Dear **********,

    Many thanks for bringing this to my attention. Although the LEA, in common with most others, is no longer able to employ subject advisers (I still exist but in a different role - which raises an issue about the Northumberland website being out of date!) I still have an advisory role on the local SACRE. That is the body responsible for establishing an Agreed Syllabus for RE and supporting schools in its implementation. They would be the appropriate body to take a view on this matter. I will forward your email to the Chair with a recommendation that they look into the issue.

    Can I thank you again for bringing this to our attention.

Mel Rockett

Dear **********

I assume you got my contact details from the website for the Association of RE Advisers, Inspectors and Consultants?  We as an organisation have no policy on this and it has not been raised as an issue within the organisation by any of the members.  We do not have any role in issuing advice to schools as an organisation - all our members work as individuals in different local authorities or dioceses or as independent consultants. 

However I can tell you that in Cambridgeshire, my own LEA, the issue was raised by some parents, and was discussed at two SACRE meetings.  After lengthy consideration, which included writing to the organisers of Operation Christmas Child, it was decided that Cambridgeshire SACRE should write to schools (last term) informing them that concerns had been expressed and attaching a copy of the correspondence with OCC.  SACRE put together a small pack of information which washas been offered to schools who wished to consider the matter further.  Twenty-five schools have requested this information, but I have no idea what impact if any it has had on their decision to support/withdraw support from the charity this year.

I think you were right to pursue the issue through your local SACRE.  If you've had no response, why not try again - or write to your director of education? As far as your own children's school is concerned, have you tried raising the matter through your school's parent governor?  Another forum might be the National Association of School Governors - I'm not really sure how this works as an organisation, but it might be worth investigating.

I don't know whether this will be of any help, but you might be glad to know you are not alone in your concerns.

With all good wishes,

Sarah Smalley

Dr. Sarah Smalley
General Adviser, RE and SACRE,
Lawrence Court,
Princes Street,
Huntingdon PE29 3PP.

Replies from the General Public

"My Mum and some of her work friends (a lot of whom are Muslims) do this every year and would be horrified to know what is going on. Thank you for letting us all know."


"My daughter's school is doing boxes this year for Operation Christmas Child. At first I thought 'lovely idea' but upon reading the leaflet carefully I saw that religious messages are part of the package, so I will not be making any boxes up, but donating money to a secular charity instead, one that is only interested in simple giving, NOT with strings attached. Speaking as a thinking atheist, who has never once suggested to anyone else that they really should be an atheist too because it is the only 'right ' way to think, I cannot see what business it is of anyone to push their own belief/superstition onto another person, ESPECIALLY when that person is young and vulnerable. Seems like the ultimate arrogance to me."


"Mine was done last week so it is too late to change my mind. It is still good that children with nothing get gifts but Smaritans Purse have the right to take things out of the boxes if they wish (to make room for the bible perhaps??). Next year I will be making a donation to the Red Cross or Oxfam instead as I know there is no ulterior motive. What bothered me too was the £96 million profit Samaritans Purse makes!"


"Just been reading the concerns on the latter part of this thread. I would like to call myself a Christian but am not the sort who goes about shoving my beliefs into other peoples' faces. I strongly believe that you can be a witness, or whatever you call it, just by being you & by what you say, by what you do, your morals etc.

I'm not at all happy with this "Samaritan's Purse" thing - I think these children need to witness care and love in the world and they would by just knowing that somebody has given them something very precious when they have virtually nothing.

I'm going to find out who the school are doing it through this year. Some of our boxes go to Belarus, to the victims of the Chernobyl disaster(yes, there's still plenty of victims), through a private organisation and they just give. The lady who runs it is a treasure and she makes far more an impression on me than somebody doing over-the-top evangalising.

That's fine if people want to be there and choose to be there but not in this situation which is supposed to be about giving to children who have nothing - showing love and care."

(who had a poster and leaflets for Operation Christmas Child in a local shop):

I understand the following reply was sent by Oxfam's Media Unit:

The Samaritan's Purse is a charity that Oxfam has no national links with.

Oxfam shop teams are encouraged to participate in activities relevant to
their own communities, and the Morpeth Oxfam shop's support of the appeal
was a decision taken locally by the shop manager to provide a facility for
the people of Morpeth to drop off their boxes.

This is not a scheme that Oxfam GB has ever been involved in within the
wider context.

Oxfam offers a number of ways for people to help others at Christmas.
These include buying Christmas cards and gifts in Oxfam shops, donating
money and purchasing gifts with a difference through the Oxfam Unwrapped

As I mentioned earlier as to whether or not the Oxfam Morpeth Shop
participates in this scheme next year will be reviewed by the Area Manager
and the Shop Manager at a later date in view of the information that has
come to light.

With best wishes.

Maureen Clark
Shop Support Team
Trading Division

A later email from OXFAM:

Thank you for your email enquiring as to whether the Oxfam shop in Morpeth will be participating as a collection point for Operation Christmas Child.

After investigation by Senior Management earlier this year, it was agreed with the manager of the Oxfam shop in Morpeth that Oxfam should not act as a collection point for Operation Christmas Child.

Thank you for making contact again bringing this issue to our attention and I am sorry you were not informed of this earlier.

With best wishes

Maureen Clark
Shop Support Team
Trading Division

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