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Acts of worship in school are inappropriate, Humanists argue

27 August 2019

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THE results of a new poll suggest that half of the people in Britain do not believe that acts of religious worship are appropriate for state school assemblies, Humanists UK have argued.

In a survey of 1613 British adults, conducted by YouGuv earlier this month, 50 per cent of the respondents thought that acts of religious worship were not appropriate for school assemblies while 28 per cent thought that they were. Of the 241 parents of school-aged children in the survey, 51 per cent thought that religious worship was inappropriate for assemblies.

Only 46 per cent of those who identified as Christian said that religious worship would be an appropriate topic.

The poll followed the granting of a judicial review to a couple, Lee and Lizanne Harris, who withdrew their children from assemblies at Burford Primary School, in Oxfordshire, because they included acts of Christian worship (News, 2 August).

Earlier this month, the chief education officer of the Church of England, the Revd Nigel Genders, said that collective Christian worship at non-faith schools is not “religious indoctrination” but a chance for children to explore and develop spirituality.

He wrote: “There is much evidence of the value of collective worship to children and young people, which is why thousands of community schools also have strong partnerships with local churches and faith groups. What happens in schools must be evidence-based, and should not be in response to secular pressure-group campaigns.”

In place of acts of worship, 79 per cent of people said that they would find environment and nature an appropriate topic for assembly, and 75 per cent thought that physical and mental health, or a celebration of achievements, would be an appropriate topic.

Almost half, 48 per cent, of those polled said that education about religion and beliefs would be appropriate for an assembly.

The Revd Stephen Terry, who chairs the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, said: “It is time that the laws demanding daily Christian worship in all state-funded schools are reviewed and replaced. They are divisive, anachronistic, and a barrier to schools’ providing stimulating and inspiring assemblies that are genuinely inclusive.”

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