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Should I let my child go to a (UK) faith school?

I hate faith schools. I know pretty much every argument against them, so please let's not rehearse them yet again. My wholly serious question, on which quite a lot of my money depends (!), is whether we should just go with the flow.

In the next few weeks we have to fill forms in for my daughter's first school, starting September 2011. Locally, I have two faith (state) primary schools in whose catchment area we live. We're rural, with no buses: on any basis, we're driving. The next half dozen nearest are also faith schools, all CofE, all at least "good", per Ofsted reports, bar one. This tiny village school has a pre-school which my daughter now attends. We learned recently that in 2011 all available places (12 of them!) will be given to siblings of existing pupils. So we've "wasted" a couple of years with the "wrong" pre-school then.

There is one other non-faith state school another 3 miles away. It is outstanding. It is the County Council's poster child. We are not in its catchment area.

The nearest (catchment) school is full-on High Anglican (verging on Anglo-Catholic) and probably one of the most religious schools I have ever encountered. There is one other catchment school which, whilst CofE, seems vaguely normal.

There is one excellent private school - a Quaker school, as it happens - nearby. We have visited it and they seem to be far less dysfunctional than most. "Worship" largely amounts to silent contemplation, and asking a question or making a statement if anything occurs to you. Their motto is about "finding the god within yourself", which I can almost relate to. This place costs. It's affordable, but for two kids (her brother will be one year behind her) it would not be an easy choice for the family.

We're not going to fake religion. But I am reluctant to opt my child out of any school activities which might set her apart from the community.

My wife and I are confident that our kids will end up rational enough despite some exposure to religion, and can ultimately make their own minds up. We're not taking them to church, but yes - they should at least know something about religions. We're a sheet anchor back home to steady the course through these storms. I went to a CofE primary school and the church lost.

Whilst we're not going down on bended knee (literally) to improve her chances of getting into a faith school, the local situation is such that we may not have much choice about it.

We're lucky, we're in a nice affluent rural area with no inner city sink schools for miles around.

So, is it fair to "force" my principles onto my kids - and give myself some horrendous travelling costs and/or maybe private school costs, or should I be grateful we're surrounded by decent schools and trust myself and my wife to teach the kids not to take religion too seriously, whilst obliging them to bend their knees to it on a pretty much daily basis, by law.

I loathe with every fibre of my being the legal background, and the hapless, spineless politicians who accept the "choice" we are faced with as some kind of normality in the UK in 2010. But do I protest too much: will the kids survive it? Self-evidently, at least 98% of us do not attend a CofE church on a weekly basis whatever the "temptation" to do so!



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