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DfE sticks by Christian worship

16 November 2012


Collected: more than 300 children from Church of England primary schools across the London Borough of Camden celebrate the festival of All Saints, at Old St Pancras church, last Friday. The prayers, led by the children, reflected the diversity of Camden Church schools, and gave thanks for the care and concern demonstrated by churches and mosques. The children were welcomed into the church by the Vicar of St Pancras, the Revd Anne Stephens, and the Bishop of Edmonton, and were joined by councillor Nasim Ali, Camden's Cabinet Member for Young People

Collected: more than 300 children from Church of England primary schools across the London Borough of Camden celebrate the festival of All Saints, a...

THE Department for Education (DfE) confirmed this week that it had not withdrawn Circular 1/94, which provides guidance to schools on collective worship. The circular says that, in most schools, special attention should be paid to the person and status of Jesus.

The DfE statement was issued after two religious-education organisations suggested that schools should ignore the guidance.

A statement from the association that represents RE advisers, AREIAC, and the association of local authority RE watchdogs, NASACRE, says that, in attempting to meet the legal requirement for collective worship, many institutions experience difficulties that stem from statements in the circular.

"For this reason NASACRE and AREIAC advise that schools should not use Circular 1/94, but . . . should be guided by the legal requirements set out in the 1988 Education Reform Act (ERA)."

The circular, which has been questioned since it was first issued in 1994, attempted to clarify the 1988 Act, which states that collective worship should be "broadly and mainly Christian" in character, but allows schools with large numbers of minority-faith pupils to opt out of its requirements.

AREIAC and NASACRE failed in an attempt last year to have the circular withdrawn. Their statement says, however, that in discussion with DfE officials, their representatives were told that schools could choose whether or not to use the guidance.

This week, however, a DfE spokesman said: "DfE policy has not changed at all. The law also has not changed and remains perfectly clear: all schools must hold a daily act of collective worship which must be broadly Christian. The only exception is for schools which have chosen to follow another faith."

The author of the RE advisers' statement, Dilwyn Hunt, admitted that AREIAC's 150 members were not unanimous in seeking the withdrawal of the circular. A spokesman for the RE Council, of which ARIEAC and NASACRE are members, said that it had "distanced" itself from it.

A Church of England spokesman said: "This long-standing guidance has always been effectively interpreted by both church and community schools for pupils of all faiths and none." He "would expect all schools to include" Jesus in their worship.

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