Col­lec­tive wor­ship in schools called into ques­tion

The Church of England - - NEWS -

THE PLACE of col­lec­tive wor­ship in schools has been called into ques­tion.

A new Arts and Hu­man­i­ties Re­search Coun­cil-funded report ques­tions the premise of a na­tion­ally ob­served Col­lec­tive Wor­ship duty in state schools.

The report asks if there is a ra­tio­nale for such a duty based on the per­sonal needs of pupils, ed­u­ca­tional or so­cial needs of the school, wider so­ci­ety, or a mix­ture of these, and whether those needs can be met through des­ig­nated as­sem­blies or ad­e­quately ful­filled through the cur­ricu­lum.

The De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion is­sues guide­lines for schools in Eng­land, but the report points out that this has no le­gal ba­sis. There is no guid­ance is­sued in North­ern Ire­land, in Scot­land the guid­ance has a ‘lack of clar­ity’ while in Wales there was a lack of data avail­able.

The report says that a so­lu­tion could be to abol­ish col­lec­tive wor­ship or re­li­gious ob­ser­vance, leav­ing schools to choose whether to host ‘ex­tended as­sem­blies’ to pro­mote ed­u­ca­tional val­ues.

The report fo­cuses on schools with­out a spe­cific re­li­gious char­ac­ter.

It also sug­gests another op­tion of a ‘Re­form Duty’, which would in­clude Eng­land and Wales re­mov­ing the re­quire­ment that acts of col­lec­tive wor­ship be of ‘a broadly Chris­tian Char­ac­ter’, in­tro­duced by the Ed­u­ca­tion Re­form Act 1988.

Chair of the Ac­cord Coali­tion, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, told The Church of Eng­land News­pa­per that the fact of the Church of Eng­land be­ing the es­tab­lished state church in Eng­land should in­form lessons of cul­ture and his­tory, rather than acts of wor­ship in schools, which are places for knowl­edge and ob­jec­tives.

Dr Romain said there should be times of com­ing to­gether in­formed by core val­ues of trust, tol­er­ance and re­spect, and that there could be re­li­gious read­ings and sec­u­lar po­ems in schools but not in the con­text of wor­ship.

“As­sem­blies can have a pos­i­tive role as a time of shared val­ues and com­mu­nal to­geth­er­ness but should not be a di­vi­sive im­po­si­tion of re­li­gious wor­ship,” he said.

The report also says any changes should in­clude an ‘opt out’ clause for pupils wish­ing to with­draw from col­lec­tive wor­ship or re­li­gious ob­ser­vance, a ‘mon­i­tor­ing mech­a­nism’ in North­ern Ire­land, and clearer guid­ance from Of­sted.

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