School opts for multi-faith approach: Fran Abrams finds east London pupils being given an insight into several beliefs

TOP CLASSES at Malmesbury Junior School in Bow, east London, are learning about Sue Ryder in religious education this week. The founder of charity shops for the sick and disabled comes under the heading of 'Caring for other people'.

Malmesbury has children from almost every religion among its pupils, including Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and Christians. The Christian creation story is taught alongside those of other faiths, and each child visits a Sikh and Hindu temple, a mosque and a synagogue, as well as a church during his or her four years at the school.

Doreen Franks, the school's religious education co-ordinator, believes it obeys the law that religious education should be 'in the main Christian'.

'Attitudes such as friendship, kindness, generosity and charity go through most religions. Christianity tells you to 'love thy neighbour', so we are basically looking through the eyes of Christianity even if we are studying another religion,' she said.

She is worried about the demand in the new syllabuses that pupils aged seven to eleven should learn about Christianity and just two other religions. At Malmesbury, the 300 pupils learn about six religions.

'To study the geography and history of this area, you would need to do the French Huguenots, Jewish immigrants, Irish Catholics, Afro-Caribbeans and now the Somalis. The Sikhs have been here since the 1940s. It would be an insult to them to ignore them - they are part of Tower Hamlets,' she said.

Although every class at the school spends between 45 minutes and an hour each week on RE, many of the lessons are about basic values rather than Christianity. Malmesbury bases its RE policy on a syllabus drawn up by the now defunct Inner London Education Authority, under which children learn social skills such as respect for others, and moral values such as the difference between right and wrong, and compare different faiths.

The headteacher, Michael Russell, does not think it is the school's job to reinforce Christian or other beliefs.

'We are not a synagogue, a mosque or a church. We are a school, and children come here with a rich range of experiences,' he said. 'What we can do is to get them to reflect on their own circumstances and to reflect the major themes such as birth, death and separation.'

Most Malmesbury parents supported its approach to RE, he said, though one mother did complain that her child had been asked to sing 'Bengali songs' in a pre- Christmas concert. Mr Russell did not have the heart to tell her that the song in question was 'Jingle Bells', sung in French.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas