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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Collective Worship in schools is long overdue for abolition, and parents agree

“This survey simply reflects the general loss of interest in organised religion throughout society as a whole, and the Government should acknowledge that the time has come to stop compulsory worship" – Keith Porteous Wood, NSS Executive Director.

Supporters of the National Secular Society in the House of Lords recently tabled amendments on our behalf to make Collective Worship optional in community schools. The justification for this is strengthened by today’s BBC commissioned COMRES poll that shows 64% of parents say that their children do not attend a daily act of collective worship at their school and 60 % believe the requirement to provide a daily act of collective worship should not be enforced.

The National Secular Society’s Executive Director, Keith Porteous Wood commented: “As the BBC survey confirms, the law requiring daily collective worship is being widely flouted, which shows that it is time for it to be reviewed - and, in this case, repealed.

“England is the only country in the western world to enforce participation in daily worship in community schools. To do so goes beyond the legitimate function of the state and is an abuse of children’s human rights, especially those who are old enough to make decisions for themselves. That is why we have arranged for the tabling of an amendment in the Education Bill to make such worship entirely optional.

“This survey simply reflects the general loss of interest in organised religion throughout society as a whole, and the Government should acknowledge that the time has come to stop compulsory worship.

“At present, unless a parent actively exempts them, the law requires that pupils “take part in” in an act of worship every day, whether they want to or not. This is an abuse of the children’s human rights – nobody should be forced to worship if it is against their conscience.

“The teaching unions and other educationists have called for the abolition of compulsory worship and, in the light of this new evidence, we would support that move. The burden of providing this outdated requirement is obviously beyond the resources of many schools and causing unease in the teachers who have no desire to actively participate in religion."

The National Secular Society’s amendments were discussed as part of the Education Bill (starts at amendment 92)


Summary of findings prepared by COMRES

Overall summary, a majority of parents (six in ten) state that their children do not attend daily acts of collective worship in school. A similar proportion of the public overall state that the requirement to do so should not be enforced.

Q1 – Parents in England

  • A clear majority of parents (64%) say that their child / children do not attend a daily act of collective worship at their school.
  • Less than three in ten (28%) parents say that their child does attend such events at school.
  • Proportions are consistent across different regions of England.
  • Notable differences in social grade, with 37% of parents in grades DE stating that their children do attend acts of collective worship at school, compared with just 18% of those in C2.

Q2 – General public in England

  • A majority (60%) believe the requirement to provide a daily act of collective worship should not be enforced.
  • However, more than a third of the English public (36%) believe that it should be enforced.
  • Most notably, those without children in their household are more likely than those with children in their household to believe the requirement should be enforced. 30% of those with children believe it should be enforced compared with 39% of those without children.
  • The eldest members of the public are more likely to agree that this should be enforced than the youngest. A majority (51%) of those aged 65 and older believe it should be enforced, compared to less than three in ten (29%) of 18-24 year olds.
  • There is a trend by social grade, where those in the lowest social grades (DE) are more likely than those in the highest social grades (AB) to believe the practice should be enforced – 46% DE compared with 31% AB.

Also see:

Even the Church of England knows that collective worship in schools is unjustifiable

Published Tue, 06 Sep 2011