The National Governors’ Association (NGA) recently proposed “that collective worship should be abolished in schools without a designated religious character.”
In a statement that is both very welcome and long overdue, the NGA explained: “Few schools can or do meet the current legislative requirement for a daily act of collective worship, partly because there isn’t space in most schools to gather students together, and often staff are unable or unwilling to lead a collective worship session. There is also the added issue that worship implies belief in a particular faith – if the ‘act of worship’ is not in your faith then it is meaningless as an act of worship. 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. This is different in schools with a religious character – as faith schools are termed in the legislation – where parents have chosen to send their child in the knowledge that the particular faith and its worship is at the core of the ethos of the school…. It is important that students should continue to be taught a broad and balanced curriculum that encourages a knowledge and understanding of all faiths.”
As things stand at present, Christian worship is compulsory in our state schools. Since 1944, the law has required all schools, even non-faith schools, to hold an act of collective worship every day, which must be ‘broadly Christian’ in character. This is ridiculous and anachronistic. Learning about the world’s various religions, along with all the important secular philosophies, is an appropriate element of education. Worship is not.
It reinforces a cultural and religious identity to the exclusion of others and fails to prepare children for a diverse society. But, worse than that, it narrows children’s horizons. And for that reason alone, it should be jettisoned by the education authorities as soon as possible.