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Frequently asked Questions

How can I support and encourage teachers?

Writing or emailing a teacher to thank them for something they have done can be very encouraging. Similarly, attending events a teacher organises or responding to requests for help are obvious ways to show support and can make a real difference. Also, it is important to support teachers by speaking respectfully about them in the home, even when your child is complaining. Praying for teachers by name is the obvious way to help them most.

How can I make a complaint about the attitude or behaviour of a teacher?

It is unwise to make a complaint if you are still at the stage of reacting emotionally: calm down first. Then be sure you have your facts right and don’t just accept your child’s version of events as the truth. Most school complaints procedures encourage dealing with concerns promptly and appropriately but the context of the complaint will determine what happens next. If possible, ask to meet the teacher to discuss your concerns and do your best not to sound accusatory. Listen to what the teacher says and only take your complaint further if you are not satisfied with the response.

If the matter relates to a Safeguarding or Child Protection issue you should speak immediately to the school’s designated Safeguarding lead. The school’s Child Protection Policy which should be available on its website.

What should I do if I’ve got a complaint about something in school?

First of all, remain calm, courteous and relational. Every school will have a complaints procedure, which you can usually find on its website. Look through it and decide what the appropriate course of action is. Start at the most basic point and work up – don’t escalate your problem to the Head Teacher if a quick phone call to the staff member concerned could have resolved it. Face-to-face meetings are always best if at all possible – emails and letters are simply far too easy to misunderstand.

How can I help to foster a sense of community in and around the school?

Talk to other parents. Conversations at the school gates and in the community are wonderful opportunities to build relationship by taking an interest and showing the love of God. However, try to avoid being part of unhelpful gossip.

Be hospitable. Invite your child’s friends into your home, being careful to establish trust, confirm permission, and also to keep parents informed of visits. Also invite parents into your home and to church.

How can my church help to support me as the parent?

Many churches run excellent age-related Parenting Courses which help parents develop important skills such as listening and communication.

Prayer support is essential for Christian parents – so ask your church for it. Also, the church community often contains parents who have experienced the education system with their own children. Their wisdom and encouragement can be a great resource. The church may also contain people who have expertise and knowledge in subject areas that could benefit your child.

What can the church community do to support parents and children in education?

Listen to parents. It’s important for the church community to be informed of what’s happening in the school community. This can be done either informally, through day-to-day conversations, or more formally, through regular updates before services and at home-group meetings.

Listen to children. Children’s groups and youth groups in the church offer ideal opportunities to foster a sense of responsibility and mission about school life. This can be done by providing time to share experiences, study biblical stories related to teaching and learning, and to pray.

How can my church support teachers?

Your church can pray for teachers. It can also offer practical help. The simple act of a church leader contacting the local school and asking if it needs any help can be greatly appreciated by the teaching staff.

What can the church community do to support the school community?

Be interested. It is important that church leaders encourage the whole church to take an active interest in the life of the local schools. Tell the teaching staff that the church is praying for the school and ask them what they would like prayer for.

Be involved. The church community can be a great resource to support the extra-curricular activities of the school by providing people and facilities for out-of-school clubs etc. such as chess, sports, crafts and more. Churches can also be good places to find volunteers to set up one-to-one reading support, mentoring programmes or projects like prayer spaces in schools.

Be investors. Schools are often in need of funds for equipment, facilities or resources, and churches can be great places to raise these funds. So find out what the school needs – and think about how the church can help to meet that need.

How can my church support Christian teachers?

It is important to treat teachers in the church family as mission partners. So, alongside being committed to praying for them regularly, some practical ways to support Christian teachers can be to: hold commissioning services for them when they start their roles; include an education section in your mission notices and communications; establish appropriate mentoring (pastoral support can be critical at key points in the academic year); allow time in services to share about their calling; and celebrate good news stories. It’s also important to avoid seeing teachers as merely a resource for the children’s and youth work. They have a distinctive and valuable calling, and recognising this in the life of the church can be of immense benefit.

How can my church support the teaching of Religious Education?

Many RE teachers can lack basic knowledge of the Christian faith. Offering to provide teachers with an overview of the basic beliefs and practices of Christians can be really helpful. This can be done in the local church or in the school. It’s worth suggesting good materials from established Christian ministries for RE classes.

How can I reach out to children in the school with special needs, and to their parents?

This is a great way of witnessing to your Christian faith. First, help your children to think through what it means that God forms each of us and loves us equally despite our differences. Help them to talk about the challenges and the blessings of doing life with people of different abilities. Help them find ways to talk honestly but not pejoratively (‘I get frustrated when Zach does x’, rather than ‘Zach is so annoying’). Reach out to the child’s parents at the school gates, or ask the teacher to pass on a note to them offering friendship and asking if there’s anything they wish their child’s classmates or friends would do or not do. Parenting a child with special needs can be utterly exhausting and all-absorbing. If you don’t get a reply from the parents, don’t take it as a snub, but an incentive to pray for the family, preferably together with your children.

Can I become a school governor?

Yes. You can become a school governor if you are over 18, and you do not have to be a parent or related to a child at the school. Many Christians are school governors, not least because it gives the opportunity to shape the ethos and values of the school. This influential role enables you to help with: the school and its strategy; holding the head teacher to account for a school’s performance; and making sure the school’s budget is properly managed.

Every school has to have parent governors who are elected (and often Dioceses are on the lookout for Christians to be Foundation Governors as part of their discipleship). From time to time most schools will be seeking nominations for parent governors for a limited number of places, typically up to two. Just applying does not guarantee that you will be chosen as a governor. It is possible that there may be no vacancies, or that the Governing Body is looking for people with different experience and skills from what you have. Before self-nominating it is important to discover more about the role by reviewing the school website, and talking to the Head Teacher or chair of governors.

To become a governor, you can apply directly to the school or via the local council. But first talk to the Head Teacher to discover the governance structure of the school and whether there are any vacancies as there are different arrangements, especially for academies and free schools. Be clear about what skills or experience you offer. Ensure that you do not come across as interested in a limited number of issues, but have the whole school as your concern – and be prepared to undertake training.

Explore more by visiting www.transforminggoverning.org.uk

What can I do if my child is being taught things that fundamentally diverge from my church’s understanding of Christian teaching?

Although all schools have positive and appealing vision statements, none are neutral. While many simply reflect a prevailing cultural bias in their ethos and their teaching, some seek to promote values that are distinctly non-Christian or even antithetical to a Christian perspective. This is why it is vitally important to talk to your child about the assumed values and attitudes within their schoolwork, helping them to recognise and resist various ideas that they are being taught. This teaching must begin and be sustained in the home. It is also why it is important to maintain good communication with their teachers in order to affirm the primacy of Christian values in teaching and learning.

Often, though not exclusively, tensions can arise in relation to Christian values as they apply to Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) which covers things like drug awareness, healthy living, economic wellbeing, citizenship, financial responsibility, diet and nutrition, and Sex and Relationships Education (SRE). The content of PSHE can be determined by groups formed by staff and governors. If you have an opportunity to get involved in such a group, take it.

In the event of you becoming aware of problems with what is being taught – for example: when sex is being portrayed as a casual leisure activity rather than a gift from God to be enjoyed within marriage; or same sex marriage is portrayed as being normative or equivalent to heterosexual marriage; or forms of racism are endorsed; or greed or exploitation of others is shown as acceptable – the first thing to do is to check all the facts rather than simply react. Once you have clearly established precisely what and how something was taught, by whom, to whom and when – then you should prepare to talk to the teaching staff. The support of other parents can often be important when addressing problems.

A common issue for parents is age-appropriate teaching – whereby children are being subjected to themes and issues for which they are too young. It is important to be vigilant by asking questions about your child’s studies on sensitive issues and to monitor homework in order to discern whether what is being taught is appropriate to the level of maturity of your child. However, it is not advised to go storming up to the school after a particular trigger point. Ask to see the teachers concerned for a discussion so that they can understand your point of view and values. And be aware that there will come a point when your child should be exposed to controversy and taught to handle it.

How can I protect my child from being exposed to sexual ethics that diverge from Christian teaching?

Parents are entitled to view all Sex and Relationships Education materials used, and to be informed about when they are going to be taught. Once you have seen the material, and know what it contains, it is important to talk with your child about the content from a biblical perspective, before it is taught in school. If you disagree with the curriculum, you should write to the Head and governors, explaining your reasons. If you are not happy with the reply, you should request a meeting with the Head teacher and/or the teacher responsible to clarify what your child should and should not be taught.

Can I withdraw my child from certain lessons?

Some elements of Sex and Relationships Education are compulsory. Primary schools in England are required to teach about puberty and human reproduction. Secondary schools must provide teaching about sexuality and sexual health. Apart from this, parents have the right to remove their child from SRE lessons (where sex issues are taught outside of science). However, it is worth considering the implications and discussing it with your child before you choose to opt out. Children who don’t attend SRE lessons may be vulnerable to bullying, and they will still need to learn about sex.

In a deeply sexualised culture like our own, the best way to avoid having to withdraw your child from SRE is to teach them about sex in a godly way. Sensitively discussing the biological, emotional and spiritual dimensions of sex from a Christian perspective is the best way to protect your children.

If you do decide to withdraw your child from SRE lessons it is very important to take time to explain to your child why this is happening. It is also helpful to talk to other Christian and non-Christian parents to discern whether other children may be being withdrawn. Before exercising any right of withdrawal we would recommend discussing your concerns with the Head Teacher. Requests for withdrawals are best made in writing.

What is Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) development?

All schools are responsible for promoting the SMSC development of their pupils across the curriculum and through activities such as: teaching citizenship lessons, having collective worship, establishing a community ethos, developing effective relationships and providing extra-curricular activities. The aims of SMSC are to enable students to show initiative, demonstrate respect for others and accept responsibility. No area of the school’s life is spiritually and morally neutral.

Why are ‘British Values’ being taught, and how are they being defined?

In 2014, ‘British values’ was also added to SMSC provision in response to concerns about Islamic extremism. Schools are now required to teach about democracy and the rule of law as part of British values. However, the British values being taught now also seek to promote sexual orientation and transgender equality as a core responsibility, and Ofsted have conducted a series of inspections based on a poorly defined British values agenda.

For our children to be able to resist the promotion of secularism through ‘British Values’ teaching and to contribute effectively to discussions about national identity, it is important to:

  • raise your children with a clear sense of Christian identity – and its primacy
  • teach and discuss British history in the home
  • be prepared to challenge inspections that interrogate children and teachers in order to promote secularist agendas. Parents concerned about inspectors asking pupils inappropriate questions about things such as attitudes to homosexuality can, if they act quickly and decisively together, withdraw their children and cut short inspections. In these rare circumstances, it is important for parents to remember that, if inspectors are acting in this kind of totally inappropriate way, then the Head Teacher and Governors will be just as upset as they are.
  • be aware that British values (when taught well) make sense as a set of ground rules for how to conduct oneself in a plural society.

What is Character Education?

Character Education (CE) is a cross-curricular theme that promotes ‘core civic virtues’. Through it the government seeks to help schools ‘ensure that more children develop a set of character traits, attributes and behaviours that underpin success in education and work’. These are presently defined as being: perseverance, resilience and grit; confidence and optimism; motivation, drive and ambition; neighbourliness and community spirit; tolerance and respect; honesty, integrity and dignity; and conscientiousness, curiosity and focus.

Although the aim of CE is to better equip children to thrive in ‘modern Britain’, alongside being criticized for focusing on increasing academic, and therefore economic success, it can also be seen to posit virtues that are subjective and open to abuse. It is therefore vital that, as a Christian parent with the primary responsibility to develop godly character, you teach your child to distinguish between secular values and the biblical source of Christian values.

This Church of England report ‘Fruits of the Spirit’ provides a helpful review of Character Education: https://churchofengland.org/media/2386307/fruits_of_the_spirit.pdf

Can I review the Religious Education curriculum?

Schools have to teach RE. The law requires schools to provide religious education and an act of worship which is broadly Christian in nature, but incorporates teaching about other faiths. Although some secularist groups are calling for RE to be abolished, it is presently seen as a valuable contributor to community cohesion. However, a general lack of religious literacy amongst teaching staff and a dwindling number of RE teachers means that the subject often does not realise its potential. This represents an opportunity and a responsibility for Christian parents, churches and school ministries to support the teaching of RE. Once you have built relationships within the school and are trusted to suggest appropriate visitors, just ask the Head Teacher or governors if they would like some help.

Is teaching in Religious Education about other faiths compulsory?

Local councils are responsible for deciding the RE syllabus for maintained schools. It is designed by local Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education (SACREs). These consist of representatives from the Church of England, Local Authorities, teachers, and a range of Christian denominations and other beliefs, including humanism. In faith schools and academies the content of the RE curriculum is determined by the governing body and can reflect the distinctive faith of the school.

As a Christian parent, it is right that you want your child to receive a good grounding in teaching about the Bible, Jesus and the gospel. However, good RE teaching also helps children to understand and critique beliefs and ideas. Allowing time for personal reflection and freedom for critical response, it should explore how belief systems seek to provide answers to the big questions about meaning and the purpose of life. In a plural society, this will inevitably entail learning about other faiths and also about non-religious belief systems. Every child needs to leave school with a level of literacy about world religions if they are to be equipped to navigate the global society in which we all now live. As ever, without solid Bible teaching in the home and in the church, your child will be as susceptible as any child to misunderstanding, error and untruth.

Is collective worship compulsory in schools?

Collective worship is compulsory in all schools. In schools that are not of ‘a religious character’ the SACRE advises the local authority on matters relating to daily collective worship which must be wholly or mainly of a “broadly Christian” character. Exceptionally, however, where the head teacher and governing body feel that a broadly Christian act of worship is not suitable, they can apply to the local SACRE to have that requirement lifted.

Collective worship in foundation schools with a religious character and voluntary schools will be in accordance with the school’s trust deed: where it is not, the worship should be in accordance with the beliefs of the religion or denomination specified for the school.

In reality, many schools no longer observe the requirement for assemblies to be Christian in content. This can be an opportunity for Christian parents, the local church and Christian ministries to support the school by providing collective worship. Once you have built relationships within the school and are trusted to suggest appropriate visitors, just ask the Head Teacher or governors if they would like some help.

Parents have the statutory right to withdraw their children from acts of Collective Worship at all maintained schools, including faith schools, and they are not obliged to give a reason for requesting withdrawal.

What can I do if my child’s faith/belief is challenged by teachers?

Being challenged is not necessarily a bad thing as it can open up discussions and increase understanding. However, there is a big difference between challenging and ridiculing: a teacher should never humiliate a child because of his or her beliefs so it may become necessary to speak to the teacher if this is the case.

What about bullying?

Bullying can become an issue in both primary and secondary school. Most schools take this seriously and many have a bullying policy in place which outlines how the school and the teachers deal with incidents of bullying. Many schools also now have a ‘school council’ which allows for elected representatives from each class to raise these issues.

What do I do if my child is being bullied because of their faith?

Faith bullying does not receive the same attention or government resources as other forms of bullying. If your child is being bullied by another child because of their faith you should discuss this with the teacher. Establish the facts. Develop a plan of action to deal with the issue. If you are still concerned talk to the Head Teacher.

If your child is being bullied or subjected to religious intolerance by a teacher, you should seek a meeting with the Head Teacher. Once the facts are established, if the issue is not dealt with satisfactorily, you should write to the chair of the board of governors to express you concerns.

What do I do if my child is accused of homophobia?

Talk to the teacher or head teacher about it. Establish the facts to ascertain whether the accusation is legitimate, and in consultation with the teacher develop a plan of action to avoid a recurrence of the issue. It is important to talk with your child about the right way to express Christian views on sexual ethics.

Is my child entitled to a religious assembly?

Yes. The 1944 Education Act requires schools to provide religious education and a daily act of collective worship which is broadly Christian in nature. However, many schools struggle to adequately fulfil this requirement or do not take it seriously.

How can my church support the local school in prayer?

  • Ask the teaching staff what they would like prayer for.
  • Invite the Head Teacher to church to share about the school.
  • Start a scheduled prayer meeting for the school. This, of course, needs to be done sensitively. There have been instances where Christian parents shared prayer requests by email which were picked up by the wrong people and caused considerable embarrassment.
  • Set up a prayer room in the school.
  • Establish an annual week of prayer for the school.
  • Regularly prayer walk the school premises/perimeter.

Do Ofsted inspections cover the religious views of children and young people?

No. Ofsted has no right or remit to inspect your child’s religious views. Ofsted inspections are required to judge:

  • Effectiveness of leadership and management
  • Quality of teaching, learning and assessment
  • Personal development, behaviour and welfare
  • Outcomes for children and learners.

Although Ofsted have a remit to inspect the personal development, behaviour and welfare of pupils at the school, and the promotion of Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural development, they are also are obliged to consider your views as a parent.

What can I do to alert Ofsted of the need to inspect aspects of my child’s school?

The school will notify parents of the dates of inspections by letter. This provides you with details and options for giving your views about the school to Ofsted. The survey site ‘Parent View’ is the main way that Ofsted gathers parents’ views about a school: https://parentview.ofsted.gov.uk/login?destination=give-your-views Inspectors will use the views expressed on Parent View when inspecting your child’s school.

You may also be able to speak directly to inspectors at the start of the day of inspection, or you can ask your views to be communicated to them by the school appointed inspection administrators.

You can make a complaint about the school directly to Ofsted here: https://contact.ofsted.gov.uk/onlinecomplaints

What can I do if an Ofsted inspection is disregarding or challenging the Christian views of my child?

If you feel that the inspection is going beyond the prescribed areas, for example if inspectors are found to be asking children inappropriate questions about belief or sexual ethics, you can withdraw your child from the school until the inspection is concluded – although this is not very practicable for a one day or two day inspection. Before taking this action it is advisable to talk to other parents about their child’s experiences. Parents acting together can be more effective in addressing these issues.

You can make a complaint directly to Ofsted at www.gov.uk/government/organisations/ofsted/about/complaints-procedure or by calling this government helpline on 0300 123 4666.

You can also contact the Department for Education directly, or ask your Member of Parliament to raise the issue with the Minister of State for Education.

How do I become a teaching assistant?

Volunteering as a Teaching Assistant (TA – or also known as classroom assistants or learning support assistants in some schools) is a wonderful way for Christian parents to give practical support to the school community. Often TAs are parents of children who are attending or who have attended the school. The work is flexible, rewarding and often a stepping stone towards becoming a teacher. There are no formal qualifications required for being a TA – although your local education authority (LEA) will have guidelines as to what sort of people they are looking to employ.

BBC – how to become a teaching assistant: http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/parents/teaching_assistant/

How do I become a teacher?

There is a crisis of recruitment and retention of teachers in the UK. Yet, on average there is a very high percentage of Christians involved in teaching. This is because, with it being a profoundly practical way to help young people to grow and flourish, many see teaching as a calling from God. Teaching is a challenging and demanding profession, and parenting can help to prepare you well for it.

There is lots of help and support available for becoming a teacher: