Education Quandary

'We want a place at our local church primary, but don't want to be pretend church-goers'
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Hilary's advice

Then be real ones. No one can see into other people's hearts, but it is a fair bet that many of the regulars in your local church won't be cleaving to every last word of the Christian story, or living exemplary Christian lives.

People end up in church for all sorts of reasons - some from habit or because they like the ritual; others for a social life, or as a way of belonging to their local community. As well as the true believers, there will be those who are distressed and searching for comfort, and those who are perplexed and looking for answers.

Then there will be those who simply like belting out some hymns once a week. Presumably, if you want your child to go to a church school, you don't have any problem with him or her growing up among the basic Christian virtues of decency, kindness, caring and honesty. So why not expose yourselves to the same things?

Give up some time on a Sunday, go to church, and sit through some services. It isn't hypocritical just to listen, even if you don't believe a word of it, and there probably isn't a person in the world who can't benefit from a quiet space in the week to think about higher things.

Alternatively, now that new guidelines make it likely that church schools will be setting aside a quarter of their places for non-believers, you could just try for one of those.

Readers' advice

If you go to church just to get a school place, you will be teaching your child a lesson that hypocrisy pays off.

You would do better to opt for one of the less good schools and at least know that his or her education is not founded on a lie.

Also remember that the lie will continue with every harvest festival and Christmas service you will be expected to attend as church school parents.

William Cramsie, Oxfordshire

So the Christian ethic of the school is at odds with your own principles? Such a conflict is not a good prognostic for your future relationships with, and support for, any school.

Why not become a church-goer to learn about the philosophy which underlies the functioning of this school?

You would then be able to apply to send your child to a good school which has your full support without feeling squeamish or guilty, and to the great benefit of your child. I currently visit our local primary school to help Class 1 and see all too clearly the results of good parental support.

This is not a church school but the ethos is improving rapidly due to the Christian principles of the new head teacher.

Jan Whettam, Gloucestershire

We see many parents who develop enthusiasm for church-going just as their children come up to five, but we also see some who continue coming even after they have got their school place.

Everyone at our church knows what these parents are doing, but we are always welcoming to anyone wants to hear the Word of God, and we do not question their reasons.

Mary Eagleton, London N7

Next Week's Quandary

Dear Hilary

Our school is already sinking under the weight of bureaucracy and paperwork, but now we also have to work on a new disability equality scheme, which must be in place by December. This feels like just more waste of precious time for teachers and governors. Surely there are better ways that schools can help disabled children?

Send your letters or quandaries to Hilary Wilce, to arrive no later than Monday 16 October, to 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax: 020-7005 2143; or e-mail: Please include your postal address. Readers whose letters are printed will receive a Berol Combi Pack of a cartridge pen, handwriting pen and ink eraser.