Michael Gove under pressure to end compulsory worship in schools

November 19, 2010

Several teaching unions, religion and belief groups plus a number of campaign groups, have today written an open letter to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for State for Education, urging him to reform the laws that currently demand state maintained schools in England to provide their pupils with a daily act of compulsory religious worship of a ‘broadly Christian’ character.

The letter calls for the collective worship laws to be removed and instead for schools to be allowed to decide for themselves what kind of assembly is best for their pupils. This is entirely in keeping with the coalition Government’s stated aim of giving schools greater freedom. Those that have signed the letter include the Association of School and College Leaders, the National Union of Teachers, the Accord Coalition, the British Humanist Association, the Christian think tank Ekklesia, the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches and the British Muslims for Secular Democracy.

Michael Gove comes under further pressure today, as the Accord Coalition releases the results of a commissioned YouGov online poll which asked the public about if people supported or opposed replacing the laws on collective worship with a requirement that schools, including faith schools, should instead hold assemblies which consider spiritual, moral and ethical issues shared by different religions, as well as by those who are not religious. The proposal was supported by 43% of GB adults and opposed by 30%.

Commenting on the issue, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE, the Chair of the Accord Coalition said ‘the current laws around compulsory worship in schools are so unpopular and unworkable with teachers and governors that a great many schools simply do not provide it and break the law. This is highly unsatisfactory, as it is very unhealthy in a democracy for the law to be widely flouted by so many government maintained institutions.

‘It would be much better to remove the current compulsion on schools to provide compulsory worship and allow them to provide assemblies that are better suited to their pupils. This would be a relatively minor change and also a very timid one. As our poll shows, a plurality of the public believe that the law should go much further and require schools to not provide assemblies that focus on a particular religion, but instead provide ones that consider spiritual, moral and ethical issues shared by different religious and non-religious worldviews’.


All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was GB 2114 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 16th – 18th July 2010.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

A full transcript of the letter and the list of signatories can be found here.

Ofsted’s 2002-03 annual report – secondary education stated that four fifths of secondary schools do not hold a daily act of collective worship for all pupils.

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