An increasing number of schools are opting out of Christian worship in school assemblies in favour of multi-faith alternatives. Currently all state funded schools in England and Wales are legally required to hold a daily act of worship of a ‘broadly Christian nature’. It’s been reported that 42 schools have successfully applied to their local Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE) board to opt out of the collective worship in the past 3 years, with many requesting to hold “multi-faith” assemblies instead. Rev Steven Terry from the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education said it is culturally inappropriate to require children of all faiths and none to adhere to this law.
Rev Terry went on “I think this is welcome news. We live in an increasingly diverse society and to have a situation where we’re still required by law to offer a daily act of worship of a broadly Christian character is increasingly inappropriate, given how many different cultures and different faiths systems are now represented in our society today.” Terry was optimistic however that Christianity still had a place within schools but went on to say that an exposure to different beliefs provides a realistic and balanced education for children. “We’re not taking Christianity out of schools. We are however allotting it a proper place within the context of a multi faith community.
“We shouldn’t feel threatened as a Christian by having other faith systems or non-belief systems, like humanism, discussed in an educational context. Educators are there to teach our children and young people about the world as it is, not about the world as we would like it to be.” Of the 134 local authorities to respond to a Freedom of Information request from Schools Week, 12 had received applications from schools in the past 3 years to change their collective worship. Only one school opted for assemblies of no faith. Another School was given permission to run a combination of alternative faith, multi-faith and no faith elements throughout each week.
Director of the Catholic Education Service, Paul Barber told Premier he believes a daily act of worship should be upheld within schools. “Collective worship is really important in a well-rounded education. “It’s important that the culture into which our pupils in all schools are inculcated is something that has as its basis, the shared culture of our country. And many of the values that we have, as a country come from our Christian heritage.” Barber went on to say that the Christian story is integral to a British education and stressed that its omission “is lacking something and potentially failing our children”.
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