John Sutton, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, called on school inspectors to 'turn the searchlight off' and stop criticising them for failing to deliver collective worship.
He said a change in the law was needed and that schools were following the spirit of the law, if not its letter, by taking a positive approach.
The union is unhappy that in recent reports Ofsted, the schools inspectorate, has found that schools, which are otherwise doing a good job, are not complying fully with the law.
'We want the requirement for collective worship to be lifted,' Mr Sutton said. 'We are not against worship in schools. But we want it to be left to schools and their governors to decide what is best for them.'
Malcolm Hewitt, the immediate past president of the association and a committed Methodist, said: 'My school cannot deliver assemblies on a daily basis because every member of staff has a right to opt out. This quaint idea of a local clergymen coming in and taking assembly just does not work.'
Mr Sutton said: 'In practically every school in the land, assemblies are taking place. But the inspectors cannot in the course of a week assess that school in terms of its spiritual development.
'It is just not possible in most secondary schools to provide a daily act of worship for all pupils. In the Forties, when the 1944 Education Act was passed, there was a broad assumption that it was a Christian country, and Christianity was the religion of the overwhelming majority of people. That is not a proposition to which many people would now adhere.'
The National Association of Head Teachers told the pay review body yesterday that salaries must be brought more in line with those in industry and the service sectors. Heads' salaries should range from pounds 29,097 to pounds 49,509, compared with pounds 26,079 to pounds 45,981 now, it said.Reuse content