Religious Education in Community Primary Schools

My daughter goes to a “community” primary school. This term refers to the fact that the school is run and funded by the local education authority. This school is not a religious school, and does not require that children be inducted into a faith before they can get a place there.

The school makes allowances for all religious practices, to suit the many different faiths of the children who attend. They allow muslim children time off for Eid, and always have an Eid party. They go to the local Church to celebrate harvest. They have activities for Easter, Diwali and Christmas, respectively. They pray at the end of assembly.

The thing that is confusing me (and maybe it’s just because I am not religious) is that they are teaching religious education to children as young as five years old. When I asked my daughter about her day, she told me, 

“Today we learned that Jesus is the son of God. It sounds like a pretend story, but my teacher said it’s not!” 

I understand that the purpose of RE is to teach children about the different faiths, and the different customs involved in them, so that they are aware and understanding of other people’s beliefs. I don’t understand how a child that has been raised in one faith can be expected to comprehend that there are several others. Other religions who believe in other Gods and other rules and other forms of worship. And supposedly they are just as real as one’s own faith. Won’t that be awfully confusing for them at such a young age?

The other thing that irked me was when I tried to discuss this story about Jesus with my daughter. Apparently the teacher had forgotten to preface the lesson with the words “some people believe”, meaning that my daughter now thinks that the Bible story she was read is real. How will they then explain the next religion when most of them contradict each other? The children can’t be expected to accept all the different accounts? And what about children of no faith, like my daughter? She needs to understand other people’s views and learn to respect them, not come home convinced that she too should be following a religion!

My daughter will happily take part in any celebration, even though she has no faith. She puts her head down and her hands together to pray at the end of assembly even though she doesn’t understand what that means. My worry is for the children who are of faith; will this method of teaching confuse them? Should community schools rethink their RE lessons? Or should children of faith only attend faith schools, so as to avoid the RE lessons that contradict their beliefs? 

Honestly I think all I’m getting at is that it struck me as a little strange. It’s not easy for children to understand other people’s views on simple things, let alone something as complex as being told that some people believe in a different God than you. Any opinions on this would be lovely – as I’m outside looking in on Religion! 

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