Can a head teacher be open about being an atheist?

46


Discussion by: Lar

I have recently been applying for head teachers posts. Can I declare my atheism and still fulfill the spiritual requirements imposed upon schools? For example we have to provide collective worship. How can I do this when I don't believe in any god?

46 COMMENTS

  1. Without any information about the type of school, where you are in the world and any laws that say whether you have to make a declaration it is difficult to answer. However, I would not declare my atheism unless I had to as I do not think it is relevant. Belief or non-belief should be a private matter but the requirments of the application procedure may make that impossible.

    As for collective worship, that is a very vague term that could easily be interpreted in many ways. As a head teacher one responsibilty should be towards the moral atttitude of the students as far as faith is concerned in general and not to any one faith. As an atheist you would be in a better position to provide a secular daily assembly, which is far better morally than a sectarian meeting. If prayer is expected by the school board, simply allow a moment of reflection when anyone present can involve themself privately with their own belief.

    You may receive some complaints but as your responsibility is to all of your students it would be wrong to single any one group out for advantage. Of course, if the school is sectarian then you probably would not get the chance anyway as they would expect you to follow the faith of the school.

    The question is, are you talking about spiritual or moral requirments. I think you would be perfectly capable of fulfilling moral requirements, which are important, and that spiritual requirements are often only a euphemism for prosetylizing, which is not of moral value to the students.

    • In reply to #1 by Stephen Mynett:

      Without any information about the type of school, where you are in the world and any laws that say whether you have to make a declaration it is difficult to answer.

      Click on his name and you will see from his profile that he is in the UK. Collective worship is a requirement in the UK for all government schools so that’s another give away.

      Michael

  2. Do you declare your atheism at Christmas time and refuse to give and receive presents or take time off work, because it may be perceived to be a tad hypocritical if you don’t, or do your concerns lie in the imposition of a collective worship on pupils who do not share in that belief?

    • In reply to #2 by James77:

      Do you declare your atheism at Christmas time and refuse to give and receive presents or take time off work, because it may be perceived to be a tad hypocritical if you don’t,

      The mid-winter solstice celebrations of Saternalia and Yule, pre-date UK Xtian celebrations, so there is nothing hypocritical about having a mid-winter holiday or exchanging gifts. The celebrations were originally high-jacked by Xtians anyway.

      or do your concerns lie in the imposition of a collective worship on pupils who do not share in that belief?

      Parents have the right for their children to be kept out of religious lessons and/or assemblies, so an atheist head should have no problem with arranging alternative activities for these children.

      On an occasion when I made such an arrangement, the religious parents complained, that their children thought the alternative activities were more interesting, so wanted their parents to opt them out of RE, so they could join in the alternative educational activities!

      In regard to assemblies, a non-religious group would normally come in after the religious part, to hear announcements about timetable changes, after-school clubs, school sports team fixtures and results etc.

      • In reply to #5 by Alan4discussion:

        The mid-winter solstice celebrations of Saternalia and Yule, pre-date UK Xtian celebrations, so there is nothing hypocritical about having a mid-winter holiday or exchanging gifts. The celebrations were originally high-jacked by Xtians anyway.

        There is if you say “Merry Christmas” whilst exchanging gifts, cards or sentiments!!!

        • In reply to #8 by James77:

          In reply to #5 by Alan4discussion:

          The mid-winter solstice celebrations of Saternalia and Yule, pre-date UK Xtian celebrations, so there is nothing hypocritical about having a mid-winter holiday or exchanging gifts. The celebrations were originally high-jacked by Xtians anyway.

          There is if you say “Merry Christmas” whilst exchanging gifts, cards or sentiments!!!

          Of course there isn’t!

        • In reply to #8 by James77:

          There is if you say “Merry Christmas” whilst exchanging gifts, cards or sentiments!!!

          Many Xtians send cards featuring “Yuletide greetings”! I don’t think this shows their following of Thor and Odin! – Although many, (knowingly or otherwise), celebrate the Viking Yule beer-festival.
          It was also the Vikings who introduced reindeer to the mid-winter festival – but admittedly, it was by roasting them over an open fire as part of the feasting! Token greetings are merely courtesy.
          It is the theist invention of the “sad strawman-atheist” who does not like a party!

    • In reply to #2 by James77:

      Do you declare your atheism at Christmas time and refuse to give and receive presents or take time off work, because it may be perceived to be a tad hypocritical if you don’t, or do your concerns lie in the imposition of a collective worship on pupils who do not share in that belief?

      I hope you don’t use the words Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday as it would be hypocritical. Unless of course you are a worshipper of Tiu, Woden, Thor, Fieia and Saturn.

      Michael

    • In reply to #2 by James77:

      Do you declare your atheism at Christmas time and refuse to give and receive presents or take time off work, because it may be perceived to be a tad hypocritical if you don’t, or do your concerns lie in the imposition of a collective worship on pupils who do not share in that belief?

      These words and practices need not mean anything! They have seeped into our culture and are part of the process of having fun. We sing carols, exchange gifts, send cards, decorate trees and make merry. Why? Because it’s fun! I don’t think every peasantry we utter, or every practice we participate in, has to be imbued with meaning.

      Regarding the original question, I don’t think the applicant needs to inform his position on stamp collecting either. I’m pretty sure that, should the need arise, he should be able to deliver a story containing a moral concept without invoking any deities.

  3. You would need to explain in more detail to us what the ‘spiritual requirements imposed upon schools ‘are. I would imagine the requirements of a Catholic school would be different to that of a C of E school. In the USA the notion of separation of church and State is supposed to prevent the situation you describe (in theory).

    But if it’s a church school, I suppose they can require their own ‘line’ to be taught.

  4. First I would say, get the job first, or you are likely to encounter hidden bigotry and discrimination from some members of some appointment panels, whose deliberations are strictly confidential.

    If the UK requirement for vaguely Xtian “collective worship” keeps atheists from taking headteacher jobs, this is a great disservice to education. ( There should be no discrimination in LEA schools on grounds of religion etc – “Faith” schools, are allowed to discriminate.)

    I am sure many agnostic or atheist teachers, take morning assemblies, announce the sports results of the schools teams, sing a couple of hymns or semi religious songs, and tell some story with a moral.

    Despite the legislated requirements, some schools don’t bother for much of the time.

    The difficulty is in having a regular supply of material for such activities without venturing very far into indoctrination. – Most of the material published for such activities, is produced by religious organisations.
    There are good lessons on social or environmental issues, but producing original material on a daily basis is time consuming – given the work-load of heads these days.

    You don’t say what is the age-range in the schools concerned. This is relevant, as in small primary schools the head may be taking the majority of assemblies, whereas a large secondary school is probably assembling in separate house groups anyway.

  5. I’m an RE teacher and I would definitely recommend that if you do not want to damage your chances of getting the job – precisely for the reason you give – you should not declare yourself an atheist. I may have more to post later explaining why.

  6. If there is a contractual or other eg legal requirement to provide worship then it seems to be either a question of requiring head teachers to be believers, perhaps of a specific faith or even a specific denomination or sect: or that no personal faith is required but the delivery of worship is still mandatory. If the former, that faith is required, then it would seem that you would either have to pretend to such a faith, or not apply. If the latter and there was not significant prejudice against atheists, ie you could ‘safely’ declare your atheism, it would seem to be your own decision as to if you could accept leading a school in which (presumably others) would run worship under your authority.

    What I think might be difficult would be to accept the post and then mount opposition to worship, or refuse to have it when that was expected. It is a different area, but in the UK it has been ruled that publicly employed Registrars cannot refuse to conduct civil partnerships (ie same sex partnerships) on religious grounds – they have taken a job which has clear duties and if they do not believe in them – well, they do not have to have that job.

    Difficult!

    • In reply to #7 by steve_hopker:

      If there is a contractual or other eg legal requirement to provide worship then it seems to be either a question of requiring head teachers to be believers, perhaps of a specific faith or even a specific denomination or sect: or that no personal faith is required but the delivery of worship is still mandatory. If the former, that faith is required, then it would seem that you would either have to pretend to such a faith, or not apply. If the latter and there was not significant prejudice against atheists, ie you could ‘safely’ declare your atheism, it would seem to be your own decision as to if you could accept leading a school in which (presumably others) would run worship under your authority.

      What I think might be difficult would be to accept the post and then mount opposition to worship, or refuse to have it when that was expected. It is a different area, but in the UK it has been ruled that publicly employed Registrars cannot refuse to conduct civil partnerships (ie same sex partnerships) on religious grounds – they have taken a job which has clear duties and if they do not believe in them – well, they do not have to have that job.

      Difficult!

      Yeah if I can add some comments to this one. The OP would indeed be doing the ‘worship’ duty by holding assemblies, which are construed as ‘broadly christian’ in nature and it’s really for him to get the school of the hook in that regard. RE covers this partly also, but is also meant to be non-partisan with a 50% work bias toward Christianity (no kidding). For the head to be a practicing Christian is really a bonus for a school, and being an atheist would moot his assemblies somewhat.

      Now, officially, there is no need to be a Christian to be a head teacher (but you should be), just as it isn’t important for an RE teacher to be Christian (first choice) or from some other religion (second choice). Indeed, there is officially absolutely no will to exclude openly atheist RE Teachers from RE posts (given that they are last choice, they are choosable), just as headteachers can wear their atheism on their sleeve and get offered a post (when the apocalypse, presumably, doesn’t come, and after many millennia the jury’s still out on that of course).

      We are in a position in education that to lie and say you’re religious simply gets you ahead. You should lie and get ahead and wait for the revolution, which isn’t in fact happening or even coming for that matter. Enjoy, you’ll be dead soon and the dead God will live on in the hearts of the little children.

      Edit: Was that too much? I can never tell!

      • “We are in a position in education that to lie and say you’re religious simply gets you ahead. You should lie and get ahead and wait for the revolution, which isn’t in fact happening or even coming for that matter”.

        I can see this in a career sense. But that Lar has posted at all suggests there may be personal conflicts. If one was agnostic, or not much enamoured of organised religion but had some general ideas of a quasi-religious sort , then being required from time to time to take an active part in worship, even lead it, would perhaps need little more than the equivalent of crossing fingers.
        But would taking part in worship be acceptable for an atheist who found religion morally and intellectually abhorrent? Perhaps even more difficult in a school setting if one agreed with Dawkins and others in condemning indoctrination, if that was the flavour of the school (in the US that is, in think, officially disallowed – but it is far from rare in UK ‘faith schools’, and I imagine in other countries)

        • In reply to #31 by steve_hopker:

          “We are in a position in education that to lie and say you’re religious simply gets you ahead. You should lie and get ahead and wait for the revolution, which isn’t in fact happening or even coming for that matter”.

          I can see this in a career sense. But that Lar has posted at all suggests there may be personal conflicts. If one was agnostic, or not much enamoured of organised religion but had some general ideas of a quasi-religious sort , then being required from time to time to take an active part in worship, even lead it, would perhaps need little more than the equivalent of crossing fingers.
          But would taking part in worship be acceptable for an atheist who found religion morally and intellectually abhorrent? Perhaps even more difficult in a school setting if one agreed with Dawkins and others in condemning indoctrination, if that was the flavour of the school (in the US that is, in think, officially disallowed – but it is far from rare in UK ‘faith schools’, and I imagine in other countries)

          Yes that’s the long and the short of it: If he wants the job he’s best advised to fake a vague belief in Christianity. Being an atheist is seen as being divisive and it hurts your career, especially so in schools, and especially as the prospective head.

          In terms of atheism I’m afraid to have a principled stance on this shouldn’t permit you to even work in a school where ‘acts of collective worship’ were being carried out. Atheists should probably picket faith schools, and attempt to create a godless education system with its own institutions. We live and dream.

  7. @Lar + anyone looking for the legal position and options.

    http://www.atheismuk.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Religious-Education2.pdf

    This is quite a long document, but covers many aspects of the situation, from both a parent and a school management atheist perspective. It explains what is clear, what is statutory, and what is ill-defined or optional.

    None of the statutes defines RE – let alone distinguishes between RE 1 and RE 2.
    However, Paragraph 2(5) of Schedule 19 provides:-

    No agreed syllabus shall provide for religious education to be given to pupils at a school to which this
    paragraph applies by means of any catechism or formulary which is distinctive of a particular religious
    denomination (but this is not to be taken as prohibiting provision in such a syllabus for the study of such catechisms or formularies).

    Therefore, it does make a distinction between:-

    1. religious education by means of any distinctive catechism or formulary; and

    2. the study of such catechisms or formularies,

    The atheist link also makes some interesting recommendations:

    These are the recommendations:-

    1. Opt-out of religious education
      a) Encourage parents (and pupils to encourage their parents to do so) to opt pupils out of RE.

    b) Provide resources for alternative lessons during opt-out periods, comprising:-

    i) subjects, syllabuses and programmes of study; and

    ii) voluntary teaching staff.

    These alternative lessons must be popular (to encourage opt-out).

    The subjects could be anything, and not necessarily connected with religion.

    1. Alternative religious education

    a) Encourage schools to ignore the programmes of study in agreed syllabuses (which are not binding on them) and follow only the lists of topics (which are);

    b) Provide alternative programmes of study of the RE1 type and possibly voluntary teaching staff.

    The “RE1 Type programme”, is teaching ABOUT comparative religions, rather than teaching the type 2 creeds of a particular religion, sect or denomination as in “faith schools”.

    There is this other link for parents:- http://www.secularderby.org/parents.htm

  8. The biggest problem with comparative religion is the ‘fundamental human truths and/or experiences’ principle, in which religions get equalised. This is of course its strength as this neutralises (somewhat) the intellectual hold of each religion, but it also provides religion a basis that is fundamentally ‘worthwhile’ even if the student finds that all religions are inherently flawed or misguided expressions of the same impulses. In short comparative religion fails because it needlessly existentialises religion. I hope that makes sense.

    • In reply to #13 by Stardroid:

      … problem with comparative religion …

      If it was treated as anthropology I don’t suppose it would have the drawbacks you mentioned. Look, this bunch of people worshiped the sun, this bunch had a holy book, these guys believed they had to make offerings to local gods to ensure a good harvest, this other lot bilked millions** from the gullible by pretending their god had told them some stuff….

      **Spoonerism alert: “milked billions” works just as well.

      • In reply to #14 by OHooligan:

        In reply to #13 by Stardroid:

        … problem with comparative religion …

        If it was treated as anthropology I don’t suppose it would have the drawbacks you mentioned. Look, this bunch of people worshiped the sun, this bunch had a holy book, these guys believed they had to make offerings to local gods to ensure a good harvest, this other lot bilked millions** from the gullible by pretending their god had told them some stuff….

        **Spoonerism alert: “milked billions” works just as well.

        To me comparative religion basically assumes that there is an ideal conceptual identity among religions, and that already is a step too far. I think anthropology was really important because it dealt with indigenous and emergent cultures as self-defining and not to be subsumed under a Westernised, theological perspective (in fact really well expressed by the perspective of comparative religion).

        That said, other than as actual field research, anthropology is all things to all men. It really needs some sort of organizing raison d’etre if it wants to be part of a ‘comparative’ study, i.e. we’re looking at the material circumstances of religious cultures to inform a Marxist perspective, but even then its not really comparative religion but DM.

        • In reply to #26 by Stardroid:

          In reply to #14 by OHooligan:

          In reply to #13 by Stardroid:

          … problem with comparative religion …
          anthropology is all things to all men.

          I’ve no experience of the teaching of “comparative religion” or “anthropology”, so I can’t argue about how either are done.

          What I meant is “comparative religion” can only be taught honestly from a perspective that lies outside all of them and plays no favorites.

          • In reply to #36 by OHooligan:

            In reply to #26 by Stardroid:

            In reply to #14 by OHooligan:

            In reply to #13 by Stardroid:

            … problem with comparative religion …
            anthropology is all things to all men.

            I’ve no experience of the teaching of “comparative religion” or “anthropology”, so I can’t argue about how either are done.

            What I meant is “comparative religion” can only be taught honestly from a perspective that lies outside all of them and plays no favorites.

            Yes of course, that can be done, but that’s not comparative religion. If RE became a beginners Sociology class that would be perfect and probably what you are thinking of.

            Lar – am I to assume you’re not going to declare your atheism? Please be more clear (or have you already gone off into the nether?)

  9. What imposed spiritual requirements? What’s ‘collective worship’? In public / state schools? And what country would that be?

    I would find it very strange indeed if your guidelines would include any saying on beliefs. If it is indeed the case, then good luck.

  10. You could try “Live long and Prosper” or Steve Allen’s – “May your god go with you”.
    Otherwsie I agree with Stphen Mynett, A moment of reflection for all.
    You can’t go wrong with that! You please everyone.

  11. How have you managed to get rise through the ranks of teaching to get into this position without noticing that collective worship means anything at all – from entreating the kiddies to do well in their gcses by following the hard work of their footballing/olympic/musical heroes through to chats about being nice. More like management pep talks than relgious worship I’d have said.

    Thats all it was in our school along with occasional visits from representatives of nearly every local religion to have a chat which only served to confuse us.

    If you think its relevant and worth giving up the mega bucks and chance to steer a school in your own direction mention it, but Id be surprised in anyone found it relevantt.

  12. If we are all honest with ourselves, we know we have to be open to the possibility that something is indeed the ‘reason’ for everything existing. Therefore until someone can “prove a negative” we all must remain agnostic. Atheism is far more presumptuous than any other belief imagineable. Just claim yourself to be Agnostic before your coworkers and on sites like this, and in your mind you can remain atheistic if you are totally abhored that physics itself (Quantum Mechanics) could not have a “reason” for existing. Acknowledging that this “reason” may exist doesn’t in any way tie you to the concept of an ‘intelligent’ supreme being. God (in the Einsteinian sense) may not even be conscious, but may merely be a larger ‘pattern’ in reality that gave rise to our reality. So just use the word “God” loosly the way Einstein did, and then you can go about your life not being a hypocrite at all. Just my opinions of course.

    • In reply to #22 by ClayFerguson:

      If we are all honest with ourselves, we know we have to be open to the possibility that something is indeed the ‘reason’ for everything existing.

      We could just honestly say we don’t know beyond a certain point. Making assertions which go beyond that point, are not honest.
      The “reason” would have to be defined or it is just begging the anthropomorphic god question.

      Therefore until someone can “prove a negative” we all must remain agnostic.

      All those leprechauns, tooth-fairies, Flying Spaghetti Monsters, ghosts, spooks, werewolves, invisible dragons, and thousands of gods that the incredulous need to take seriously because they can’t prove a negative!! ??

      Atheism is far more presumptuous than any other belief imagineable.

      Are you serious?? Widen your imagination by having a look at all the mystical woo, astrology, conspiracy theories, black magic, superstitions, and weird religions??

      Just claim yourself to be Agnostic before your coworkers and on sites like this, and in your mind you can remain atheistic if you are totally abhored that physics itself (Quantum Mechanics) could not have a “reason” for existing.

      There is no evidence for science requiring “reasons” to exist. Science explains “HOW?” not “WHY?” Why is a feature of human curiosity.

      Acknowledging that this “reason” may exist doesn’t in any way tie you to the concept of an ‘intelligent’ supreme being.

      I think it does!

      God (in the Einsteinian sense) may not even be conscious, but may merely be a larger ‘pattern’ in reality that gave rise to our reality.

      In which case it is a further batch of natural phenomena, and nothing to do with gods.

      So just use the word “God” loosly the way Einstein did, and then you can go about your life not being a hypocrite at all. Just my opinions of course.

      The avoidance of the use of sloppy, poorly defined terms, as a means supporting vague, wishful, speculations, has nothing to do with hypocrisy! How could it??

      The onus is on anyone postulating a god to produce a precise definition and supporting evidence. The proposition is meaningless without these! http://www.richarddawkins.net/discussions/2013/3/14/what-evidence-would-be-enough#

    • In reply to #23 by SaganTheCat:

      i think an open atheist by default is incapable of fulfilling any “spiritual requirements”.

      But then “spiritual requirements” other than social or emotional requirements, don’t exist, – so unless these are interpreted as denominational “indoctrination” – (which is not permitted in LEA schools), these illusory “spiritual requirements” are not going to be fulfilled anyway! (see RE1 and RE2 on my quote and link @12)

      • In reply to #25 by Alan4discussion:

        In reply to #23 by SaganTheCat:

        i think an open atheist by default is incapable of fulfilling any “spiritual requirements”.

        But then “spiritual requirements” other than social or emotional requirements, don’t exist, – so unless these are interpreted as denominational “indoctrination” – (which is not permitted in LEA schools), these illusory “spiritual requirements” are not going to be fulfilled anyway! (see RE1 and RE2 on my quote and link @12)

        well that’s basically what i mean

        of course if you’re a theist you believe such things do exist. it’s like asking if an open sceptic would know the correct diet for feeding the fairies in my magic zoo. i’m sure we could all fake it though, just by copying the other nutjobs

  13. Can a head teacher be open about being an atheist?

    This is a question that should be definitely directed at the Secretary of State for Education (I’m asuming you’re British). Seriously – he should really be asked this question.

    Ask him specifically how, if you are an atheist, you can be expected to lead a school in daily acts of worship. How can you be expected to even understand what is meant by worship?

    The answer should be very revealing. Either it will be an outright declaration that atheists cannot be head teachers in Britain, or we’ll get a very interesting explanation of how someone can lead a group of children to worship something they cannot define.

    In fact, I think I will write directly Mr Gove right now myself.

  14. You can go through the motions with a faux look of sincerity on your face. Just like almost every believer I know does at every service they attend. Every see an 11:30 am catholic mass when there is a 1:00 pm FOOTBALL game???

    90% of the men in the pews are checking their watches and lamenting the idea that they might miss a moment of the damn game. When they are supposedly in the house of their god!!! Nothing pisses me off more than blatant hypocrisy. Nothing convinces me more of the sham the whole bunch are engaged in than the need for a “quick” homily and mass… what a load of shit.

    • In reply to #30 by crookedshoes:

      You can go through the motions with a faux look of sincerity on your face. Just like almost every believer I know does at every service they attend. Every see an 11:30 am catholic mass when there is a 1:00 pm FOOTBALL game???

      90% of the men in the pews are checking their watches and lamenting the idea that they might miss a moment of the damn game. When they are supposedly in the house of their god!!! Nothing pisses me off more than blatant hypocrisy. Nothing convinces me more of the sham the whole bunch are engaged in than the need for a “quick” homily and mass… what a load of shit.

      This reminds me of when I was a teenager and the RCC in Australia decided that the requirement to go to mass on Sunday could be covered by going to mass on Saturday night. That way Sunday was clear for important (sporting) events.

      Michael

  15. At my old school the head of RE was incharge of collective worship. He was a devote Christian, but rarely let this into his work. He just liked to make us think and so would argue against any point we made.

    He simply gave out thoughtful quotes, none of which had obvious links to a single religion. Maybe this is a way forward? .

  16. That is the first discussion I have submitted. Thanks for the response. As some of you worked out, I live in the UK. As a head I would be responsible for ensuring that collective worship takes place. I can’t fake it. I was a practicing catholic for years and even ran a prayer group in university. I have been released from the trudgery of the classic catholic guilt complex through my atheism. It was suggested by a colleague that I could get the top job in a catholic school if I faked it! No way. But some of you have offered some great suggestions and I feel I can move forward now. I would not go for the job for the money as someone suggested, but because I want to make a difference to the lives of young people. I work in secondary schools so I would not have to lead all of the assemblies, but it is a problem for those who want to express their beliefs and be a head. The fact that I feel awkward about declaring my beliefs is not because of self doubt. It’s more about the fact that atheists appear not to have the same social acceptance as theists. This site is here to support those who are coming out of the closet. Thanks for your support.

    • In reply to #35 by Lar:

      As some of you worked out, I live in the UK. As a head I would be responsible for ensuring that collective worship takes place.

      If your background is in Catholic schools, I would point out that attitudes in many LEA secondary schools is very different to that in CofE and RC schools.
      Many assemblies are taken by heads of house. With large numbers of non-religious people in teaching some are simply going through the motions to meet statutory requirements. (Some schools do not even meet those, and that includes some top-rated schools.)
      This reflects the UK in general, but there is also the factor that the particularly religious teachers tend to gravitate to “faith schools”, while there is a greater percentage of atheists among the educated.
      There have been censuses and surveys indicating trends and numbers. – Some with figures as high as this one:-

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/dec/24/religion-respecting-the-minority
      Today, a quarter of a century on, there has been a steady and remarkable turnaround. In the latest 2010 BSA report, published earlier this month, only 42% said they were Christians while 51% now say they have no religion. Admittedly, some other surveys – including the last census – have produced different findings on these issues, usually to the advantage of the religious option.

      If you are only taking occasional assemblies, it is possible to focus on social, moral and environmental issues, as I have done in the past. It is also possible for a head to delegate duties to other staff.

      • In reply to #38 by Alan4discussion:

        In reply to #35 by Lar:

        As some of you worked out, I live in the UK. As a head I would be responsible for ensuring that collective worship takes place.

        If your background is in Catholic schools, I would point out that attitudes in many LEA secondary schools is very different to that in CofE and RC schools.
        Many assemblies are taken by heads of house. With large numbers of non-religious people in teaching some are simply going through the motions to meet statutory requirements. (Some schools do not even meet those, and that includes some top-rated schools.)
        This reflects the UK in general, but there is also the factor that the particularly religious teachers tend to gravitate to “faith schools”, while there is a greater percentage of atheists among the educated.
        There have been censuses and surveys indicating trends and numbers. – Some with figures as high as this one:-

        http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/dec/24/religion-respecting-the-minority
        Today, a quarter of a century on, there has been a steady and remarkable turnaround. In the latest 2010 BSA report, published earlier this month, only 42% said they were Christians while 51% now say they have no religion. Admittedly, some other surveys – including the last census – have produced different findings on these issues, usually to the advantage of the religious option.

        If you are only taking occasional assemblies, it is possible to focus on social, moral and environmental issues, as I have done in the past. It is also possible for a head to delegate duties to other staff.

        I think the issue was one of principle. Allowing others to do the duties is just the same double standard. I think it really can’t be resolved by looking at the facts and finding wiggle-room. He really has to deny (i.e. not profess) his atheistic views as a result if he wants to not be damaged by them.

        • In reply to #40 by Stardroid:

          If you are only taking occasional assemblies, it is possible to focus on social, moral and environmental issues, as I have done in the past. It is also possible for a head to delegate duties to other staff.

          I think the issue was one of principle. Allowing others to do the duties is just the same double standard.

          It is a statutory requirement. It would be very foolish to allow it to keep atheists out of school management.

          I think it really can’t be resolved by looking at the facts and finding wiggle-room.

          There is lots of wiggle-room. – But repeal of the legislation would be better.

          He really has to deny (i.e. not profess) his atheistic views as a result if he wants to not be damaged by them.

          As I pointed out in an earlier comment, atheists could be discriminated against behind the confidentiality of an appointment panel, but anti-discrimination legislation, should protect those already in post.
          Many teachers in specialist secondary school departments, have nothing to do with Religious Education as this operates in a separate department.

          Nobody needs to deny personal views. There are atheists who teach comparative religion as outlined on the link @12, as I have done in the past in many UK schools.

          Non-religious teachers are stuck with this double standard because of the requirement of theism in the regulations.

          The choices are simple:

          • Hand over education or religious education to the religious.

          • Participate:- looking at the regulations to minimise indoctrination by looking at flexibility, ambiguities, and vague requirements, so as to teach factually ABOUT religions while covering moral issues.

          • Go with the “agreed syllabuses” drawn up in consultation with the local churches,

          • Ignore the requirements and give theists in the administration grounds for sacking you, (if they can pull together enough support.)

          I recommend the second option of constructive participation for teachers, unless working in a “faith school” where they will be indoctrinating children in their dogmas as policy.

          • In reply to #41 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #40 by Stardroid:

            If you are only taking occasional assemblies, it is possible to focus on social, moral and environmental issues, as I have done in the past. It is also possible for a head to delegate duties to other staff.

            I think the issue was one of principle. Allowing others to do the duties is just the same double standard.

            It is a statutory requirement. It would be very foolish to allow it to keep atheists out of school management.

            I think it really can’t be resolved by looking at the facts and finding wiggle-room.

            There is lots of wiggle-room. – But repeal of the legislation would be better.

            He really has to deny (i.e. not profess) his atheistic views as a result if he wants to not be damaged by them.

            As I pointed out in an earlier comment, atheists could be discriminated against behind the confidentiality of an appointment panel, but anti-discrimination legislation, should protect those already in post.
            Many teachers in specialist secondary school departments, have nothing to do with Religious Education as this operates in a separate department.

            Nobody needs to deny personal views. There are atheists who teach comparative religion as outlined on the link @12, as I have done in the past in many UK schools.

            Non-religious teachers are stuck with this double standard because of the requirement of theism in the regulations.

            The choices are simple:

            Hand over education or religious education to the religious.
            Participate:- looking at the regulations to minimise indoctrination by looking at flexibility, ambiguities, and vague requirements, so as to teach factually ABOUT religions while covering moral issues.
            Go with the “agreed syllabuses” drawn up in consultation with the local churches,
            Ignore the requirements and give theists in the administration grounds for sacking you, (if they can pull together enough support.)

            I recommend the second option of constructive participation for teachers, unless working in a “faith school” where they will be indoctrinating children in their dogmas as policy.

            Your participation option is basically what most teachers do to fulfil your third option (follow the Local Agreed Syllabus created by the SACRE etc). The trouble is that this works to guarantee your first option – religion continues to predominate and to name and author all acts of learning.

            If you say ‘well as long as there’s no indoctrination, and they learn to think factually about the issues’ (TM), let me ask:
            1) Why aren’t the children studying Philosophy and the social sciences with links to the University, to hard science wholesale?
            2) Why do they still have to ‘get RE out of the way for the week’ and sit through pointless talks by members of the religious community, continuously having their philosophical learning poisoned by the religious and the idea of religion?
            3) Do you really think 2) will ever stop?

          • In reply to #44 by Stardroid:

            Nobody needs to deny personal views. There are atheists who teach comparative religion as outlined on the link @12, as I have done in the past in many UK schools.

            Non-religious teachers are stuck with this double standard because of the requirement of theism in the regulations.

            The choices are simple:

            • Hand over education or religious education to the religious.

            • Participate:- looking at the regulations to minimise indoctrination by looking at flexibility, ambiguities, and vague requirements, so as to teach factually ABOUT religions while covering moral issues.

            • Go with the “agreed syllabuses” drawn up in consultation with the local churches,

            • Ignore the requirements and give theists in the administration grounds for sacking you, (if they can pull together enough support.)

            I recommend the second option of constructive participation for teachers, unless working in a “faith school” where they will be indoctrinating children in their dogmas as policy.

            Your participation option is basically what most teachers do to fulfil your third option (follow the Local Agreed Syllabus created by the SACRE etc).

            The available options are discussed on my earlier link @12 . While individual teachers may have to follow the Agreed Syllabus created by the SACRE, if that is their school policy, a capable head with help from staff, could persuade the governing body of the school to adopt different policies. (I spent a lot of years as a school governor and 7 years as a chair of governors drawing up assorted policies.)

            The trouble is that this works to guarantee your first option – religion continues to predominate and to name and author all acts of learning.

            Only to some extent in RE lessons and assemblies. Many other subjects are quite separate in other departments at secondary level.

            If you say ‘well as long as there’s no indoctrination, and they learn to think factually about the issues’ (TM), let me ask:
            1) Why aren’t the children studying Philosophy and the social sciences with links to the University, to hard science wholesale?

            They may well be doing so in some schools in “citizenship classes”. . UK schools have considerable autonomy in choice of teaching methods and teaching materials, although “hard science” is likely to be being taught in science departments as part of an examination syllabus, which may well have been drawn up by a university. The National Curriculum specifies the areas to be covered at various ages/stages, but not HOW to teach them.

            2) Why do they still have to ‘get RE out of the way for the week’ and sit through pointless talks by members of the religious community, continuously having their philosophical learning poisoned by the religious and the idea of religion?

            Again, a lot of this is the choice of individual schools management and governing bodies.
            Parents can have their children opt out if they wish as a legal right. Proper alternative arrangements will encourage opting out.

            3) Do you really think 2) will ever stop?

            There are schools where much of it has unofficially stopped. There are many more which go through the motions.

          • In reply to #46 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #44 by Stardroid:
            Your participation option is basically what most teachers do to fulfil your third option (follow the Local Agreed Syllabus created by the SACRE etc).

            The available options are discussed on my earlier link @12 . While individual teachers may have to follow the Agreed Syllabus created by the SACRE, if that is their school policy, a capable head with help from staff, could persuade the governing body of the school to adopt different policies.

            “Good luck with that”

            The trouble is that this works to guarantee your first option – religion continues to predominate and to name and author all acts of learning.

            Only to some extent in RE lessons and assemblies. Many other subjects are quite separate in other departments at secondary level.

            But that’s what we’re talking about, RE and Collective Worship, not Maths being Sacred Geometry…?

            If you say ‘well as long as there’s no indoctrination, and they learn to think factually about the issues’ (TM), let me ask:
            1) Why aren’t the children studying Philosophy and the social sciences with links to the University, to hard science wholesale?

            They may well be doing so in some schools in “citizenship classes”. . UK schools have considerable autonomy in choice of teaching methods and teaching materials, although “hard science” is likely to be being taught in science departments as part of an examination syllabus, which may well have been drawn up by a university. The National Curriculum specifies the areas to be covered at various ages/stages, but not HOW to teach them.

            Citizenship is Political Education (yes), and certainly not Philosophy or a social science. In Citizenship children learn why they should vote and recycle. As regards hard science schoolchildren are severely handicapped by an outdated curriculum. They do not know what relativity is, and they simply think science is the study of mechanisms, vis a vis Newton, and that under the view of science the universe is cold, grey, and life-denying. I know this because I have taught them science and talked to them specifically in this regard (and in several schools, before you ask).

            2) Why do they still have to ‘get RE out of the way for the week’ and sit through pointless talks by members of the religious community, continuously having their philosophical learning poisoned by the religious and the idea of religion?

            Again, a lot of this is the choice of individual schools management and governing bodies.
            Parents can have their children opt out if they wish as a legal right. Proper alternative arrangements will encourage opting out.

            “Good luck with that”

            3) Do you really think 2) will ever stop?

            There are schools where much of it has unofficially stopped. There are many more which go through the motions.

            What? Where? I think they deserve a send up if you can link to the school’s website?

  17. why apply to be a head teacher in a school where religion is tought??..aren´t there any schools to which you could apply which do not teach religion (i.e. an atheist orientated school)? if there aren´t any of these schools, you could create one and start something new in little britain… I sincerely think that you would be able to fill all your classrooms too, seeing as many parents think religion is bs and even more kids don´t want to learn it..

    and jumpoed up chimpansee is right in his remark too: ask the secretary of state for education.. if he can´t answer your query he (or she.. I have no idea, living in germany and not being bothered with politics anyhow.. I think I even care less about politics than about religion, which is saying something..) than he is at the wrong post…

    the main question is: do you, as an atheist, feel comfortable having to fulfill these religious/ spiritual requirements? if so, go ahead and be honest about your ´faith´, if not, don´t apply for the job

    I am an atheist doctor in a catholic hospital and am not allowed to say out loud that god does not exist at the risc of being fired (although all my colleagues know I do not believe, as many others don´t either and I have stated that fact on my application for the job, because they wanted to extract some of my monthly pay and give it to the church, with which I was not very pleased.).. this doesn´t reflect negatively on my job as a human to help and treat other humans believers and non-believers alike.. (but I am not sure I would get the job of administartor if I told everybody I am an atheist). but then again I am not expected to pray with my patients or to lay my hands on them to heal them that way ;)

  18. When you apply for this type of post sometimes have to declare which religion you belong to, it depends on the school and local authority. You also have the option non-religious option. I would never apply to be a head in a religious school anyway e.g. a catholic school – my ex-belief system. But because the law states that we have to provide collective worship then all schools in the UK are in essence religious schools! I have taught R.S., but it has been factual and taught from a historical and cultural perspective – no preaching. I think it is important that children understand what different groups believe and think so that they are able to appreciate the opinions of others and be able to develop informed and constructive counter arguments if necessary. I have brought my children up to have an open mind, to understand that there are a variety of beliefs and opinions so that they can come to their own conclusions. My daughter, 15, is a humanist. My son, 10, can’t decide between christianity or buddhism. He still believes in Santa and the tooth Fairy!
    I have written to my MP who has expressed my opinion and the opinion of many, that religion should be kept out of schools. The battle continues!

    • In reply to #43 by Lar:

      When you apply for this type of post sometimes have to declare which religion you belong to, it depends on the school and local authority. You also have the option non-religious option. I would never apply to be a head in a religious school anyway e.g. a catholic school – my ex-belief system. But because the law states that we have to provide collective worship then all schools in the UK are in essence religious schools! I have taught R.S., but it has been factual and taught from a historical and cultural perspective – no preaching. I think it is important that children understand what different groups believe and think so that they are able to appreciate the opinions of others and be able to develop informed and constructive counter arguments if necessary. I have brought my children up to have an open mind, to understand that there are a variety of beliefs and opinions so that they can come to their own conclusions. My daughter, 15, is a humanist. My son, 10, can’t decide between christianity or buddhism. He still believes in Santa and the tooth Fairy!
      I have written to my MP who has expressed my opinion and the opinion of many, that religion should be kept out of schools. The battle continues!

      I hope you get the answers you deserve Lar. BTW I am still unrepentant on Santa, he met my 2 year old daughter at Christmas so I know he’s real. :D

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