate them.

    One of the most important issues is how our children see the world and their place in it and how children are manipulated, often, ironically, by the very people who are the targets of prejudice:-

    The indoctrination of children

    How Toys, Games, Puzzles and fiction are  used to inculcate stereotypes,

    attitudes and beliefs and violence

    'Catching Them Young', and  excerpts from 'Playing them false'.- by Bob Dixon

    How to deal with religious celebrations from a secular stance  - this is not too difficult since most were around long before Christianity and their roots are in the insecurity of the first peoples and their precarious existence.

    There is now plenty of information on the origins of festivals and holidays on the Internet

    (You are invited to submit a few useful sentences on these issues and others you may think of.)

    Christmas:* Easter: Other Religions:

    Easter was the celebration of women and fertility, the name from the various pagan goddesses of pre-Christian times -  before it was taken over to be about a man undergoing sacrificial crucifiction There is lots of information on the origins of Easter on the Internet.e.g.

    Celebrating Xmas without 'The Nativity' CLICK HERE - can be done with a lot more creativity if it is done as its original meaning of the festival of the 'New SUN' - the end of winter at the winter solstice, and the looking forward to spring. Many religions used it to promote the idea of a new born SON as their Messiah. See 'Our Pagan Christmas' by R.J Condon (available from the National Secular Society) and its updated version Did Christians Steal Christmas? by R.J Stovold. The preface to the former is by writer and broadcaster Barbara Smoker

    How to help children cope with bereavement

    Gender Identity Issues in Children and Adolescents

    BHA handout on suitable books.

    Answering awkward questions? 'Parenting Without God'  by Jane Wynne-Wilson

    Is it a Sin to Lie  ?

    As with most topics, children start asking the question when they are ready for the answers primary school teachers are adept at side-stepping some of these questions if they are unsure of the views and sensibilities of parents, and discuss these issues with colleagues and parents in order to satisfy the needs of children in honest and appropriate answers to their questions. *

    How do teachers protect themselves if their integrity as educators is challenged?  Discuss.


    ' 'How The Universe Began' KS1



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    Resources for Teachers in Secondary Schools.

    Overview of the range of issues relevant to the personal

development needs of students of this age group and the curriculum

    Proposal for Humanism in the current RE Curriculum

    Examination Issues:
    The Catholic Church insists that 10% of the curriculum time in RC secondary schools must be spent on what it calls 'RS' (Religious Studies - a euphemism for religious instruction - indoctrination being the purpose).
    In addition these schools make RS a compulsory GCSE Subject, something that many parents are not aware of when they enroll their children only because they think the schools are better than others.
    Does the current GCSE in religion give students an easy extra in their own religion?
    and if so does this discriminate against those whose parents have other or no religion?
    For Philosophy as a school examination subject see:- 'Correspondence'

    Teaching About Religion This is a clear exposition of the issues and ethics of teaching accurate information from a teaching POV

    Briefings on issues of personal interest, and public policy:
    The BHA has a list of briefings, including Abortion, Aids and HIV, Animal Welfare, Crime and Punishment, Discrimination and Prejudice, Drugs, Embryo Research, Environmental Issues, Family Values, Genetic Engineering, Human Rights, "Nature" Suicide, Voluntary Euthanasia, War and World Poverty. One or two copies free.
    Also - A good easy source of quotations and well known atheists, secularists, humanists, writers such as of Bertrand Russell, Thomas Paine, Robert Green Ingersoll, Richard Dawkins, and Carl Sagan can be found on or via the organisations and links on a link on your desktop for easy access)

    More suggestions Book List

    Daphne duMaurier
    2007  was the centenary of the birth of Daphne du Maurier, celebrated author of numerous works of fiction and biography. You  might be surprised to discover the nature of her beliefs regarding religion, life and death, morality and the supernatural.  Christopher Clayton has spent time researching and writing an article titled 'The Mystery of Daphne du Maurier's Humanism'. It is now published on the Daphne du Maurier website and can be downloaded in printable

    There is also material on the effects of religion and religious attitudes on several issues e.g. Evolution, Science and Health, Prejudice and discrimination, Children & Women.
    (There is also a lot of humour, wit and satire on the 'Fun' section of the site)
    Common Fallacies:
    Very useful list of linguistic ploys that are used to deflect and mislead, particularly in discussions of philosophy, politics and religion. Being able to regognise these would be a great help in enabling young people to separate fact from fiction, and valid argument from verbal trickery. Also useful in other subjects such as English Politics, Media studies etc. Common Fallacies.htm
    Zonia Bowen's book on Humanism in Welsh, for secondary schools published in 1995:- TRAED AR Y DDAEAR (Feet on the ground) is available from the publishers: Centre for Educational Studies, Education Department, The University of Wales, Old College, Aberystwyth. SY23 2AX. The price is £3.95.
    High praise for Philip Pullman's trilogy - 'Northern Lights', 'The Subtle Knife' and 'The AmberSpyglass'
    "I would like to recommend them to you and your older pupils. Supposedly books for children, they are quite simply superb, but suitable for confident readers only.....the whole family is reading them!
    Now all I've got to do is casually recommend them to my colleagues
    and their more able pupils..."
    'Astroboy' Graphic comic posing moral issues for children and adults. If anyone gets sight of this I would be interested in more information as to its use-ed.




    What about Adult, Further, and Higher Education? With adults there is of course no problem similar to those concerning children and their parents, but there may be things we can do to get our philosophies more understood by the thousands of older people who are flocking to Adult Education Classes, U3A (University of the 3rd Age) and WEA (Workers Education Association). Many of whom are very interested in finding out about philosophy and lifestyle.
    Many of these colleges providing courses have been badly hit over the last two decades, because only courses leading to some form of qualification have attracted subsidy, there is just a glimmer of hope now that the government is committed to 'lifelong learning' If this commitment is actually backed up with some resources, there may be more scope for us to run courses from a Humanist perspective, (but only if they are not linked to "useful" qualifications).

    And what of the Universities? How much money is still being spent on theology departments, now masquerading under such titles as Religion and Ethics - how much time to they spend on the rationalist, atheist, secularist and humanist points of view on religion? And how much of their old influence do they still have, cloistered in the halls of education.

    Adult Education Colleges are often looking for new courses to attract students, and might be willing to put on short (say 4-6 week ) courses on subjects such as:
    Humanism and Atheism', .'.....isms and what they mean', 'Organising your own Ceremonies', 'Devils Advocate' (?) 'Systems of non-belief' and so on.
    This might also be a fruitful activity for the many older active humanists and secularists, to use their experience to help a greater understanding of the value of losing the guilt and fear that is often associated with 'losing' religion.
    Are there any other educational issues ? e.g. in teacher training.

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    The current pattern of school terms is derived from long outdated edicts dating from the first Christian Roman Emperor, Constantine, who dictated that the spring holiday should fall on the first Sunday after the full moon after the vernal equinox! This problematic and outdated pattern has been sustained by the Christian Church in its usual rigid way, regardless of the many difficulties it causes for students, teachers and parents, in our modern educational system. It has nothing to do with common sense, relevance to today's lifestyle or education, yet the church still opposes reform even though it is well known now that both the winter and spring holidays Easter and Xmas, pre date the Xian religion. This adherence to traditional church doctrine is as obsolete now as the need to keep children off school for the whole of the summer in order for them to help bring in the harvest or pick hops!
    Proposals are due out soon to change the school year to a balanced, fixed term structure, part of which will be to replace the present floating Easter Holiday, by a fixed 'Spring Break' ; moving the summer holiday to the beginning of July; changing the date of the main exams to April, and having a two-week holiday in October.
    Rationalising the term times, are aimed at reducing teacher stress, pupil truancy, and improve exam results. It would avoid exams being held during the peak hay-fever season which affects many students, and allow students to apply for university entrance on the basis of results rather than expectations.
    The Independent Commission on the School Year, headed by Chris Price, proposes changes based on an eight month consultation, during which 2,700 organisations and individuals were sent questionnaires. The Local Government Association which will oversee the changes to be implemented in autumn 2003 is reported to view them as 'broadly positive'. This will not deter the churches from vigorously opposing them on the grounds of religious sensibilities, and they are already gearing up for a campaign against some of the changes.
    The report also suggests that more holidays should be timed to coincide with other religious festivals and proposes to give schools 10 flexible days. No problem with that so long as it does not create conflict and is done with due care and attention to the effects it may have on families, and the wider community; and holidays are only seen as being one of the good things about religion!
    (Reported with a leader in favour of Secular Schools, Observer 27/5/01)

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    Other Education Sources

    Suggestions for Correspondence:


    National Curriculum Council

        Look for Religion and Statement of Values



    Local Government

    Teachers Papers

    Teachers Organisations - Unions etc.

    Local sources -

    Register and have your say on magazines, Journals & Press letters pages and  message boards


See the NSS newsline for regular letters
on education, and other subjects

 Letter to a worried parent




    (Previous Archive)




 This reply is to worries that are commonly expressed by parents when writing to this site.

Hello ........

With few exceptions your letter is similar to many we receive.

You do not say whether the school advertises itself as a Christian school, if it does then I suppose parents have to accept that, and in making your views known have done all you can in the circumstances.

In addition to your conversation with the religious head teacher, you could also make your views known to any others who 'teach' your daughter, explaining you dilemma. (It makes my blood boil, that any teacher who respects children's right to objective education, should assert his/her religious beliefs over children, but that is neither here nor there in the scheme of things. Of course it is like all missionaries, their 'gifts' come at the  price of their 'message'!)

However, you as her parent will have more influence than any school., and if you respect her rights to hear all sides of a story so that she will be able to make up her own mind she will, even at the age of seven, understand your dilemma. Talk to her about how you feel about this aspect of the school, and ask her what she thinks.  I would be confident that in the future she will appreciate you honesty and respect for her.

What you can do that the school cannot do, is to give her the other side of any story they tell, you can explain why they want to limit her thinking and how they use (the psychological techniques) (in this case  "going to church in school time three times a week") but using  appropriate language of course e.g. "They want you to think that there is some magic in their candles, hymns and priests in robes, that will stop you from thinking about what they are saying" (Have you read the publication on 'A Theory of Belief' on the website (under AtheistPerspectives?)

Bring the subject up, but without making too much of it. so that you can talk about what they are telling her, and show her how to question what they say. Show how there are different ways to think about things. You can also point out that on any given subject, while those who believe in god will try to give her only one option, you will give her other ideas, and particularly show her how to question what ANYONE tells her as 'the truth' - even you. She also needs to know that she does not have to bring any of this up at school unless she wants to.

On the Christmas story, you may like to look at one of the papers on the website (it is on the 'Primary resources' part of the site. And there is a similar explanation of the origins of Easter in the pagan fertility celebrations.

I have also been looking for other material and have found what I think may be quite a good video explaining how to work out the fallacies of religion and have found one on 'proving that prayer doesn't work' - that I think is very cleverly done. But it us up to parents who know their children to find appropriate ways to counter what they are told. I would like to ask you to have a look at this video and perhaps ask your daughter what she makes of it, and let me know what you both think.

And you might also like some very good for adults and young people from Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris & few others.

I hope this is of use. I would just add that if you teach your daughter to question everything, she will not go far wrong.

Best Wishes
Chris (for Campaign for Secular Education)


Frank Dobson, one of 65 Labour backbenchers opposing the proposal to increase the number of religious schools, is trying to force faith schools to take a quarter of pupils of other faiths or none. (A minimal step in the right direction as I am sure he would agree)

Together with Liberal Democrat education spokesman, Phil Willis , a Xian who is not against church schools per se, Mr Dobson has tabled an amendment to the Education Bill, which is currently passing through parliament.

The Education Department is reported to have said that of 340 letters it had received from the public about its plans to expand faith schools, only five had been in favour.

The Lib. Dems. have also tabled an amendment that would remove the ability of church schools to discriminate against teachers and other staff who are not religious or whose lifestyle is not approved of by the religious people who run these schools.
    (Sections 58 and 60 of the Schools
    Standards and Framework Act 1998.)
Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the NSS said: "We are pleased that the Government appears to be responding to the alarm being expressed throughout the country at the prospect of ever more faith schools. We hope that Phil Willis and Frank Dobson's amendment are the absolute minimum concession that the Government would make. We would much rather they listened to the widespread opposition to this idea, and convert faith schools seeking public funding to community schools. But with the present incumbent in Downing Street, this seems unlikely."

The Newsline bulletin can be read each week on the NSS website or it can be sent to you direct on application.

Philosophy in Schools?

    It is a mistake to think that Philosophy as a subject is likely to be acceptable just as a substitute for RE/RI.
    There are two aspects of philosophy in schools, one is as an academic subject, the second is how could it be brought into or eventually replace, what is currently called RE.
    Philosophy as a Subject - Only part of philosophy as an academic subject would deal with religions, philosophy would include for example, logic and political philosophy, which would not be relevant within the current, or amended context of RE/RI , whereas ethics and philosophy of religion would be.
    Philosophy in Secondary Schools -as 'a vote winner' ? -While GCSE divinity is favoured as it is generally seen as a 'soft option' to increase the numbers of passes. (which has pointed out elsewhere) discriminates against young people from non-religious backgrounds, philosophy which is much more difficult, as an A-level subject has, I understand, not attracted a great take-up. If it is favoured by teachers it may result in increased demand. It would be interesting to know if there are any figures, - what evidence there is, is anecdotal. More research needed.
    Philosophy as an Educational Tool - Yes of course philosophy is useful as an educational subject, however as an academic subject it is much more than just a consideration of religions, and although it is good to promote, replacing RE/RI, much as we would like it is unlikely to be accepted in this country as a straight swap in the foreseeable future, especially in primary schools. It is also true to say that one factor in its promotion is the importance it is given by higher education for critical and rational thinking which would, we expect, favour atheist/humanist/secularist views on religion, and ethics.
    Philosophy Instead of RE/RI - Hand in hand has to go progress towards rounded secular, ethical world belief systems education . ( Suitably amended, this may have to continue under the RE title, but eventually this should be changed. 'Citizenship' has been suggested, but implies more political/ constitutional, rather than ethical issues).
    Education and teaching are not synonymous; education includes teaching but also includes student autonomy and activity.
Sue Mayer


    BHA has had it on good authority that "wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character" can mean that 49% of school assemblies can be non-Christian".
    FromSandy Edwards (Education Officer, Humanist Soc. of Scotland.)
    The one thing that I do find remarkable is the way that English schools put up with having to have religious "worship"! We are
    meant to have religious "observance" in our schools, but two-thirds of them never have any religious assemblies at all and haven't for years.

    This has resulted in a Government review into the format of school assemblies. Careful reading of the education act (Scotland) shows that it does not specify that Rel. observance has to be specifically in assembly! Maybe this is the same for your worship?

    Also, if prayers where ever brought back into school assemblies there would be a riot from teachers, parents and particularly pupils! (Except for denom. schools and a few private ones). I think the schools get away with not having a religious assembly, not because of a loophole in the law but by providing an adequate and good secular assembly. If told that they had to change I think they would stand
    up to the Education Authority and just say "what are you going to do then?" Any punitive action would not go down to well with the local community, most of whom are concerned with behaviour, dress, drugs and academic success for their local school, not the format of school assemblies.

    Perhaps those schools in England with problems over prayers should do the same, particularly if they are turning out reasonable pupils. It might force the Government to review the situation.

    Sandy Edwards (Ex. Education Officer, Humanist Soc. of Scotland.)

    I have not checked this out- ed:
Re the letter from Gavin Parker (Newsline,) who is concerned about his little daughter coming home singing Christian songs. One of my sons came home from school when he was little and told me that the teacher had said that the thoughts in their heads were the Voice of God. I imagine my reaction to such nonsense was negative. Fortunately all my 3 sons grew up and thought things out for themselves and they are now adults with their own view of the world, not mine, I hasten to add. I am sure Mr Parker will find the same thing when his little daughter grows older. I sometimes think the sense of children will outgrow the nonsense that schools still try and instil in them. Finally I wonder what NSS members think of the Heaven and Earth Show on BBC1 on Sunday mornings. I call it a nice little front for religious proselytisers, with no space for real arguments or contradictions.

From Sarah Robbins:
In response to Gavin Parker’s letter, I have to say I completely understand where he is coming from. My son starts school in September and the law states that schools must run a broadly Christian based assembly. I am seriously worried about the impact of this on my son. We are not raising him in any belief system and nor do I wish him, nor my younger child when they go to school, to be exposed to any religious doctrine. Yet the law states he must go to school and that schools must obey this ridiculous assembly law.

If I wish, I can take him out of the assemblies, but children can have a hard enough time in school without making them ‘different’ to the others. If he chooses to be left out later I will write a letter to the school requesting this on his behalf but, in the meantime, I have to worry about his exposure to this idiocy and, like Gavin, it does indeed make my blood run cold.

On a side note, I find it interesting that this issue is often dismissed by people with ‘oh, it won’t really affect them, it’s not important’. I wonder how important it would be if children were suddenly exposed to an assembly of a broadly atheist/islam/pagan/buddhist/spiritualist/etc base?

From Hamish Renfrew:
I found myself in the same situation as Gavin Parker. When visiting schools prior to selection I made sure to ask what their policy and stand was in regard to ‘god-bothering’ and was somewhat disappointed at the number of self confessed ‘christians’ in key positions in the State Education system.

At the School we chose I asked their advice as to whether, or not, I should withdraw her from RE and was assured that there was nothing of any cause for concern in the early years. Imagine my horror when at the first half-term break my four year old daughter brought home a document outlining the syllabus for the next half-term, in it under the heading ‘Knowledge and understanding of the world’ ..... “In RE the children will learn about the importance of Baptism, Mothering Sunday and the Easter celebration.” Baptism with a capital B (see also George W, Grinning chimp, etc.) None of her family are baptised nor do I see its importance as a message a school should impart to a four year old! I went ballistic! I thought this kind of crap had gone with the belt, polio victims in calipers, mortar board hats for teachers and signs on boarding houses saying “No Blacks No Irish”!

I was eventually directed to my LEA who employ an official of the diocese of Rochester to write their syllabus for religious education and supervise it; at least I know my council tax isn’t being wasted! Maybe we could commission the pope to give contraceptive advice?

Thus started a long and occasionally difficult journey through the nightmare of trying to ensure child protection in the face of a state (doesn’t that mean us?) sponsored program of projecting the fantasies of a minority on our society’s most innocent consumers of knowledge. The highlight so far: visit to a Fire Station = consent to leave school premises form, visit to a Baptist church = no consent sought. (Did I miss the Ferns inquiry into paedophile firemen?)

One tip which may help to get the authorities’ attention is to point out the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report’s definition of racism: “conduct or words which advantage or disadvantage people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin. In its more subtle form it is as damaging as in its more overt form.”

My Chambers defines ethnic as “concerning nations or races: pertaining to gentiles or the heathen.” Doesn’t that qualify the school as institutionally racist and in breach of their own equality policy? Unfortunately for the non-deluded there is no easy answer. Welcome to the minefield of trying to protect your offspring without alienating them from their peers. Like-minded staff suggest mass withdrawal of schoolchildren from RE would be a good start.

From Antony Lempert:
I share Gavin Parker’s dismay at the formal indoctrination of young impressionable people in our theocratic democracy. I too have a 5 year old daughter at school. The question is whether to risk isolating our children at school by withdrawing them from religious worship and/or religious education (as is our right under the Education Act) or risk them becoming indoctrinated. The latter course of action tacitly supports the status quo. Nor does it do anything to encourage others to challenge their blinkered world views.

Bullies have worked on this principle for years. The bullied have forever been put in an invidious position. Do we speak out and risk further humiliation or suffer in silence? Worse still when speaking out might expose our children to the risk of bullying.

I recently wrote to my daughter’s school expressing my sadness and distress that she had been allocated a part as an angel in a blatantly evangelistic school nativity play production. This was against our and her express wishes that she not be involved in acts of religious worship. Their reply has been my best weapon. It was so shoddy and lacking in compassion and insight that I was able to write back picking it to pieces and offering to help them to fulfil their obligations towards me under the terms of the 1944 Education Act. Within a day of my second letter, both the headteacher and the chair of the governors were knocking at the door to meet with me. I honestly think they simply hadn’t got the point. Most religionists simply can’t see what the harm is for others to get involved in their iddy biddy little lovely religion.

Unless we challenge the status quo, it won’t change and our grandchildren will face the same nonsense that our children are now facing. I don’t buy the oft-repeated pat on the back from other secularists/humanists who suggest that our children will be alright Jack because they have us as parents. I don’t doubt it. What about all the other children subjected to an ‘education’ of indoctrination? Some of them will see through the fog and escape to some clear sky as some of us did. History shows us that most won’t. They will support their religion of birth, whether by default, by guilt or by coercion thereby allowing it to continue oppressing the rest of us on the outside of their religion of birth. More sticks, more swords, more guns, more bombs in the name of the One True Lord, or the many true lords of their religion of birth.

Anyone interested in sharing ideas/letters/tactics please email me on

    From Tim Scott:
    If it’s any help to Gavin Parker, the course of action that I took when I found that my daughter was being indoctrinated at school from an early age was to counteract the poisonous christian message by taking the opposite point of view at home at every opportunity. At such a young age, children take far more notice of their parents than they do of teachers, so for every hymn she sang, I’d make up a humorous atheist ditty to sing at home. For every Jesus-flavoured story, I’d explain that it wasn’t a miracle, and put forward a likely explanation. Now at the age of 12, my daughter is as much of an atheist as I’ve ever been. I’d suggest to Gavin that if his daughter likes singing she should carry on, but expand her repertoire to include a godless point of view. Perhaps someone should record a CD of atheist songs for children.....

    From Penny Jaques:
    Chill out Gavin! A 5 year old needs to enjoy all sorts of imaginary people and animals and toys who talk and Santa Claus and the tooth fairy etc. Just tell her that some people believe some things are true and others do not. Let her join in everything at school. Forbidding something is the best way to make it attractive. Many years ago our son then aged 7 went camping with the Crusaders and had a great time and came home telling us he believed in Jesus. We showed only a mild interest and asked him about the camping. A week later he announced that he no longer believed in Jesus but he did believe in space. He still loves camping and space



An article in the Kentish Times entitled 'Would you Adam and Ever it' reported what it called "the most ludicrous situation" played out in Bradford, where at Cannon Slade secondary school, where the headmaster, the Rev Peter Shepherd is insisting that pupils should not be admitted to his school unless their parents 'sign in' for 48 church services a year.

In order to check this, he wants them to produce notes from vicars to prove that they have worshipped the required number of times. And he reportedly has the backing of 130 local clergy!

The writer goes on to say that it will lead to hundreds of non-believers kneeling in bogus prayer in order to get their children into 'his' school. And goes on to comment "and what a scandal that in the 21st century, Britain we are still exposing children to notions of religious faith at an age when they still believe in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. Still that's how the church likes it: grab 'em when they're gullible, when they're young.



Discussions have begun to create a joint Roman Catholic and Church of England school in Rochdale, Lancashire. Talks are centred on St Joseph's RC High School, Heywood, which is facing a declining number of pupils.

A working party will report back to the Catholic Bishop of Salford and the Anglican Bishop of Manchester in the summer.

Manchester's Diocesan director of education, Jan Ainsworth, said: "Our board is very strongly committed to increasing Church of England secondary school places. We are presently in discussion with the Roman Catholic diocese of Salford and the governors of St Joseph's High School about the possible creation of a joint Roman Catholic-Church of England high school there. We believe there is a significant demand in Rochdale from parents who want Church of England education for their children. We would like to see this within the borough of Rochdale. The talks so far have included parish priests and school governors from St Joseph's and they have started looking at the areas of admissions and recruitment and will be visiting similar existing joint schools in other parts of the country."

Rochdale Council's education chiefs have also been involved in the early talks.

The Vicar of Milnrow, the Rev Robin Usher, who has led the call for a new CofE high school for Rochdale said: "Church schools do often seem to be more attractive than county schools and that makes them difficult to get in to. The more applicants there are, the tighter the admissions criteria – a sort of educational supply-and-demand process.

"The two Church of England high schools in Oldham attract vastly more applicants than they have places for, as many who have tried to get their children in them have found. The situation at the moment is that even with, say, 100 per cent attendance at Sunday school, a child stands very little chance to be a successful application.

"Even an application with 100 per cent Sunday school attendance plus 100 per cent church attendance by a parent sustained over a period of 10 years is not certain to be successful.

"There is clearly a case for change. Perhaps the Church, and I think particularly of Manchester Diocesan Board of Education, ought to consider a new church high school for Rochdale to relieve the pressure on Blue Coat and Crompton House School."

Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society said: "This is yet another disgraceful example of the Church using tax payers' money to force people to attend its services in order to get their children into a state school. Robin Usher must be rubbing his hands at the prospect of having such power over parents – and we all have to pay for it."




The Catholic Church in Scotland has tried to distance itself from a row over separate facilities on proposed shared school campuses.

Earlier in the week, the Church had told North Lanarkshire Council that it would withdraw from a major school project unless it received a written guarantee that its staff would have separate entrances, staff rooms and toilets.

The Church and the Council have agreed to create seven new school campuses that would have Catholic and non- denominational schools on the same property using £150 million of public money. Although the schools would share some facilities they would, in effect, be separate.

Bishop Joseph Devine of Motherwell has now withdrawn the deadline and said that discussion are continuing. However, there is no suggestion that the demands for separate staff facilities had been dropped.

Last week parents at the school called an emergency meeting after a 15-year-old boy had to be taken to hospital following an attack by a gang from Dalkeith, where a shared campus school is situated.. Another girl had to have glass removed from her eye after a school bus was stoned. Four families are refusing to send their children to the school.

A survey carried out by the National Centre for Social Research in 2002 showed that 81% of Scots believed separate Catholic schooling should be phased out, a rise of 5% since 1992. Among the Catholic community, 59% believed it should be ended, a rise of 12%.

Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society said: "This is a shocking demonstration of how denominational schools so easily lead to conflict and division. The Catholic Church is arrogant and separatist and it saddens me that the Scottish political establishment doesn't have the courage to stand up to this attempt to create apartheid in schools. These shared campuses seem to intensify differences rather than create understanding. The abolition of religiously separate education is long overdue."