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my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

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cosmicpixie
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my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#1 Post by cosmicpixie » September 15th, 2008, 12:12 pm

Hello there,
I would not call myself a humanist, but nor am I religious. I do not support the concept of orthodox religion in any shape or form, and despite not knowing all the answers to life myself, I do not wish my son to be taught fiction as fact or subtly indoctrinated into "learning" religion or practicing it in any way. This, to me, is brainwashing, however low key. For every child who takes little notice is another who will take what they hear to heart - once that seed is planted it can slowly begin to imprison their minds and make free thinking in later years harder.

My son began reception class last week. Day 3 he comes home and tells me he didn't like the song they sang in class. I asked what it was - "A Jesus song". My stomach turned.
Day 4 he comes home to tell me he went to assembly for the first time. A few minutes later he asks me, "mummy, what's God ?". I quietly seethed inside. This morning I ask his teacher about school assembly withdrawal - not one pupil in 10 years has ducked out of collective worship I learn, it just never happens. And yes, in answer to my question, assmebly involves a prayer. She went on to inform me that they also do an "end of the day prayer". I took up her offer of withdrawing him from THAT but am not sure how to proceed regards collective worship in assembly.

I really don't want Jake to feel like "odd one out", but at the same time the idea of him "learning" to silently bow his head, put his hands together and join in with a prayer to god/jesus whatever and/or to sing religious songs about them makes me feel quite nauseous. This is my child's mind, his thinking is being influenced - MANIPULATED. I feel totally creeped out by this vision of him sat there like a little sheep being taught to believe in God etc.

I was considering a trial run of him opting out of collective worship, to see how he reacts to being singled out in the hall and ferried off outside while everyone else joins in. Is this a bad idea? Has anyone else done this ? How did your child cope ? How old was/is your child when you did this ? Jake already dislikes assembly due to the "sad" songs they have to sing, he woke today not wanting to go to school, and kept on about assembly being the reason.

I just don't know what to do for the best, all I know is I don't want my child exposed to subtle brainwashing , I want his mind to be totally free, to help him question everything in life, and NOT to "make" him take part in ceremony's like prayer or hymn singing.

All advice appreciated, thanks.

ps) his school is not a "religious" school at all, just a bog standard "multi cultural - mult faith" school

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Lifelinking
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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#2 Post by Lifelinking » September 15th, 2008, 12:42 pm

Hi cosmicpixie, :welcome:

what part of the world do you live in? Best advice could be given if we know this.




L
"Who thinks the law has anything to do with justice? It's what we have because we can't have justice."
William McIlvanney

cosmicpixie
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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#3 Post by cosmicpixie » September 15th, 2008, 1:02 pm

I live in Cardiff, South Wales, UK

I realize I have a right to withdraw him from collective worship/RE classes etc, so I wasn't looking for any advice with regards my rights, rather some perspectives/real life stories regarding withdrawing a child from the collective worship part of morning assembly , after class prayers etc...wondering how this would affect Jake in the long run. Seems to be case of having to choose between him possibly feeling excluded ("weird " for being odd one out) or possibly getting brainwashed, gradually...

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Lifelinking
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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#4 Post by Lifelinking » September 15th, 2008, 1:23 pm

We had similar concerns about our local primary school, although yours sounds worse! We got a good reception from the school when we raised our concerns (although there are cultural, educational and legal differences here in Scotland of course), that led to certain materials no longer being used. We decided not to withdraw our children from the very occasional church visit they had, and when they were old enough to chat about it we offered to do so if they wanted. Neither of them did. Two happier wee free thinkers you could not find.

Your local school seems much more faith based. Is it a C of E school by any chance? We had friends who sent their little girl to their local CofE Primary in Hampshire. When they discussed removing their child from collective worship the head teacher looked at them as if they had two heads.

The British Humanist Association has lots of info on this, and not just advice regarding legal rights, e.g. some questions frequently asked by parents



L
"Who thinks the law has anything to do with justice? It's what we have because we can't have justice."
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cosmicpixie
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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#5 Post by cosmicpixie » September 15th, 2008, 1:40 pm

Hi L

No, it's not a COE school, nor any other religious school, just a "normal" school. It really makes me mad, religion and worship should be a private affair, not something the government decides to push on kids in any way at all.

I'm going to do some more investigating, speak to the head, see exactly what goes on in assembly, see if the christian theme is present every day or not.
Your friends - you say they discussed withdrawing their little girl from collective worship, but did they actually go through with it. If so, how did things pan out, did the girl feel excluded, did she have any "problems" because of it ?

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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#6 Post by Maria Mac » September 15th, 2008, 2:25 pm

cosmicpixie wrote:Hello there,
I was considering a trial run of him opting out of collective worship, to see how he reacts to being singled out in the hall and ferried off outside while everyone else joins in. Is this a bad idea? Has anyone else done this ? How did your child cope ? How old was/is your child when you did this ? Jake already dislikes assembly due to the "sad" songs they have to sing, he woke today not wanting to go to school, and kept on about assembly being the reason.
Hi cosmicpixie, and welcome! :smile:

If Jake hates the religious part of the assembly so much then I would think it would be better to withdraw him. From what you say, it sounds as if he would be the only child to be withdrawn but are you sure this is the case? I recall when I was a child in the 60s attending a normal county school in London, Catholic and Jewish children (maybe a dozen altogether) missed the religious part of assembly and entered for the notices part of it. Boy, did I envy them! And, so far as I'm aware, that some children were withdrawn from religious reasons was accepted as perfectly normal and reasonable by all the other children (even though we may not have understood the reasons) and none of the withdrawn children were treated differently or made to feel "different" because of it. I would have thought that if your child's school is multi-faith then surely at least some other non-xtian parents are withdrawing their children from xtian worship?

By the time my own children attended primary school in the 80s, the area had become so multi-cultural that the school was able to opt out of the obligation to hold religious worship. Nevertheless, the majority were from religious homes (Hindu and Muslim) and this came out during RE, which was strictly about 'comparative religion'. My older child was quite open about the fact that he was a non-believer and so were several other children in his class (my second child hadn't quite made up her mind at that stage). At no time during his primary school career was my son made to feel any different from any other child, because of his lack of religious faith.

If I were in your shoes, I would make my objections clear and expect them to be respected.

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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#7 Post by Lifelinking » September 15th, 2008, 4:57 pm

but did they actually go through with it. If so, how did things pan out, did the girl feel excluded, did she have any "problems" because of it ?
They did, and I believe the school came round to respect and accomodate their wishes. To the best of my recollection their daughter did not suffer any problems from it.


L
"Who thinks the law has anything to do with justice? It's what we have because we can't have justice."
William McIlvanney

cosmicpixie
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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#8 Post by cosmicpixie » September 15th, 2008, 5:21 pm

Well thanks for the replies.
I spoke again to his teacher- there are 500 pupils and every single one attends assembly. Not one sits it out, NOT ONE.
There's a hymn at the beginning and a prayer at the end... they cannot bring him 5 mins later than everyone else, ie in after the hymn and also then ferry him out before the prayer...it's too impractical and disruptive. I have been told he would have to sit the entire assembly out in order to avoid the 2 worship parts. If I do that, he'll be the only child out of 500 who doesn't go.

How on earth can I do that to him ? I can't really, can I. What parent would ? If there were a few others, I would, but I can't single him out like that.

I've requested he not do prayers in class and next year I'll take him out of RE classes but I think that's all I can realistically do. Am very frustrated with the situation but my options are limited.

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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#9 Post by Maria Mac » September 15th, 2008, 5:48 pm

That's absolutely appalling, cosmicpixie, and I'm not sure that it's quite legal. I would advise you to get clarification on this from Andrew Copson, who is the British Humanist Association's Director of Education. He can be contacted at andrew@humanism.org.uk

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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#10 Post by cosmicpixie » September 15th, 2008, 6:11 pm

Hi Maria,
what part of it are you thinking might be illegal ?

Like I said, they have told me he can sit out the assembly but the fact is if I do that, he'll be the only child not in assembly out of the entire school !!

Assembly is structured in a certain way...even if he could be brought in after the hymn at the beginning, I can see now everyone turning around to see who has come in the door late. hundreds of eyes on Jake. He sits down then 15 minutes later a teacher goes to wqhere he's sitting to take him out of assembly before the prayer begins. Again, can you imagine how jake would feel with the eyes of the whole room on him ?!

So you see, I can't go that route, even if they found a teacher to bring him in late/take him out early, it wouldn't be fair on jake to be singled out in that way.

The school is just following government guidelines as to collective worship rules. However, I am not so sure why his CLASS would be led in prayer some days at the end of the day, or encouraged to sing songs that have religious overtones. that to me does not seem likely to be required by the curriculum, but what can I do beyond request he sit out of it, which I've now done....?

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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#11 Post by Alan C. » September 15th, 2008, 6:29 pm

cosmicpixie, although my wife and I chose not to have children of our own, I would still like to make a comment on your predicament (if I may)

Why not sit Jake down and gently explain to him, that some people believe there is a magic man in the sky, and that if they pray to him he listens, and then tell him your own thoughts on the matter, I'm sure a child will take more note of what his mother says even over a teacher at school.

Let him go to assembly, but explain to him that he doesn't have to sing, nor does he have to pray, I didn't when I was at school.

Edited to add.
A teacher always used to say grace in the dining hall at lunchtime, and I remember thinking "it's the dinner ladies he should be thanking" :smile:
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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#12 Post by cosmicpixie » September 15th, 2008, 6:32 pm

Hi Alan
that's a good idea.
When I think about saying that out loud (the magic man in the sky bit) it makes me laugh out loud. Saying that to Jake is actually a very succinct way of explaining belief in "god" and makes you realize just how ridiculous the idea of worshipping an invisible being really is.
Hilarious.

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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#13 Post by tubataxidriver » September 15th, 2008, 7:21 pm

I think the possibly dubious legal part of this is that they (perhaps deliberately, perhaps not) mix up the "collective worship" bit with the "school assembly" bit - the two should be separate. People are completely within their rights to withdraw children from the worship bit but they are equally within their rights to demand attendance at the assembly bit. I suspect they have always done it this way and have successfully bullied parents into compliance in the past.

They need to change their assembly/worship structure to accommodate any child that is removed from the worship bit. If they won't do this, remove the child from worship and demand a personal assembly (notices etc.).

If the staff won't play ball, demand to see the Chair or Governors and point out that what they are doing may not be legal and promise to make further fuss. Then there is the Local Authority, then Ofsted (or whatever they have in Wales now), if necessary. Headteachers hate parental letters of complaint to Ofsted prior to an inspection - schools have a duty to facilitate complaints of this nature.

I am lucky with my six year old that she knows nonsense when she hears it and I feel it is quite safe to send her without restriction, so this may be another route to a solution, as suggested earlier.

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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#14 Post by cosmicpixie » September 15th, 2008, 7:30 pm

thanks,
but I'm not sure of you read my last couple of posts....if and until it were possible that the assembly structure was changed, I'm still faced with either taking him out of assembly full stop (and he would be the only pupil of 500 missing it) or letting him stay in it.

As a parent, I just don't feel it right for me to single him out like that - he'd be the ONLY pupil in the ENTIRE school not going to assembly. Be realistic, how would that make him feel ? Isolated and odd most likely.

Even if the worship part was obviously separate, I'd still have to decide if I was prepared to make jake miss it and in doing so make him odd man out again, as it will still just be him not attending, not a single other pupil !!!!

Faced with this, would YOU go ahead and let your own child be the one and only pupil in the entire school to be marched in late to assembly/marched out early , infront of EVERYONE else in the room, every day ? If there were a group of kids coming in late/leaving early, that's different, but I just don't feel I should make him a spectacle in that way. Imagine how he'd feel, hmm?

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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#15 Post by peterangus » September 15th, 2008, 8:43 pm

Pixie

I can't offer any advice beyond what Allan C has written.

But your post is a reminder of the intolerable injustice which is being perpetrated routinely, on a gigantic scale: namely, the indoctrination of innocent young minds.

Many of the adults who operate [or acquiesce in] this activity were themselves subjected to it in their own childhoods, and regard it as normal, and mistakenly regard it as ethical.

But there are some, in positions of authority, who are well aware that they are deliberately damaging and corrupting young minds for the purpose of preserving their established institutions, and their own privileged lifestyles.
Peter Angus

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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#16 Post by Maria Mac » September 15th, 2008, 9:01 pm

cp, I completely understand what you are saying about not wanting your child to be singled out. Of course no parent would want to put their child through that!

You asked what part might not be legal and I agree with what tubataxidriver says about this:
I think the possibly dubious legal part of this is that they (perhaps deliberately, perhaps not) mix up the "collective worship" bit with the "school assembly" bit - the two should be separate. People are completely within their rights to withdraw children from the worship bit but they are equally within their rights to demand attendance at the assembly bit. I suspect they have always done it this way and have successfully bullied parents into compliance in the past.
I would have thought that acts of worship would have to take place in advance of the main part of the assembly e.g. a prayer, followed by a reading then a hymn and then the rest of assembly, in order to allow children whose parents choose to withdraw them not to be disadvantaged by missing school notices and news. However, I don't know for sure, that's why I suggested contacting some who does. As long as they mix it up like this, of course parents are not going to withdraw their children, which makes it a pretty unethical way for a multicultural school in the 21st century to behave. As tuba says, they are bullying parents into conforming. If they made collective worship a separate and distinct part of the assembly and informed parents of their right to withdraw their children, you may find that other parents would be delighted to do so. Maybe as you get to know other parents you will find some who feel the same as you do and you can get some changes made.

By the way, on the subject of what to say to children about god-belief in general, my son came home from school aged 5 having heard the G-word for the first time and asked me about it. I told him, as Alan C suggested, that some people believe but I didn't and he could make up his own mind. He instantly announced that he did but within about three weeks, he'd worked out for himself that it didn't make sense and abandoned his belief without any pressure from me and has never looked back.

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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#17 Post by cosmicpixie » September 15th, 2008, 9:22 pm

yes, I find it all rather creepy actually.

I've emailed Andrew Dobson for advice as someone suggested I do.

I found out today that jake's teachers also lead the class in religious themed song somedays ; Miss Rose smiled as she told me about how the kids loved jigging around to the jazzy song about "my god is so mighty, my god is so great". Then I also learn that at the end of the day, the class is led in prayer, typically something along the lines of "thank you god for a wonderful day".

I really, truly want to throw up.

I am looking into what rights I do or do not have with regards either (a) getting the teachers to permanently stop religious themed songs/prayer in class time, on the basis of the legally required daily act of collective worship already haven taken place in assembly or (b) getting the teachers to put the song and prayer together right at the end of the day and getting permission to pick jake up from school 10-15 minutes earlier than everyone else, so he avoids prayer/song.

The problem for me is this : if I request he (a) sits out any religious themed song and (b) any prayer during class time, there will then be TWO occasions Jake is faced with being segragated off from his classmates. This is bound to have a negative psychological effect on him, which places me in an impossible position as obviously I don't want to give him any cause to fee obviously "different".

I am thinking if I could get the song/prayer said right at the end of the day, and collect him early, there is then no "segregation", just a case , as far as jake and his classmates are concerned, me needing to take him home earlier than everyone else due to "work committments". No harm done then, no cause for curiosity either from jake's classmates as he goes through school. But I don't know if it's legal to collect your child early from school every day, or if the complaint of one parent is enough to stop the teachers singing jesus songs in class and encouraging prayer. They pointed out jake doesn't "have" to pray, but of course he will if he sees his friends doing so, it's "group pressure" isn't it.

Aaah, I am fuming. If I had the money he'd have gone to a Steiner school or similar instead.

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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#18 Post by Alan H » September 15th, 2008, 9:32 pm

There is some good information on the BHA's website about Religious Observance and Religious Education. Perhaps you could approach them about Inclusive Assemblies.
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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#19 Post by cosmicpixie » September 15th, 2008, 9:38 pm

well I'll look into that, but realistically, is much likely to change on the basis of ONE parent making a complaint/suggestion....? I doubt it.

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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#20 Post by Alan H » September 15th, 2008, 9:53 pm

If it is the law that you have the right to remove your son, then they cannot refuse. Just mention the Human Rights Act.
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