Religion in State Schools

Well, it’s been a week since I last ranted, must be time for another one. Actually this isn’t a rant as such, more a gentle quizzing, musing, if you like.  Maybe I’m just confused.

Why is my daughter being taught about the Christian God and learning how to pray in a state school?

Photo courtesy of state Impact Florida

Photo courtesy of state Impact Florida

Before I go on, I should lay my cards on the table. You’re not stupid and probably realise that I’m clearly not a Christian. I’m most definitely an atheist, my husband is agnostic (leaning towards atheism – although truth be told I think he’s hedging his bets in case of an afterlife) and my children…..well they are religionless, if that’s even a word.  They have heard about religion, they know of church, they know of some beliefs that others follow, but I’m not teaching them to be cynical human beings and reject religion, I’m providing them with a clean slate to make their own mind up over time.

Now obviously, they will be slightly influenced.  I’m an atheist as were my parents, but they didn’t teach me that, I just worked it out for myself.  My parents were, at times, also racist, but thankfully I also worked that out and decided not to follow that path.  My children will know what I think if they asked.

There is a part of me that wished I did believe in God. As a messed up teenager I used to walk past the church near my school and look longingly in as people sat in pews, in the silence, in the beautiful architecture, feeling like someone is listening to them.  I like that.  I could have tried it. I think at times I did.  It just didn’t work.  The scientific part of my brain would get too loud.  I felt like an idiot.

So that was Australia.  We DID NOT learn hymns. We DID NOT do prayer. We DID NOT get told in classes to thank god for anything.  However, we did have religious education. It was Christian based and therefore my Jehovah Witness mate at the time got a special note to sit in the library for an hour.  I learnt about the bible, all about the stories and we all asked questions. It’s part of our history, a very important part, and let’s face it, still is.  Religion plays a big part in lots of people’s lives.  I think, for about a year, my mother also sent me to Sunday School. She was an intelligent woman and I don’t think she wanted me to know nothing about religion.  Of course, it might have been that she wanted Sunday morning free to vacuum the house.

I guess I’m surprised more than anything. I’d had the debates with other parents about church schools and the lengths people go. A friend of ours in the same borough has been going to her local church for 2 years in order to secure her daughter’s space at a C of E school.  However, she quite likes the ideals of church and likes meeting people, so to her, it wasn’t a big ask. 

Hubby and I decided we didn’t want to do that.  We have a Catholic school very near us with a good reputation (and hubby is unofficially Catholic) but I can’t do it. It doesn’t work for me. I don’t want religion being a part of all areas of my daughter’s education.  So she was packed off to a very nice state primary.

I know she had RE and I was very pleased she was learning about it.  This saves me the trouble of digging up stories long since forgotten.  I did buy the Christmas story a year ago when she was playing Mary, so she had an idea of what it was about but the only other good one is Noah but I know very little of that story.

So then it started. She started by singing me a song about God being a great big God.  Nice tune. Ok.  Then she was told that when she opens her Christmas presents on Christmas day she should thank God for them.  Ummm *Cough* no! Thank me, I bloody bought them.  I know what the teacher is getting at, but I’ll happily hijack Christmas, that doesn’t mean I want to make it religious.  Then she started telling me a few other stories about God which made me feel a bit uncomfortable until I rocked up at her birthday assembly (parents came come to those) and she did a prayer alongside all the other children and sang the God song.  Bless her, at the end she said “A Mend”.  “You say that at the end, Mummy. To say you’ve finished”.

I’m being cynical here, obviously, and it’s not that I’m dead against what’s going on, I’m just very very surprised.  I had no idea and I really don’t know what to feel about it.  Should I have been consulted or should I be a little happy that she’s getting a chance to immerse herself in it.  I’m fairly certain she’s not being brainwashed here, and let’s be honest, Church of England teachings are fairly wishy washy. No fire and brimstone. No guilt.  Just some ok stories about being kind and some education.

I guess, I’m not that happy or I wouldn’t be writing about it. However I’m not sooo unhappy I want to march into the school and say something either.  If you are an atheist, how do you feel about the teaching of religion in school?  Is this all basic stuff in England and I need to get over myself?

Any way. Musing over. A Mend.




About freefallinginto40

I am 40 years old. I blog about how I'm coping with my "new" age at . I'm a married mother to two after years of infertility. I have a 6 year old called Pickle and a 3 year old called The Monster. I work 4 days a week. We are also planning a move to the country! I blog about that at
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10 Responses to Religion in State Schools

  1. Helen says:

    So totally agree, was horrified when learnt son was saying GRACE at lunchtime. WTF???

    I think schools should TEACH about ALL religions but a bias towards none. Also it might mean we wouldn’t have such a stupid short term now because we have to have easter holidays at easter.

  2. Ruth says:

    This is a tough one. I have a friend in Edinburgh who feels so strongly about it she has set up a petition to remove teachings about God in non-Dom schools. I think that would be my preference too, to be honest. We had a great RE teacher at high school who spent a term on each of the major religions – much better way to do it.

    • Ruth says:

      (Non-denominational that should have said!)

      Can you balance out the A Mending by sending some time at home talking about other religions – maybe focus it around some of the major festivals and celebrations – so she at least knows there are other choices?

      • I think she learns about other religions in RE, which I’m happy about, it’s just the everyday prayer thing that’s thrown me.When she’s a bit older we may talk about it more.

    • I’m just surprised as I had assumed it wouldn’t become part of their everyday. Looks like it is though.

  3. A very interesting post and one that will definitely get some response! Nailing my colours to the mast, I’m a Christian and to me, christmas is about God so I guess teaching children that’s what it’s about is important for me. You will find, as your child gets older, that British primary schools teach every religion….In quite a lot of detail as its part of the national curriculum. This will obviously include Christianity. All schools can choose what they teach in assembly, ours doesn’t have any religious input but as a Brit, I would assume that the if the school chose to, it would be Christianity because that is our country’s religion. All schools do have to teach about other religions, if they’re not, you should definitely follow that up, it is part of the NC, even in primary schools and I for one, think its important that they learn about and respect others.

    • Thanks Suzanne. I did know you were Christian and glad you commented. Obv you’re happy with it, but whilst I’m all for learning about ALL religions I’m unhappy she’s being asked to conform to one, if that makes sense.

  4. Fantastic blog for starters! I’m also an atheist, as was my mum and my dad was made into one by ring taken to synagogue on Saturdays by his dad and church on Sundays by his mum! Anyway, religion has played no part in mine or my sons life thus far.

    Like you, I agree with the need for RE and I personally wouldn’t be happy with what you’re discovering. Not because I’m anti c of e but because as a state school there should be no allegiance. No single religion should be favoured in hymn or prayer. I think all religions should be taught and understood as part of the curriculum but not praying to god on a daily basis! Not for me!

    Like you, I also want a clean slate for my boy to make his own mind and I don’t think it’s right to make a state school C of E by default! I could debate / rant / argue / muse about religion all day long!

    Great post

    Ella x

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