19 Jan 2011

Groups call on British government to replace compulsory collective worship in schools with inclusive assemblies

Secular News Daily - November 19, 2010

Gove called on to scrap restrictive law on compulsory collective worship in schools

by British Humanist Association

Leading teaching unions and education campaigners have joined together with religious representatives and the British Humanist Association (BHA) to call on the Secretary of State for Education Rt Hon Michael Gove MP to scrap collective worship in schools and replace it with inclusive assemblies.

In England, all state-maintained schools are required by law to provide daily collective worship for all their pupils of a ‘wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character’. In ‘faith’ schools the act of worship is provided in accordance with the school’s trust deed or the tenets and practices of the religion or religious denomination of the school.

The joint letter, organised by the BHA, emphasises that the requirement on schools to provide daily acts of worship places obligations on teachers which is bureaucratic and unnecessary. The letter also states that the requirement can prevent schools from holding inclusive, educational assemblies and, moreover, that compulsory worship infringes on children’s rights to freedom of conscience, religion or belief.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘There is no good argument for retaining a law which compels schools to hold daily acts of worship; a law which is outdated, discriminatory and most schools do not observe in any case.

‘If this restrictive law is scrapped, schools will be free to hold inclusive educational assemblies which can build shared values and a sense of community. If the government really is serious about abolishing unfair and unnecessary laws, and about ‘freeing’ schools, then the law on school worship should be near the top of the government’s list.’

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