Letter: At troubled times like these we need God in our classrooms

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The Independent Online
From Mrs Carol Broomfield Sir: When my school was inspected in the late Eighties, the inspectors pointed out gently, but firmly, that we were breaking the law in not having a daily, collective act of worship. They sympathised with our dilemma. An inner-city school with a multi-racial, multi-cultural population in classroom and staffroom, we had recently embarked upon a massive reorganisation from being a 14-18 school for girls to one which would in five years become an 11-16 institution for girls and boys.

My staff and I were chiefly concerned to provide a good working environment for everyone. Toleration of the views of others was not to be enough. Understanding and respect were what we aimed for. Many hours of discussion followed as we tried to do the best for our pupils and to satisfy the law of the land. The practical problems of trying to fit upwards of 1,000 students into a hall built for 500 girls, to find staff who were willing and able to provide an assembly of a "mainly Christian" kind and to justify the amount of time spent daily in collecting everyone together were never-ending.

In the end, we continued in the way we had started. Our first priority remained to keep us all together. Somehow we managed to dissuade parents from removing their children from our assemblies. The last thing that we wanted in a school trying to build asa "family" was for 30 per cent to go off somewhere else each day for their own religious observance.

A lot of very dedicated people spent many hours creating assemblies that showed the things we all had in common rather than our differences. We celebrated all the major festivals but we continued to break the law, meeting as a whole school, with the utmost difficulty, and only a passing regard for the fire laws, on only one day each week.

Semi-retired now, I watch my colleagues continue to struggle with the problem. I am certain that we should teach an understanding of the meaning of the leading religions in school, but that parents should take the final responsibility for worship.

Yours sincerely, CAROL BROOMFIELD London, SE3

The writer was formerly headmistress of Leytonstone School, Waltham Forest