From the e newsletter of the UK National Secular Society:
From MF (name and address supplied):
My son’s school recently had a Christianity Day run by these people (without any warning/request for consent from parents). As their website says, it is ‘a project to promote Christianity’, ‘spreading the gospel through building relationships with the lost’ and ‘establishing a consistent witness to Christian Truth in secondary schools in St Albans’. Its Director says its activities ‘break down the spiritual/secular divide and encourage a relevant and active Christianity which is as much needed in the classroom and the corridor, as in the church. STEP seeks to present this Christianity to all pupils, challenging them to live life the way the creator intended.’ None of this was communicated to parents.
While I agree it can be OK to have representatives from different religions as guest speakers to talk about their beliefs and practices, I do not think it is appropriate for teaching sessions to be given over to an evangelical organisation whose aims are not educational, but missionary, so I went in and watched the final session of the day.
Overall, my impressions were that the day included some learning about Christianity facts and beliefs appropriate in an RS curriculum, but a large amount of something more akin to the content delivered within a Christian youth group or Sunday school.
The session I attended was a quiz between houses which got the pupils into a state of high excitement, seeking to get the ‘right’ answers in order win points for their team. This included being encouraged to ‘share’ as true the accounts of healing miracles they had been told about during the day. In answering a question on the origins of the universe, the lead presenter said “Some Christians believe that the world is 6,000 years old, others think it is much older. I am not sure, myself. I don’t think science will ever be able to tell us for certain”. He also said ‘Did dinosaurs live at the same time as humans? There are good arguments on both sides’.
I have written to the Head, and got a fairly dismissive reply. However, as I looked into the group I see they deliver similar sessions to schools all across the district and there are lots like them. I wonder whether you have any advice or experience of challenging these groups, or whether you are planning to highlight them at all – it seems to be a growing phenomenon.
Editor writes: Dear MF: We are receiving an increasing number of reports of this kind of intrusion into schools by evangelistic religious groups. It is not clear whether your child’s school is a so-called faith school. Such schools have a free hand to organise religious education in any way they want to. Other schools are supposed to follow a curriculum decided by a local council committee, a SACRE. In many instances, there are Christian teachers who think it is perfectly legitimate to use their schools to recruit. They don’t seem to understand why anyone could possibly object. There is very little we can do to stop this, as the Government is keen on religious education (seemingly unconcerned about who delivers it and how it is delivered) and only gets excited over creationism. We notice that you raised this topic on the mumsnet website and got a very interesting response from other parents.
These problems are not unique to Oz.