Compulsory worship in schools considered inappropriate by most Britons

August 9, 2019

The Accord Coalition has urged that the laws demanding daily worship in all state schools should be repealed and replaced with guidance for schools on providing assemblies that are genuinely inclusive for those of different religious and non-religious backgrounds. The call has been made in response to a new survey of the British public which finds acts of worship are viewed as the least appropriate activity for school assemblies.

The survey, conducted by YouGov and commissioned by Humanists UK, asked about the appropriateness of a range of 13 different activities or topics to be explored in school assembles. ‘The environment and nature’ and ‘Celebration of achievements’ were found to have the most positive net ratings of support at +72% and +67% respectively. ‘Acts of religious worship’ in contrast were opposed by 50% of respondents, to 28% in favour, providing a net rating of -12%.

Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, the Reverend Stephen Terry,  said ‘It is time that the laws demanding daily Christian worship in all state funded schools are reviewed and replaced. They are divisive, anachronistic and a barrier to schools providing stimulating and inspiring assemblies that are genuinely inclusive.’

‘Schools should instead be encouraged and able to provide assemblies that investigate and forge shared values, from a variety of sources. People of different religions and beliefs should learn from, with and attend the same schools as one another but, without having a shared faith, shared worship is an impossibility.’

Compulsory worship has been previously highlighted as theologically incoherent. In July 2014 the then Chair of the Church of England’s national Board of Education, The Rt Revd John Pritchard, noted in a BBC interview while commenting on the school worship laws that ‘worship is by definition a voluntary activity’.

Currently all state funded schools in England and Wales are legally required to hold a daily act of worship. The requirement for non-faith schools is that if not all then at least the majority of the acts of worship must be ‘wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character’. At state funded faith schools the worship provided must be ‘in accordance with the tenets and practices of the religion or religious denomination’ of the school.

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