Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Why Rachel isn't at a church school

This is a response to the many people who ask me why I haven't sent Rachel to a church school when there's one quite local to us.  It is our experience of how and why we chose what we did, not any comment on church schools.

When choosing a school for Rachel I wanted to send her to our local church school. It seemed like a church school would match best with our family values. There was one major down point however, it would mean driving her to school because it was too far to walk. So we also short listed our local catchment school which we could walk to.

We went along to visit both the schools.
First was the church school, we liked the feel of it; lots of happy kids, loads of wonderful art on the walls and a great assembly with prayers and hymns. But there were two things which felt weird;
1. The kids were of a very specific demographic - mostly white - which doesn't match with the community we live in.
2. Over half the kids travelled from well outside catchment - great because they wanted to come to the school, but it didn't have a local community feel.

Next we visited the local school. It was less flash, much bigger with less art and the kids seemed a bit less controlled.  But the kids who showed us round were happier and had loads of fun things to tell us and seemed to know lots of the younger kids and all of the teachers.  All good points.  There were kids of every deomgraphic in the community and I liked that, along with the fact that the kids all live within a mile of the school.  But of course there were downsides:
1. The school never included prayers in their assemblies, but RE lessons were provided by REinspired which I knew about because I'm one of the team.
2. The school was less flash and the head teacher less of a sales person, but I quickly realised that wasn't the most important thing.

So how did we decide?
In the end we decided that we wanted Rachel to have a broader social communuity experience, mixing with other cultures and religions as part of her school years.  Through my role in the church we knew she'd get good christian messages and lessons and have a christian network, but we really felt that appreciating the beliefs and lives of others would stand her in better stead for the future.  We also loved the fact that she would walk to school with me and when she was older on her own, and that her friends would all be local. 

It hasn't been easy over the last 2 years to stick with this decision, the school she's at seems to find it hard to focus on the individual child; but her actual teachers have been fantastic, she's thriving and she loves school.  And our hopes that her horizons would be broadened have been realised, she knows so much about tolerance of other kids' beliefs and festivals.  OK so she has less school given knowledge of the Bible, but she has a strong christian faith and enjoys talking to muslims and hindus about their own experiences of God.


Kathryn said...

Really interesting...Here it's the church school that has the broadest range of families, all within catchment area & welcomes all comers. Don't think ANYONE chooses it for faith reasons, (tho SIAS rated us "outstanding")...but it's all about unconditional love & welcome. 1 of the 2 community schools in the parish has same ethos - & I feel just as at home there...t'other is all about league tables, displays & closed doors to the church.

Emma Major said...

I find it fascinating how schools in different areas have such differing experiences and demographics; this is just one more reason why there's not necessarily any "one" way forward for anyone.