West Dereham Sign Gary Trouton

Your Letters

April 2002

Recycling schemes should shift up a gear; more lessons in faith schools

Dear Editor

In one of your recent editorials, you mentioned the waste recycling system newly introduced by the West Norfolk & Kings Lynn Borough Council. I would like to make a few comments on this.

I live at the north end of The Row, West Dereham. On recycling collection day, all the green collecting boxes are left outside. These are open receptacles, subject to the vagaries of the weather, and are usually filled, full to overflowing. With the prevailing southerly/westerly high winds a considerable amount from these boxes blows towards my garden - where I collect numerous plastic bottles, cardboard, papers and food containers etc. every week. As I don't wish my garden to look untidy with all this detritus, I have no alternative but to pick it up and dispose of it as general household rubbish. So much for RE- CYCLING!

An even more serious situation occurred when we were driving through Nordelph recently. A sheaf of newspapers were blown from a green box and enveloped themselves around our windscreen, thus completely obstructing the driver's view. We were lucky to stop without hitting anything, or a lorry ramming us from behind.

Perhaps our Council should have a re-think on the collection of re-cycable material. For example, my daughter lives near Winchester, in Hampshire. Their Council provides two wheelie bins; one for general waste and the other for re-cycable material. The one containing re-cycable material is collected on a different day to the household rubbish, and, I believe, every four weeks.

Not only does this keep the contents dry, it also keeps the neighbourhood clean and tidy, as the contents don't blow away, littering the countryside - as happens here in Norfolk.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Thirlwell

Dear Editor,

I probably didn't make all the points clear in my first letter, and Ron rightly points out certain issues which need addressing.

As far as C of E schools go, there is in fact, very little difference from non-church schools in the way in which the two elements which one might call 'religion' are delivered to the children.

First, morning assemblies, (or more accurately 'morning worship' are held each day, usually in the morning, but sometimes at the end of the day too. The regulations state that in all state schools (including church schools), the assemblies should be 'of a largely Christian nature'. So there should be no difference between church and community schools. Most schools supplement these with seasonal specials such as Harvest Festivals and Carol Services. However, as I said in my last letter, church schools may also hold special acts of worship, such as Eucharists, to which they invite parents and members of the local faith community. This gives the church school a closer and more relevant relationship to the local church and to its parent diocese.

I would agree with Ron that other faith schools are likely to have a much narrower focus on nurturing their children in their own particular beliefs, with less generous references to the teachings of faiths other than their own. However, it has been found that, where people of another ethnic background and faith live in an area where no school represents their own faith and only C of E or R.C. schools are available, these parents (perhaps Hindus or Sikhs) prefer to send their children to such a faith school rather than a secular one: They recognise the spiritual ethos as complementary to their own beliefs.

Which brings me to the second element: That of children's Religious Education. Some diocese have their own syllabi, but Ely tells its schools to use that prepared by their own local authority - in our case the Norfolk R.E. Syllabus: This means that Church schools and secular schools all use the same materials.

The purpose of R.E. is to make children aware of the traditions of each world faith, so that they have some idea what it is to be, for example, a Muslim child and to learn about the kind of family celebrations and rituals which they would experience if they were of that faith. Each of the major world faiths is visited and revisited through the child's primary school years, with the hope that this brings some measure of understanding and tolerance.

Perhaps I was slightly low on my estimate of school hours, which are usually from about 9 am to 3.15 pm. If you add some time for school clubs, sports days, school plays and trips, I suppose you might get over six-and-a-half hours per day average. But given that there are 8760 hours in a year, and school has children for 180 days, the school still only has 13 - 14 % at 6 1/2 per day or 14 - 15 % at 7 hours.

Parents and the community at large still have between them by far the larger share of time to nurture the child and to build up any anti-social characteristics and prejudices even in spite of what schools are trying to do to the contrary.

One unfortunate disfunction is that parents are less likely to re-inforce the church school in its teaching about tolerance and general norms of society than they were twenty years ago.

Muslim children will almost certainly know that faith is a fundamental of their family life. The Muslim child will thus get close to 100% faith experience through school and through a family upbringing which tries to filter out those influences of society which are against their Muslim teachings.

The same cannot be said of children attending a Christian church school. If parents have no interest in religion or a faith of their own the 'faith' influence of the school is probably less than 1% of a child's life experience.

There are a surprising number of children of primary school age who have not only televisions in their bedrooms, but video players, and, perhaps more potentially influential to the young mind, computers with unrestricted access to the internet.

Parents are not always aware or careful about what their children watch or how late they have their set switched on: I know - I have listened to pupils telling each other of their viewing the morning after! It is sadly true that many children have access to most unsuitable programmes, and that their minds have very warped ideas of human relationships, both personal and inter-ethnic, long before they leave the primary school.

I mentioned, in my previous letter the 'extra' dimension offered by church schools - that of the 'spiritual'. I often wonder that there has been so little awareness over the past twenty years of the enormous growth of Health and Safety measures of all kinds.

Hardly any element of modern life is free from the some major intervention, some new and expensive procedure designed to prolong the active life of the individual by cutting down on polution of all kinds. These are generally much to be applauded, even if it does seem rather OTT at times, and very much the nanny state ( or the nanny EEC) - but most are measures designed to prolong physical well-being.

But there seems to have been an equal and opposite process at work: More and more measures introduced to prolong bodily existence contrast with more and more freedom allowed to contaminate spiritual well-being.

It is as if mankind, in denying the life-beyond-death which all the great world religions teach, is now so intensely frightened, so uncertain, that it is doing everything possible to delay the inevitable. But why clean up everything which could possibly poison the body, whilst allowing more and more to poison the minds and thus the souls of an earlier and earlier age group. Surely it is possible to make value judgements about ALL kinds of polution?

Well, I would expect that all our church schools will pass on the message of ultimate hope, certainty and victory over death (and all kinds of poison), of which Easter is the ultimate symbol.

Happy Easter, Ron, and everyone,

Chris Young

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