Things you’ll only know if you went to a faith school

Mass is like a Beyonce concert

Theresa May has made headlines by not only demanding the revival of grammar schools, but also backing the idea of introducing more faith schools into the system. There are people who both agree and disagree with her bold educational plans. As someone who went to both a secular and faith school, I want to shed light on the elusive life of a faith-schooler.

The classes are tiny

Faith schools are notoriously hard to get into because of the strict faith guidelines. Although you don’t need to belong to the faith of the school, you need to prove that you are religious and have attended your place of worship well…religiously. That means the class sizes are small in comparison to non-faith schools. I went from a school where the average class size was 30 to a school where the average class size was barely 20.

The buildings are a work of art

The buildings don’t blend in to the general area at all, which is the whole point. They boldly yell “we’re a faith school” with their intricate designs. The religious influence is easy to see through the architecture of the buildings, both inside and out. Most schools resemble a concrete jungle, but faith schools take pride in their appearance.

Religion is great – it gets you out of classes

In faith schools, religious ceremonies are equal to attending a Beyonce concert. They’re not to be missed at any cost. This means that the school allows everyone to skip classes just to go to mass or a blessing, which basically means that if you’re in the back rows of the hall, you get an extra couple of hours sleep whilst someone drones on preaching the word of God at the front.

You have weird but fun traditions

I went to a Catholic grammar school where we had a yearly October tradition. Every year, on a Friday in October, Year 13 would take over the school, put on a play mocking the teachers and everyone else in the school got to knock off classes and have fun for the day. It was brilliant. It made me wish I’d gone to Catholic school from the beginning. I never quite understood the reason why we did Guardian Angels, but it was truly the best school day of the year. Yes, it was even better than the last day of the school year. These traditions weren’t unique to my school, though. Ask any faith school pupil and I’m sure they’ll tell you about their fun and fantastic traditions.

The uniform is so chic

Not all uniform was created equal and the uniform in faith schools is always better. It’s unique, that’s for sure. Depending on your school, you might even be able to jazz it up a little bit. In my school, we were allowed to wear whatever style skirt we wanted, so long as it was the correct kind of plaid. The ingenious thing about this was that we were allowed to express our individuality, but not to an extent were school became a fashion show.

There’s a strong sense of community

Everyone helps everyone else out. Their religion binds them with a sense of community. You’ll never sit and eat your lunch by yourself; someone will always ask you to join them. If you forget your pen, everyone in class will offer you one. Nothing shows this generosity more than bake sales and school fetes. People go above and beyond the call of duty because they actually care about their community.

Everyone is lovely – they have the fear of God in them

When I joined, I was scared because I was bullied from day one in my previous school. I soon realised I had nothing to fear. Even though I was clearly different (I had anorexia at the time), no one judged me. They embraced me with open arms. Making friends was easy as everyone was welcoming and kind. No one wanted me to feel like the new kid on the block. I think it comes back to that sense of community that they have instilled in them from a young age. That, and the fact that they have the fear of God drilled into them from the time they can walk onwards. They want to be like God and God says you should love one another. Honestly, faith school kids are the kindest I know.

The teachers have a lot of compassion

Teachers in faith schools don’t just teach. Even if they don’t follow the faith of the school that they’re employed by, they take it on themselves to be your mentor and your friend too. If you’re unhappy, they’ll notice and ask you if they can help in any way. They’ll do everything in their power to help you. You’re not just another student to them, you’re an actual person with real dreams and aspirations and they take that to heart. You don’t just get an education at a faith school, you get a set of teachers who are like aunts and uncles.

No one discriminates, even if you’re an atheist

I’m an atheist. I have been since I understood what religion was. Naturally, as I joined a faith school, I thought this would be a topic of contention. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I genuinely believe children who attend faith schools are taught you shouldn’t discriminate, even if you disagree with the person. I was allowed to have my anti-God opinions and they were respected. I wasn’t expected to pray when the rest of the class did and I was never called to lead prayer either. Despite what outsiders may thing — that faith school is segregating and intolerant — this couldn’t be further from the truth. Everyone is welcoming and actually, everyone is respectful and open-minded.

You get a sense of pride for your school

My heart swells whenever someone mentions my old school. The combination of the pastoral care and academia means that you genuinely feel valued as an individual in your school because the teachers listen to you and have your best interests at heart. There are so many extracurricular things to get stuck into and represent your school in that you wear your uniform with pride. The best thing about a faith school is that everyone knows you. You think your headteacher doesn’t know you? You’d be wrong there. They make it their business to know all of their students because, above everything, they value your happiness and wellbeing, not just your grades. Faith school staff understand that academia isn’t everything and you’re more than your grades, which is more than I can say for some non-faith schools.