Calls to remove mandatory daily Christian worship in schools
Former high court judge, Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, has led a report by the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life which recommends scrapping the legal requirement to provide daily acts of worship of a Christian character and putting an end to any segregation of children by faith in British schools. The report points out that the teaching of belief needs to be updated to make it relevant as the UK becomes increasingly diverse and secular.
The report proposes to repeal the legal requirement for state schools to hold daily acts of collective worship that are wholly or mainly of a Christian character, currently required by the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. Whilst non-Christian faith schools can choose other forms of worship, the report recommends a 'time for reflection' in all schools which would be inclusive of all religions and those with no faith.
Many have supported the move to remove the requirement, such as Charles Clarke, former education secretary, who said that it should be a decision for the governors of individual schools to decide how best to deliver school assemblies.
There are concerns highlighted in the report about the negative impact of selection by religion in faith schools leading to a segregation of religions and an indirect segregation by ethnicity and socio-economic background.
The report also raises concerns of how religion is taught in schools, focusing only on the positive side of religions and not offering a balanced view. It also states that syllabuses should reflect the diversity of all religions in the UK as well as non-religious views. The high court last month found that courses should be varied, ruling in favour of families challenging the exclusion of non-religious worldviews in the government's new religious studies GCSE syllabus.
Whilst there are no solid plans for any repeal or changes at this stage, given the high profile of those involved in the report, it is likely to be influential.