See the NSS newsline for regular
on education, and other subjects
This reply is to worries that are
commonly expressed by parents when writing to this site.
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
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 www.c.s.e.freeuk.com/XmasWithoutheNativity.htm (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
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.
Chris (for Campaign for Secular Education)
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
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
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."
Standards and Framework Act 1998.)
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
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
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.
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
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-
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
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
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.
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
ADAM AND EVE IT?'
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
CHURCHES TO INCREASE THEIR STRANGLEHOLD ON LOCAL EDUCATION
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.
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
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.
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.
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."
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."
RELIGIOUS APARTHEID DEMANDED IN
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
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.
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.
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.
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%.
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