Many state schools in England are not providing group worship, despite legislation making it a requirement, a survey suggests. The law currently requires all maintained schools to provide a daily act of collective worship for their pupils. In community schools, the law states that the worship must be wholly or mainly of a Christian character.
The Comres survey for BBC local radio found 64% of the 500 parents questioned said their child did not attend daily acts of collective worship. But, 60% of the 1,743 adults asked said the legislation should not be enforced.
A spokesman for the national secular society, Keith Porteous Wood, the group’s executive director, writes:
“As the BBC survey confirms, the law requiring daily collective worship is being widely flouted, which shows that it is time for it to be reviewed – and, in this case, repealed.
“England is the only country in the western world to enforce participation in daily worship in community schools. To do so goes beyond the legitimate function of the state and is an abuse of children’s human rights, especially those who are old enough to make decisions for themselves. That is why we have arranged for the tabling of an amendment in the Education Bill to make such worship entirely optional.
“This survey simply reflects the general loss of interest in organised religion throughout society as a whole, and the Government should acknowledge that the time has come to stop compulsory worship.
“At present, unless a parent actively exempts them, the law requires that pupils “take part in” in an act of worship every day, whether they want to or not. This is an abuse of the children’s human rights – nobody should be forced to worship if it is against their conscience.
Whether you’re a Christian, Muslim, Jew or Zoroastrian, it must surely be common sense and fair that schools do not force any one view on impressionable young children who have not yet gathered sufficient information to make an informed choice. This is indoctrination. Schools are for giving children information, facts and evidence for all arguments, not taking sides.
Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) chief policy advisor Alison Ryan questioned how much schools and parents wanted daily worship
“People are concerned about inclusivity, how much is it wanted by parents, pupils or even the staff themselves? When a law is being flouted on a pretty major scale that is telling you something about its use, about how maybe it should be reformed or changed, so we believe it needs to be looked at.”
Commenting on the poll, the British Humanist Association’s chief executive Andrew Copson pointed out that the results highlight the need for reform:
“The continuing requirement to hold collective worship is widely opposed. Teachers don’t want it, parents don’t want it, pupils don’t want it. The fact that so many schools don’t enforce the law shows that the law, as it stands, is not workable. Where it is enforced it is a violation of young people’s right to freedom of religion or belief and a barrier to the development of better, genuinely inclusive, assemblies which would build community and be educationally useful.
The BHA are running an e-petition encouraging the government to reform the law, which you can sign if you like.
Further reading, from various viewpoints: