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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Collective Worship

The National Secular Society seeks an end to the law that requires schools to hold acts of worship. We would instead like to see a duty on schools to ensure that all aspects of its curriculum, including assemblies, are respectful and inclusive of all pupils, regardless of their religion or belief, including non-belief.

School assemblies are an important feature of school life. Inclusive assemblies can play an important role in fostering a sense of community in schools. Assemblies with an ethical dimension are also an ideal time within the school day to promote the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils.

Acts of worship are neither necessary or desirable to achieve these important educational goals.

The law in England and Wales provides that children at all maintained schools "shall on each school day take part in an act of collective worship". Even in schools with no religious designation, the worship must be "wholly or mainly of a Christian character".

The law as it stands is an anachronism; the legacy of a society unrecognisable from the diverse and pluralistic Britain of today where citizens hold a wide variety of religious beliefs, and increasingly, no religious beliefs.

Particularly in non-faith schools, school communities are made up pupils from a variety of religion and belief backgrounds. Even with limited withdrawal rights, requiring acts of 'broadly Christian' worship, in which pupils by law are required to "take part", undermines young people's freedom of religion or belief.

We maintain that laws that mandate worship go beyond the legitimate function of the state. It is notable that the United Kingdom is the only Western democracy to legally impose worship in publicly funded schools.

We therefore campaign for the obligation on schools to provide acts of worship to be lifted, enabling them to provide meaningful and relevant assemblies for all pupils, regardless of their religion or belief background.

Take action!

Sign the petition calling for an end to compulsory worship in schools

With political parties developing their education policies ahead of the 2015 general election, we're calling on them all to make a commitment to removing the requirement on schools to hold acts of worship in their future plans for education.

Sign the petition calling for an end to compulsory worship in schools

Find out more

Related News

Calls for national debate over collective worship requirement in schools

Calls for national debate over collective worship requirement in schools

Wed, 10 Sep 2014 15:33

Renewed calls have been made for a national debate about the requirement on schools to hold acts of collective worship. The calls came during an Education Committee evidence session on extremism in schools.

New petition calls for an end to compulsory worship in schools

New petition calls for an end to compulsory worship in schools

Thu, 10 Jul 2014 11:13

With parties developing their education policies ahead of next year's general election, a new petition is calling on the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats to commit to ending compulsory worship in schools.

Compulsory Christian worship should be reframed as ‘spiritual reflection’, says Church of England education chief

Compulsory Christian worship should be reframed as ‘spiritual reflection’, says Church of England education chief

Tue, 08 Jul 2014 09:18

The legal requirement for schools to provide a daily act of 'broadly Christian' collective worship should be replaced with "spiritual reflection" drawing mainly on the Christian faith, the Church of England's head of education has said.

School governors’ body recommends abolition of collective worship law

School governors’ body recommends abolition of collective worship law

Mon, 30 Jun 2014 10:30

The National Governors' Association, which represents 300,000 school governors in England, has become the latest body to recommend that the religious element of daily school assemblies should be scrapped.

American Christian group demand right to deliver “inspirational messages” in school assemblies

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Tue, 06 Aug 2013 16:33

A group promoting fundamentalist Christian values in the United States is demanding the right to deliver "inspirational messages" during public school assemblies.

Edinburgh secularists back bid to abolish religious observance in schools

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Thu, 21 Feb 2013 10:43

An Edinburgh parent has launched a petition requesting that City of Edinburgh Council conducts a local vote to challenge "religious observance" in the city's non-denominational state schools.

Government confirms school worship guidance can be ignored

Government confirms school worship guidance can be ignored

Fri, 09 Nov 2012 12:24

The Department for Education has confirmed that its own controversial guidance on collective worship can be ignored by schools. The guidance stipulates that worship in schools "should be concerned with reverence or veneration paid to a divine being or power."

Lady Massey asks why children are forced into collective worship

Lady Massey asks why children are forced into collective worship

Thu, 29 Mar 2012 11:50

Baroness Massey of Darwen has asked a Parliamentary Question in the House of Lords about whether allowing non-religious parents to withdraw their children from collective worship is an adequate alternative to having their children attend worship.

Church of England schools flouting daily worship law

Church of England schools flouting daily worship law

Fri, 02 Mar 2012 13:57

A survey by The Sunday Times has found that 40% of Church of England 'faith schools' are flouting the law that requires all state funded schools to provide a daily act of collective worship.

Education Bill: Peers oppose proposals to make worship optional in schools

Education Bill: Peers oppose proposals to make worship optional in schools

Fri, 28 Oct 2011 10:59

Peers in the House of Lords this week rejected moves to make collective worship in schools optional, rather than compulsory. The amendments were moved by NSS Honorary Associate Lord Avebury during the Report Stage of the Education Bill.