National Governors Association calls for abolition of Collective Worship

June 29, 2014

ngaThe National Governors Association (NGA), the representative body for school governors in England, has called for the laws around Collective Worship to be scrapped at non-faith schools. In 2010 the body petitioned the government, asking that the laws and rules requiring all state funded schools in England to ordinarily provide daily collective worship of ‘wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character’ to be made non-mandatory at schools without a religious character. However, the organisation has now hardened its position. Explaining the policy the NGA said: ‘The view was taken that schools are not places of worship, but places of education, and expecting the worship of a religion or religions in all schools should not be a compulsory part of education in England today’.

Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain said ‘The laws and rules around assemblies in England and Wales need to be completely revised and replaced with guidance for inclusive assemblies that draw upon and forge shared values, investigating ethical and moral values from a variety of sources, including religious and philosophical. We currently have the worst of both worlds, repressive laws that do not respect the beliefs and autonomy of staff, pupils and families, and many schools simply not providing assemblies, often because they find the laws around mandatory worship completely unworkable.’

The Association’s move highlights the growing consensus in favour of reforming Collective Worship. Earlier this earlier the Church of Scotland and Humanist Society of Scotland made a joint call for the law requiring Religious Observance in Scottish schools to be replaced with a ‘Time for Reflection’ to make school assemblies ‘more inclusive and clearly not gatherings where one faith or belief system is promoted over another’. A ComRes poll in 2011 commissioned by the BBC indicated that only 28% of pupils attended daily worship at their school. It also showed that the public did not think the requirement to provide a daily act of Collective Worship in schools should be enforced, by 60% to 36%.

3 Responses to National Governors Association calls for abolition of Collective Worship

  1. Lindsay Fraser on July 1, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    The headline which has been used here is slightly misleading as Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain is actually calling for a revision of the laws in favour of inclusive assemblies. I agree totally that the laws need to be revisited when so many schools are not abiding by them anyway. However,in the vast majority of church schools (and I am sure in many schools without a religious character) Collective Worship is delivered extremely well, with a strong emphasis on inclusion and respect for those of all faiths and those of no faith. The vast majority of pupils value this time where Collective Worship is of a good quality. I suggest that the NGA undertake research into good and excellent practice in schools before calling for laws to be scrapped.

  2. gill on July 1, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    Collective worship /assembly is in my view of the utmost importance in schools. When delivered well it does not ‘ram religion down your throat’, rather it teaches children to respect others, understand feelings, know the difference between right and wrong, among other things, delivered as part of a story – bible or modern day. Usually the children (and staff) leave the assembly with something to think about and ponder over. For many children, this is the only guidance they have in life on some issues. I feel that the whole school comes together as a unit giving a sense of belonging to a place with people who care – along with an uplifting sing song as a bonus. I therefore vote PROMOTE not abolish collective worship. Just for the record, I do not attend church or consider myself part of the ‘god squad’ but assemblies at school taught me a great deal about life and respecting others.

    • John Catt on July 10, 2014 at 9:05 pm

      The problem here is the definition of worship. I equate it with prayer to a particular god (in this case Christianity is generally preferred). The law needs to be amended to require assemblies that promote the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of all pupils and staff, regardless of their religious or non-religious beliefs. Collective prayer must be excluded as this has to be a nonsense. A period of silence for reflection (or silent prayer for those who so wish) is a much more appropriate requirement.

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