How not to conduct a leavers assembly

Should primary schools be allowed to indoctrinate children by pushing religion on them at such an early age?

teacher's desk with books apple and colours


I went to my son’s leavers assembly this week. I thought it would be emotional. I thought the other parents whose first child was leaving primary school would cry. I remembered the sobfest that was daughter one’s leavers assembly. I didn’t count on how distressing I would find it, reliving her assembly, saying goodbye to primary school for the last time and simply getting to the end of what has been a terrible year – trying to get grieving children through the A Level and GCSE years and year 6.

Yet it was not that combination that was the most distressing thing about the assembly. My son attends a Church of England school. Practically all the state  schools in our area – and certainly the nearest ones to us – are Church of England. There’s not much choice if you are not religious. That would be fine – the odd prayer and hymn is expected, but in the last years, only son’s school has become significantly more religious.

What should have been a celebration of year 6 was turned into a religious ceremony full of prayers, hymns and speeches by the local vicar about how God has a master plan and how He will protect us. One parent said it felt like he was at a meeting of a cult.

Imagine you have lost a close relative during the pandemic and you have to sit through people telling you repeatedly don’t worry, it is all part of God’s great plan. It’s not exactly sensitive. My daughter did not die because of some master plan. She was killed randomly. If she had been in a different place at a different second she would be alive. She was kind and funny and full of life and plans to explore the world. No God – at least not the benevolent God of C of E imagination – could decide that it would be a good idea to kill her and leave our whole family missing her eternally.

And what about all the people who have died of Covid this year? Was that part of God’s plan too? Or does the responsibility for the fact the UK has such a high rate of death lie a little closer to home?

I would imagine most of the kids at the school are not religious. Most children aren’t. Some may have different faiths. Yet all the year 6s were given a crucifix and a prayer as their leavers’ present. My daughter, who went there a few years ago, under a different head teacher, was given a science book, which has come in handy. I don’t think only son is going to have much use for a crucifix. It’s not exactly inclusive. Shouldn’t state schools be for everyone?

I can only imagine what the kids are being told when the parents are not there. Only son actually said: “This is what I’ve had to put up with, mum, and I’ve resisted.” I think that shows strength of character.

As it is, I’ve come away from the leavers assembly keen for only son to leave right now and incensed that state schools, particularly state primary schools, are allowed to treat children in this way. I know it’s hard to ban religious-based state schools given how deeply embedded they are in the English education system, but at least there should be stronger regulations on how much religion they can force on pupils so that they are more inclusive. Other countries manage to do this.

Some may argue that parents could choose not to send their child to a religious school, but when most parents are not religious – and not C of E – it doesn’t make sense that they have to search around for the few schools [certainly in my area] that are not religious. State schools should be about education for all. Not indoctrination.

Comments [1]

  • marianne says:

    Was it actually a crucifix or a cross? High Church Anglicans are just gutless wannabe Catholics in my opinion.
    All Catholics know that.

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