Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Poll finds little support for collective worship in schools

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Do come on over (and change your bookmarks accordingly): rationalist.org.uk

An opinion poll commissioned by the BBC has found that 60 per cent of adults do not support the enforcement of the law requiring a daily act of “broadly Christian worship” in state schools, with 64 per cent of parents polled saying their children's schools do not adhere to the law.

Secularist and humanist campaigners have long argued for the abolition of the law, suggesting that it is incompatible with the diversity of religious and non-religious views in the UK and the freedom of children to reach their own conclusions about religion. Under the law, parents do have the right to withdraw their children from collective worship, and pupils over the age of 16 can withdraw themselves.

Commenting on the poll, the British Humanist Association's chief executive Andrew Copson pointed out that the results highlight the need for reform:
"The continuing requirement to hold collective worship is widely opposed. Teachers don’t want it, parents don’t want it, pupils don’t want it. The fact that so many schools don’t enforce the law shows that the law, as it stands, is not workable. Where it is enforced it is a violation of young people’s right to freedom of religion or belief and a barrier to the development of better, genuinely inclusive, assemblies which would build community and be educationally useful.

Requests for advice in connection with collective worship are the single largest category of advice requests received by us. It is long past time that this law is repealed, and that collective worship is replaced by inclusive assemblies, which can bring together pupils of all beliefs to celebrate shared values and purpose."
If you have any stories about dealing with the collective worship law, either as a pupil, parent or teacher, it would be interesting to hear them, so please do share in the comments. I know from my own time at school that our teachers certainly didn't abide by it, and it seems pretty clear that it's an archaic piece of legislation that could easily be abolished and replaced with something better (although I have to say I don't remember assemblies being of any real benefit myself – interested to hear views on that).

The BHA are running an e-petition encouraging the government to reform the law, which you can sign if you like.
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