Christian assemblies in non-religious state schools should be scrapped, partly because staff are “unable or unwilling” to lead pupils in prayer, according to the National Governors’ Association (NGA).
In a policy statement, the body said the legal requirement for schools to provide Christian worship every day – part of the 1944 Education Act – was “meaningless” for schoolchildren who were not Christians and added that many schools did not have a room large enough to gather everyone together.
The NGA said schools were “not places of worship but places of education” and “the worship of a religion or religions in all schools should not be … compulsory”.
“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,” it said, according to The Daily Telegraph.
“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 NGA said dropping collective Christian worship from schools’ remit would “not prevent them from holding assemblies that address a whole range of topics, including faith and belief”.
“In addition, it does not alter our position on religious education; it is important that students should continue to be taught a broad and balanced curriculum that encourages a knowledge and understanding of all faiths,” the statement added.
The British Humanist Association welcomed the NGA’s comments, saying schools should be “holding inclusive assemblies that forward the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of all pupils and staff”.
It appears many schools are in breach of the 1944 act with two-thirds of parents surveyed in 2011 saying their children did not take part in collective worship every day.
The Church of England has said dropping Christian assemblies would “deny children the opportunity to experience something they wouldn’t experience elsewhere in their lives”.