UPDATE: The review in question has been removed, so it’s no longer possible to view it.

I’ve received an anonymous comment very similar to this one on my blog last week. I didn’t publish it as I don’t know anything about the school in question. I’m also not naming the school in this blog post, as I don’t think it’s fair when people go a-googling.

When Gregg’s the Bakers changes its signage, I feel qualified to harp on about that. I walk past Gregg’s. I even occasionally eat their veggie pasties, even though I know I shouldn’t.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have kids. The last time I set foot in a school was when John Major was prime minister. So please understand my total lack of expertise here.

We have looked in the past at the websites of the local schools, and I must admit that the admissions policies of “faith schools” do scare me slightly. If you want to send your children to this school, you must have been attending a local church for at least 2 years, and the vicar must know you. So what happens if you lose your faith whilst your child is at the school? If you decide that you can no longer bring your child up with one set of beliefs, should that child leave their friends?

On the other hand, the school in question stands out to me as a casual observer precisely because it looks so idyllic. Their most recent Ofsted reports marked them as “outstanding”. The setting and style of the building reminds me of my very happy time at a local non-faith comprehensive primary school in the 80s (nowhere near here).

Back then, my school still made you sing hymns, had groovy vicars tell you that Jesus was cool, and occasional teachers who would tell you that you’d go to hell because you weren’t christened. All of which was just part of going to school for me. On the other hand, if you were “different” from the majority of kids at the school, you didn’t have such an easy time of it.

If you have any thoughts or comments about this, please think very carefully before posting. I can’t afford to be sued, and I don’t want allegations about specific people on this post. Teaching isn’t an easy job.


Filed under blackheath, blackheath village, schools

18 responses to “Reviews

  1. 58frankh

    I have never understood why those want their childeren to grow up following a specific religion should expect the school to do much of the ‘doctrination’ for them. After all most religions share similar approaches to good behaviour, attitudes towards others, etc, etc, and a good school should be able to teach those without reference to a god. If they think it essential that their children learn among a cohort that is mostly from families of the same religion, why should the taxpayer pay for that. I know that if there were no religous schools the taxpayer would still have to pay for their schooling anyway. But that is equally true of fee-paying private schools.

  2. Blackheathmum

    I don’t have kids at this particular school but I do have kids at another Blackheath primary. The situation with admissions is bizarre, as you quickly realise then you come to apply for a primary place. There are a lot of primaries within a small area, most of them just 1 or 2 form entry, so competition is fierce, and the catchment areas are generally measured in metres as they are so small. I know parents who wanted to send their kids to their nearest primary, which is a faith school, and they had to plan it 2 years in advance so they could join the church and be seen to be ‘active church members’. I have other friends who have refused to go down the ’fake-it-at-church’ route, and have ended up with primary places in Catford as their nearest faith school wouldn’t accept them, and they are out of catchment for any other primaries. I’m happy that my kids get a broad education inclusive of all faiths at their state primary – they do Christmas, diwali, yom kippur… its great, and much better preparation for life in the real world I think.

  3. Anon

    I send my children to a faith school. I even pay for the privilege.
    I do it because I want them to grow up good Christians. The 10 commandments are an excellent guide to live by inside or outside of an organised faith.
    I do it because having a faith gives a child another sense of community and belonging. In these times where children are stabbed and murdered in front of other children for no apparent reason, children need all the sense of belonging and responsibility they can get.
    I do it because for the 6 hours a day that they are out of my care, I want them to be in the care of a school which backs up the ethos we practice at home.
    I do it because religion has many valuable lessons to teach us, not in its doctrine but in critical assessment of its doctrine. However it is hard to assess something effectively without learning about it first.
    I do it because if one day they decide to turn their back on organised faith, I want them to know what they are turning their backs on.

    The school backs me up and I back the school up, it is a fantastic relationship that just works because the school and myself hold the same values. Their RE classes are not only about their own faith but on how others practice their faiths and that is something that should be respected.

    Just like I respect the decisions of parents who choose not to send their children to faith schools. Just like I respect the decision of some faith schools to insist that their pupils and their parents take an active part in the faith and the community they are a part of before they are considered for admittance. After all, it is thanks to that faith and that sense of community that the children in faith schools do so well. I feel that to have children and parents come in who do not respect or take part in that which makes the school a success would be a mistake.

    Of course that is just my opinion…..

  4. Another Blackheath mum

    I’m a little concerned about this post. I have children of pre-school age and All Saints would definitely be a preferred option for me, partly as it is a faith school and I am christian. I’m concerned that despite protesting that you wouldn’t publish personal attacks on your blog that you have actually put a link up which is basically the same thing as you are ensuring that this person’s grievances are getting a much wider audience. While everything they say may be true there is no evidence either way and we haven’t got the other side of the story. These are very very serious allegations. I think they should be taken seriously and dealt with by the local authority’s education department. I don’t think they should be discussed openly on a blog without all the facts. I can’t help thinking that your attitude to faith schools might be one reason that you thought it ok to mention this. I wonder if had it been a local non-faith primary whether you would have done the same thing?

  5. Mat Gough

    Clearly the person has serious issues. This is not about faith vs. non-faith schools, nor is it about racial discrimination (which I note no-one has mentioned so far): it’s about the fact that these allegations aren’t being dealt with. Either her concerns are genuine, in which case there should be a formal inquiry and the teachers in question held to account, or her allegations are slanderous and defamatory and she should be prosecuted.

    As no-one really pays much attention to ranting on the internet I suspect this will all disappear quietly. If she wants to be taken seriously there are official channels, which she clearly hasn’t bothered to investigate. If I where the head teacher of the school I would now be taking strong action to establish the facts either way and to re-establish the reputation of the school…..

  6. Who Nose?

    What gets me is that my child is not allowed in the best state schools in the area because of their parents religion (or lack of it). Religious state schools are an absolute outrage – if you pay yourself then that’s fine – but reserving the best start in life to children of good Christians is not only wrong wrong wrong, it’s ironically a very un-Christian thing to do.

    • Mat Gough

      You don’t state fund a hospital then deny people access because they don’t believe in father christmas or the tooth fairy, so how on earth can they justify a state funded school that denies access to people who don’t believe in an old man with a fluffy white beard who lives in the clouds?

      I wasn’t going to get drawn in to the faith/non-faith debate as I don’t think this post is about that, but when it comes to ‘free’ education provided by the tax payer it makes me very angry and I’m afraid I just couldn’t help myself!

  7. Pedro

    It’s my personal belief that faith has no place in school (except in a balanced and factual RE class) and they should be banned. Inevitably people will say that I am denying people the choice of where there sending there kids to school. But, in my opinion, those people who send there kids to faith school are denying their child their choice of faith. There is no such thing as a Christian child only a child forced to be Christian. No-one can make a balanced choice about religion at such young age, especially if there only given one side of a multi-faceted story. A Child will believe whatever you tell them without question. I don’t really see the diffrence between this and brainwashing? My children will not go to any such schools regardless of how good the ratings are. They can make there own decisions about which faith to follow (or none) when or if they choose to do so and they’ve had years to review all the information available to make a balanced decision. I’ll support them in whatever they choose.

    Saying that I went to a CofE primary school (the only school where we lived). It was a lovely little school, which I highly enjoyed. The only downside was being forced to go to church. Luckily my parents always told me to make my own mind up and I quickly did. Even at 6 I didn’t believe a word in talking snakes and boats that could fit two of each every animal in the word on board. The books I had at home with pictures of dinosaurs and volcanoes were far more convincing (and interesting) so I became a geologist. I should thank Christian faith schools really – they made sure I grew up to be an Atheist!

  8. Richard Garratt

    I am a parent of a child at All Saints and I am very happy with the school and am aware that the school is sensitive to all its pupils’ faith, or lack of faith, and there must be more involved in this case than I or the majority of the posters are aware.
    The school will doubtless be handling this internally with LEA support and posters/tweeters should respect this.
    For racial discrimination to be mentioned is sad as the school has a wide range of races, religions and first languages represented in all the classes: it is not the cosy little white middle-class enclave that people fear or hope for.
    To bring in the question of the rightness or wrongness of faith schools and their funding seems unhelpful: I am not especially religious but we live in a Judeo-Christian society and our political and legal system reflect this. Any child growing up in this country needs a grounding in this belief structure to enable it to function successfully and to be able to construct arguments for or against the Christian faith.
    Simply put, no parent is forced to send their child to a church school: if a parent is uncomfortable or objects on principle to church schools; go elsewhere or swallow your pride and play an active role in the school community. A rational belief can prove a valuable voice of reality in the school. A parent who complains that they want a better standard of eduction – but won’t compromise their objection to the Church – must decide on balance whether they value their child’s education or their prejudice against religion more highly.
    If indeed faith schools do offer a higher standard of education, could it be because the parents make more of an effort to get the child in the school and play an active part in the school community? For a parent to spend two years attending Church is a real comittment to their child’s education and demonstrates this rather better than blogging on mumsnet.

  9. Bob Land

    I attended All Saint’s Church School way back in 1944-1945, it did not result in me becoming a heathen or a religous maniac. It was just a Church of England School, and they probably had a bible class , once a week.

    Later on , I went to a comprehensive school , we had assembly every morning and if I remember rightly a hymn was sung , and we had a bible class once a week, I think everybody just took it as it was, there was no pressure on the parents or the pupils at that time, with regard to their religous beliefs.

    I think that most people left these two schools, with very varying attitudes towards religion.

  10. Anon

    “If indeed faith schools do offer a higher standard of education, could it be because the parents make more of an effort to get the child in the school and play an active part in the school community?”

    Yes. That is the essence of it. Faith schools ask their parents to be involved in the church and the community to provide the sense of responsibility and belonging I talked about before. As a result the children in them do better because of a sense of shared purpose.

    Quite simply put, allowing pupils are parents in who do not subscribe to that ethos would undermine the purpose and motivation of the school with everyone pulling in different directions.

    Anyone who says they want the educational benefits of a faith school without putting in the effort and commitments that other parents do is just lazy and best kept exempt imho.

    • Jon lee

      We all want the best education for our children and many/most of us are happy to be involved in the community. One tiny little problem though…we are athiests.
      So where are our kids supposed to go to school? Do you want us to pretend to believe in god? We are entirely happy to put in effort and commitment to a school so please don’t label us as lazy because you don’t see us around much on sunday mornings.

      • Nearly local

        The problem with most atheists I talk to is that their beliefs don’t allow them to be tolerant of other faiths – start a school of your own!
        I won;t complain if my kids are denied admittance because of my Christian faith. Promise.

  11. Sceptical

    What evidence does Anon have that children “do better” in faith schools? There aren’t many faith schools in the UK’s top 100 schools for A/B A-level results!

    • Anon

      @Sceptical, if children in faith schools do so badly then why do all the atheists, non-attenders, people of different beliefs etc. complain about not being able to send they children to one?!? (see this thread for examples ad nasaum)

      Why do people resume a lapsed church going habit to send their children to faith schools?
      Why do people move kith and kin to move to parishes with successful faith schools?
      Why do you even care enough about the issue of faith schools to respond to this thread?

      You’re right, it must because, as you intimated, pupils in faith schools do really really badly. I would love if you could show me where you got your information on there not being many faith schools at the top of the secondary school league tables, I would love to see as well, where in the table it says if the school is a faith school or not.

      I had a quick Google and came across the ‘best schools’ site who listed the top ten A+B grade schools for 2010 as:
      1 Cardiff Sixth Form College
      2 Magdalen College School (as in St. Mary M =>Sounds like a faith school)
      3 St Paul’s School – London (Sounds like a faith school)
      4 Wycombe Abbey School (Sounds like a faith school)
      5 Guildford High School for Girls Day
      6 Notting Hill & Ealing High School
      7 St Paul’s Girls’ School (Sounds like a faith school)
      8 Westminster School – London
      9 North London Collegiate School – Edgware
      10 Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls – Elstree

      So there you go, from “hardly any” in the top 100 to 4 in the top 10. (There are 8 in the top 20 and 26 in the top 50 and I got bored counting after that)

      Of course the funny element of all this is the school which the original blog post related to is a Lewisham primary and not a secondary which are what the UK’s top 100 schools for A/B A-level results are for.

  12. Anon

    @Jon Lee, do what numerous other parents have done around London this year and found your own school where you can send your children to school with other like minded atheists?

    Look at the West London free school for example, founded by a group of like minded parents for their children, not a religious ethos in sight and doing wonderfully by all accounts.

    As I said, as long as people are all pulling together in the same direction, any school, be it based on faith, arts, academics or a trade will do well because it is attended by people with a common purpose and backed up by parents with a common goal for their children.

    Having people come into the school which are not willing to put the same effort in as everyone else in the school undermines the strength of the school.

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