Displaying items by tag: schools
Golden Hills Elementary School in California is facing backlash from parents after promoting an after-school Satan club aimed at children as young as five. The controversial club is scheduled to hold monthly meetings starting in December. It was created by the Satanic Temple - not to be confused with the Church of Satan - as an antidote to the evangelical Christian groups cropping up in public schools. The organisation’s website states, ‘The Satanic Temple does not advocate for religion in schools. However, once religion invades schools, as the Good News Clubs have, the Satanic Temple will fight to ensure that plurality and true religious liberty are respected.’ In this instance, the after-school club was created in response to the Good News Club, a weekly Christian programme for 5- to 12-year-olds at the school. Many parents believe the Satan club is a Trojan horse to promote devil worship in schools.
Despite a 50% increase in students taking a Religious Studies GCSE, no central government funding has been spent on the subject in the last five years. During the same period, £387 million was allocated to music projects, £154 million to maths, £56 million to science, £28.5 million to English, and £16 million to languages. Also many academies fail to offer the high-quality RE provision that according to Ofsted ‘affords students the opportunity to make sense of their own place in the world’. Almost 500 secondary schools are still reporting zero hours of RE provision in year 11; 34% of academies have no timetabled RE. Teaching RE is a legal requirement for all schools. Maintained schools have a statutory duty to teach it, while academies and free schools are contractually required through the terms of their funding agreement to make provision for teaching it.
England’s schools are grappling with what it means to live with coronavirus. In some places, staffing shortages are so dire that retirees were urged to return to duty. Secondary schools must now test students for Covid twice a week, adding to the burdens faced by staff. One in 12 teachers was absent from school during the first week of term. Numerous schools are unable to find temporary staff to cover. Rates of teacher absence were slightly higher in primary schools than in secondaries, where face masks are now required for pupils in class. In state schools 8.9% of teaching assistants and other staff were also absent. A small but growing minority of schools are experiencing teaching staff absences of over 20%, and the Government is planning for 25% staff-absence rates. Pray for education secretary Nadhim Zahawi to have the wisdom needed as he makes contingency plans for rising staff absences impacting on schools’ ability to remain open.
There have been anti-Covid vaccine protests outside 420 schools up and down the UK. The Association of School and College Leaders said it is not a fringe concern even though most protests stem from just two groups on the messaging app Telegram. One organiser has allegedly visited every secondary school in Hartlepool, and another group is coordinating multiple daily school visits from Kent to Cheshire. Protesters left Gateshead students distressed after showing them pictures of what appeared to be dead children. They target teachers with sham legal documents, and hand children leaflets with QR codes leading to extremist and conspiracy content. Some protesters think it is wrong to vaccinate children, or say the whole pandemic is a hoax. Sir Keir Starmer said it was sickening that protesters were spreading ‘dangerous misinformation’ to children, and wants exclusion zones set up around school gates.
Some schools became hotbeds of anti-Israel sentiment during the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Students staged a number of demonstrations. Angry protesters gathered outside a Leeds school to support anti-semitism when the headteacher called the Palestinian flag a ‘call to arms’. During a protest at Clapton Girls’ Academy students sat down and chanted, ‘Free Palestine’, refusing to return to lessons. They did so after teachers removed posters about the Palestinian struggle from the walls of the schools. A north London school removed images of the Palestinian flag from school noticeboards, and told parents that schools were ‘apolitical organisations’ and ‘not to use political messaging to a captive audience’. Manchester’s Loreto College closed after hearing of planned demonstrations. A Jewish teacher in a non-Jewish school was bullied by students and resigned. Twenty-five teachers from a Jewish school quit their trade union to protest against its call for participation in pro-Palestinian rallies.
Indonesia has banned schools from forcing girls to wear Islamic hijab headscarves after the case of a Christian pupil pressured to cover up sparked outrage in the world’s most populous Muslim nation (90% of the population follows Islam). The move was applauded by rights activists, who say non-Muslim girls have been forced for years to wear a hijab in conservative parts of the country. State schools across the archipelago of nearly 270 million people will face sanctions if they fail to comply with the edict. Nadiem Makarim, the education minister, said that religious attire was an individual choice and schools cannot make it compulsory.
A French low-intensity war is bubbling around radicalising education. At a school in Saumur, a student told his teacher, ‘My father will behead you’. It is impossible to make a precise list of similar incidents that occur daily. ‘Faced with Islamist intimidation, what should we do?’ said Robert Redeker in 2006. A few days later, he began receiving death threats. Since then, things have worsened. A recent survey of self-censorship among teachers to avoid an incident revealed half of them admitted self-censoring in class. By fear, terror and intimidation, the extremism of ‘Islamism’ is reaping what it has sown. Many are now saying, ‘We should have paid more attention to that first case, the first in a long series of attacks on French teachers.’ In January 2021 a 17-year-old had to quit school and go into hiding after receiving thirty hate messages a minute for disparaging Islam last year. See
The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Durham have asked the Government to expand free school meals over school holidays as more families face hardship due to the pandemic. They said free school meals should be available to all children in families on universal credit and that the scheme should cover holidays. They also want funding to help schools that are supporting poorer families through services like breakfast clubs. They said, ‘All schools must have the appropriate resources to be able to address issues of child hunger and poverty and expand their role as places of security for children who are at risk, whilst maintaining safety at school. Outdoor play, exercise and access to nature are vital to healthy learning. Helping schools ensure outside activities continue will aid mental as well as physical health.’
Between April 2017 and December 2019, Kent police investigated 109 children for possessing, or threatening with, an offensive weapon or blade at school. Two children, aged seven and nine, were not prosecuted for knife-related offences because they were under ten - the age of criminal responsibility. The most common age group for suspects was 14- to 15-year-olds. Five adults were also investigated for having knives on school premises. These figures follow similar disclosures by the majority of forces in England and Wales; numbers are much higher in places like London. An October investigation found that thousands of children had brought weapons to school, with some suspects as young as four. Pray for churches, support workers, and social services as they seek to help overwhelmed parents juggling busy lives with badly-behaved children and teenagers.
Election officers have hit back angrily at calls from the education secretary for polling stations not to be placed in schools. Gavin Williamson wanted to avoid disruption to school nativity plays and Christmas concerts, which could clash with the 12 December election. He said that councils would be funded to find alternative venues for polling stations. Election officers have written to the education secretary to express their ‘extreme disappointment’, saying in many areas schools are polling stations because they are well-known local venues and are likely to be accessible for people with disabilities. Often there are not any other practical options.