Most (98%) primary schools do hold an act of collective worship within daily school assemblies. In secondary schools the legal requirement for daily collective worship is honoured more in the breach than the observance, with perhaps 80% not complying. The ComRes survey for BBC local radio recently found that 64% of the 500 parents questioned said their child did not attend daily collective worship in school. Of the 1,743 adults asked 60% said the leglislation should not be enforced. It seems that collective daily worship in schools is in decline and not considered important by many.
The British Humanist Society has long been compaigning for the abolition of this law. But many Christians and Muslims also think this requirement should go. For example Archdruid Eileen is a Christian who thinks:
"it may be time to scrap the whole misguided state-inculcated religion campaign in non-faith schools. It's unfair to teachers, who could gain an extra fifteen minutes scanning the Guardian job ads and eating biscuits. It merely innoculates children, who come to see low-grade drivel of a broadly deistic nature as what "religion" is all about. And I'm not sure what God gets out of it either."Simon Barrow, co-director of Ekklesia commented a while ago that the ideas of compulsion and worship are mutually exclusive and
"...seeking to enforce prayers by law is offensive to the non-conformist Christian conscience, as well as to many of other faith traditions and to non-believers."Authentic acts of spiritual devotion are freely offered and freely entered into expressions of commitment. Making them a civic requirement is inappropriate and unhelpful, confusing the different responsibilities of specifically religious bodies on the one hand, and publicly-funded educational bodies open to people of all faiths and none on the other."The issue here is not about whether you are a believer or a non-believer of a certain kind. It is a matter of common commitment to freedom of belief. It should not be the role of the state to enforce or prohibit worship."My view is that not doing it is better than doing it so badly that children are inoculated against Christian worship (or any other form) for life. But doing it well can provide children with an immensely rich experience which promotes children's spiritual, moral and social development, including understanding of other faiths. 'Collective worship' allows children of all faiths and none to come together for a time set aside for reflection. It is not 'corporate worship' where the expectation might be that all share the same beliefs and expect to engage fully with the prayers etc.
I'm grateful that the school I attended provided a high quality of daily worship, led by teachers who actually believed in what they were doing. This was not brain washing as we were also encouraged to think for ourselves and question everything, which I did. It was an oasis of calm, a time to be still and focus on something greater than But not all schools are like that and many teachers are put under pressure to lead worship without having a heart for it or indeed the skills and knowledge.
Should the law be changed? If so, how? Or should there be more encouragement (not co-ercion) for schools to fulfill their obligations? If so, what?
Image Credit: 3 Girls Praying from art.co.uk