In the next academic year, like many parents around the country, I will be forced to think about the school my baby will be attending.
It’s an anxious and exciting time, and I’m all too aware of the responsibility that lies on our shoulders.
The stress-free way is to throw money at it and send him to a private school. For me this isn’t an option since the local schools are great, plus I couldn’t really afford it. Also, there’s something to be said about mingling with all walks of life – not just the privileged. Surely, that is the greatest lesson of all.
But the more I speak to other parents and look in to it, the more worried I grow about securing him a place. Here’s why…
All our local schools happen to all be faith based. I’m happy about this since I’m a Christian myself and would welcome the support, especially as my husband is agnostic.
I was baptised, confirmed and married in Church, and when my son came into the world, he was too baptised immediately. Growing up, every Sunday of my life I attended mass. You could say I’ve done my time!
I have a strong faith, I try and live an honourable life and I’m bringing my son up in the Christian faith too. But, I’m not a regular church goer. In part because I’m on call at weekends, in part because it’s a bit of an effort and in part because it’s bloody hard to do on your own with a child who won’t sit still. We go when we can.
Yet, I know that if I want my son to go to the lovely religious school nearby, I’m going to have to up my game.
Upping my Game
But this does not bode well with me. I fundamentally believe that faith comes from within and that by forcing yourself to attend mass, rather than going for the right reasons, you’re lying to yourself and the church. It doesn’t sit well with me.
But what sits even worse is the parents that get their kids in by faux-faith. It’s sickening and happening all the time.
I’m sure I’m not alone in knowing parents who have little or no religious beliefs, that attend Church regularly just to get their kids into their preferred school. My husband’s friend who is atheist tells me he sits there playing on his iPhone to pass the time and hates every single minute of it. And yet, his child that will probably get a place in the school, over mine on the simple basis that he attends mass.
No-one looks at your past record to see if you made your communion and confirmation, or that you fought tooth and nail to marry in a Church, or that your Mum happens to be one of the servers in the local parish or that you can recite the ‘Our Father’! The things that should matter, seem to somehow be side-lined in place of attendance tick-boxing. Surely, it’s not all about getting bums on seats… is it?
Well, I’ve got an idea!
If you want to apply for a British passport, you have to take an English citizen test to assess your knowledge. Answering at least 75% of questions correctly, such as: What flower is traditionally worn by people on Remembrance Day? And What is the title given to the person who chairs the debates in the House of Commons?
So why not introduce the same assessment for school entry? The ‘God Quiz’ could be made up of fundamentals that all believers should know – like the difference between a Priest and a Vicar, the name of the current Pope and an ‘on-the-spot’ test of how they bless themselves! Yeah, that should do it. I could do any of these at a drop of a hat, but I wonder if my husband’s friend could….
Keeping the faith
Seriously though, if religious schools are so worried about getting the right candidates, this could be both a logical and fair assessment of a child’s ‘worthiness’?
I’m soon to enter this new phase of my life and I will look forward to reporting back what happens. Above all though, I am keeping the faith that my honesty and integrity will out. Lets see...
To quote Psalm 106:3: “Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times”
Amen to that!
Sophia is the editor of Milk Drunk Diary parent blog, follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @MilkDrunkDiary.