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Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by ksarah, Apr 15, 2019.

  1. ksarah

    ksarah New commenter

    A a secondary teacher with an MA in art and wellbeing and a devout atheist, can I be made to teach RE next term, with two days planning time and a loathing for any religion? What are my rights, if any? Thank you in advance.
  2. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Star commenter

    Err... yes you can. STPC (and contracts usually) state somewhere "as reasonably specified by the Head Teacher" and the word 'reasonably' is not what you or I would call it.

    Do you have any negotiating power here? Would the phrase, "Will you please be my referee as I'm now looking to teach Art at Destination Anywhere Academy" cause the Head to reconsider?

    Or maybe it's office politicians you need. Can the Head of RE be convinced that you're not a good fit in the department? Is your current HoD happy that 'K (Superstar) Sarah' will not be available for 2 days a week and covered by …..? Is there a mentor or SLT who can fight your corner in the murky corridors of power? Does your appraiser welcome judging you in this new environment? Are you up to such petty power games, not exactly what you signed up for in those giddy days of gaining QTS?

    As a wise man once said
    You've got to know when to walk away
    Know when to run
    Kenny Rogers - The Gambler
  3. purplecarrot

    purplecarrot Senior commenter

    A head can deploy staff to teach as they require. Sometimes that means teaching out of specialism.

    Whether 2 days notice is enough will depend on what's being taught. For example, one hour a week ks3 when the schemes of work are already there is quite different to picking up a 50% RE timetable with KS4.

    Teaching students about world religions and different views shouldn't be an issue as it's about helping students understand different beliefs and explore different views to their own. Your own personal intolerance is concerning in my opinion.
  4. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    You said in your other post that you were a humanist.(Post 30 here, about a fortnight ago.)
    Now you call yourself a devout atheist.
    The two terms are not interchangeable.

    Yes, of course you can be asked to teach RE.
    In KS3 and 4 it is much more about ethics and philosophy surrounding religion than about the religions themselves.

    Do you seriously think children shouldn't be taught about religions at all? That learning what people believe and how it affects their viewpoints is somehow not to be mentioned? That all the music and art we have in society that comes from religious origins is somehow to not be shared with anyone who isn't a believer? How will understanding and peaceful living ever happen if people don't know and understand each other's beliefs?
  5. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    We frequently get queries here from teachers who are asked to teach something other than their usual subject.
    Normally the answer is "Yes, you would have to do it" but ultimately it depends on your contract. You'll probably find it is a "reasonable request" within your contracted remit. Look carefully though, perhaps I'm wrong.

    But additionally in your case, your reasons for not wanting to teach it bother me a bit, I suppose.
    As an educationalist you are not obliged in any subject to believe what you teach.
    You are obliged to remain impartial.
    The teaching of RE does not entail a religious standpoint, it entails conveying facts about religious practice, outlining different beliefs, comparing and contrasting religions. It might involve some geography, some demography, quite a bit of history, and most definitely some philosophy, which by definition means examining the right and wrong of something, both morally and logically. So it is of no relevance that you are an atheist yourself, and possibly a misapprehension of religion completely if you feel that is a reason not to teach it. And as it happens, atheism itself is a unit you may need to teach.

    If you have an MA in art, would you refuse to teach about Art which is not to your personal taste?

    There are very few examples of rights in teaching where you may use your own personal beliefs to opt out of curricular delivery. Because you are an educationalist, not a politician.
  6. purplecarrot

    purplecarrot Senior commenter

    This is also my concern.
  7. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    Lovely oxymoron, mind.
  8. Pomza

    Pomza Star commenter


    It is likely that a number of your students (and possibly colleagues) are from faith-based communities, make sure you apply caution in how you publicly present your personal opinions - you could land yourself in an undesirable situation.

    It is likely that this is not relevant here. The vast majority of teaching contracts refer to the position of 'Teacher' (as opposed to 'Art Teacher'), meaning they are not employed specifically to teach only specialist/preferred subjects.

    Is this really a thing?!
  9. PeterQuint

    PeterQuint Lead commenter

    Everyone above is wrong, no you can’t. It’s a legal opt-out.
    However, I see no reason why being an atheist is a reason not to.

    Do people refuse to teach history because they’re not Nazis?
  10. Flanks

    Flanks Senior commenter

    Peter is correct. It is exceptionally rare and not well known, but teachers can opt-out of teaching RE.

    In my opinion, OP's reasons for doing so are exceptionally poor, but you can refuse.
    agathamorse and mothergoose2013 like this.
  11. meggyd

    meggyd Lead commenter

    Surely you need a knowledge of the Bible and the history of Christianity to understand much European art?
  12. HolyMahogany

    HolyMahogany Senior commenter

    An atheist is someone who does not believe in any form of deity, I am an atheist but I do not hate religion. I don't believe, but I respect the right of others to do so.
    There will be pupils in your classes who are religious and others who are not, they all have the same right to develop their knowledge and understanding of the world.
    The religions of the world are a fact of life and what ever your opinion of them, they exist and have played a significant role in forming the society we live in. You cannot avoid this.

    My Opinion - Please don't confuse atheism with being anti religion, which is what I suspect you really are, and remember you actually have to recognise the existence of something in order to be opposed to it.
    Why do some atheists spend time arguing about the existence of god. If you don't believe why give it the time.
    Personally my view is that a true atheist is someone who is completely indifferent to religion and faith.

    Just because you don't feel any great enthusiasm for the subject does not mean you cannot teach it. You are not teaching belief of faith just the subject matter.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2019
  13. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    It was my understanding that RE is the ONE subject one can't be forced to teach, but your Union can certainly confirm that. Personally (as a non believer History teacher) I never minded teaching RE as I saw it akin to being a member of the underground working to undermine faith;):D:D:D:D
  14. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    I was going to ask that!

    And some people would say that actively practising a religion helps with well being.
    Pomza and mothergoose2013 like this.
  15. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    Wow, never knew about RE exemption as depicted above. These are posters who normally appear to know their stuff. So I'll assume it is correct, against the content of my earlier post. And against my own thoughts too.
    Need to go away and absorb that.

    Perhaps not relevant, but If it were me, and I were as staunch an atheist as put, I would still embrace the chance to teach something else.
    I teach Maths and MFL, and they are so fragmented and labour intensive in providing something that everyone could do, the differentiation requirement is constant, that any time I am "offered" the chance to do something else,I grab it. It's a relax. Surely RE is essentially a discursive subject? It's a gift! You take the few facts, and spin them into prolonged discussions, then summarise the discussions to correspond with published opinions. You get to illustrate! You get to storyboard! You get to do mini-plays! Sounds like a cake walk (sorry all teachers apart from Maths and MFL, not saying your job is easy....even though it is relatively speaking :p)

    I did once refuse to teach something, and my refusal was accepted. I did not want to deliver a PSHE session to a group of boys (I am female) about condoms. That was not based on my belief though, it was based on my prediction that the reception of the subject matter would be drastically different if from a male. This was accepted. Perhaps there is a (very loose) parallel in the teaching of RE to those who do not hold the same belief...even though I'd hate to think that were true.

    Disappointed. I need to read up on it.for it to make sense to me....
    JohnJCazorla, sabrinakat and Flanks like this.
  16. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    You don't teach religion.
    You teach about religion.

    I'd rather we hadn't a royal family in this country but it didn't prevent me teaching children about the numerous monarchs the nation has endured.

    Why on earth would you want to deprive children of knowledge?
  17. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    Addressing your points in your preferred priority:
    1. Why are you not planning now?
    2. Why do you 'loathe' religion?
    annascience2012 likes this.
  18. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    I would have thought that just about anybody teaching RE would disagree with at least some of it, as it involves teaching about several contradictory faiths. I get your point about the lesson you did refuse to teach - I was actually told not to be present for the same situation only with genders reversed.
    agathamorse and mothergoose2013 like this.
  19. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    The Royal Family exist. Religions are about imaginary beings.
  20. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    You believe.

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