Teachers say end school daily prayers

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The Independent Online
Britain's most conservative teaching union yesterday called for an end to compulsory daily worship in schools.

The law obliging schools to hold religious assemblies each day should be changed to require collective worship only once a week, the Professional Association of Teachers annual conference in Glasgow declared.

A relaxation in the law would merely reflect what is already happening in schools, many teachers believe. Nearly half of all secondary schools do not hold daily religious assemblies, because they have neither the space nor the teachers willing to conduct them.

Only two months ago, the National Association of Head Teachers also voted at its annual conference for legal change to end schools' obligation to hold morning prayers.

The PAT backed calls for change despite passionate appeals from some delegates to bolster the place of religion in schools.

Retired headteacher and clergyman, Hywel Lewis, said declining Sunday school attendance meant children came to school "knowing nothing about God or Jesus Christ. They don't even know the Lord's Prayer".

The Rev Lewis, from Cardiff, said daily religious assemblies also provided a vital opportunity to bring everyone in a school together once every day to reinforce its ethos.

Kim Riley, a student teacher from Manchester, feared that a change in the law would lead to even fewer religious services in schools.

"If we specify a minimum of once a week, my fear is that this will be seen as an excuse in some schools not to have any collective worship at all."

But Caroline Wigmore, a teacher at Poplar First School, Merton, south London, said that enforcing an unenforcable law was "sacrificing quality to quantity".

And a Leicester headteacher, Pam Weston, pointed out that teaching about religion was enshrined in the school curriculum through compulsory religious education.

"Collective worship is a different thing, and it gives lots of schools lots of problems - particularly those which have a number of other faiths represented in their pupils," she said.