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.
Find out more
Wed, 14 Sep 2016 08:11
The Humanist Society Scotland (HSS) has launched a judicial review against the Scottish Government following its refusal to allow sixth form pupils to opt themselves out of Religious Observance.
Open letter to Education Secretary: Government must respect children’s rights and abolish collective worship requirement
Fri, 17 Jun 2016 10:49
Thirty campaigners, including academics, MPs, peers and educators, have called on the Government to abolish the law requiring Christian worship in English schools, following criticism of the practice from the UN.
Fri, 10 Jun 2016 07:29
A UN committee has urged the UK to repeal laws requiring the provision of 'broadly Christian' worship in UK schools. It also called for pupils to be given the independent right of withdrawal from any religious worship held in schools.
Woolf Commission’s multifaithism 'completely at odds with the religious indifference that permeates British society'
Mon, 07 Dec 2015 06:52
The National Secular Society has criticised a new report on the role of religion and belief in public life for calling for a multi-faith approach "completely at odds with the religious indifference that permeates British society."
Fri, 13 Nov 2015 00:03
Senior academics have warned of "significant concerns" about the imposition of collective worship in non-religious schools – arguing that it may violate the right to freedom of religion and belief.
Tue, 22 Sep 2015 16:07
A Sixth Form student has started a campaign against collective worship in Northern Ireland, from which pupils currently have no right to withdraw without parental consent.
Tue, 02 Dec 2014 09:25
The Department for Education has published new guidance for schools on the promotion of "fundamental British values".
Thu, 27 Nov 2014 21:10
The role of religion in schools has come under scrutiny during a House of Lords debate on the role of religion and belief in public life.
Thu, 30 Oct 2014 14:40
The National Secular Society has called on the Welsh government to review the legal requirement on schools to provide worship after parents expressed concern about prayers being imposed on children in non-denominational schools.
Wed, 15 Oct 2014 11:06
A school placed in special measures following the Birmingham 'Trojan Horse' affair has received 100 letters from parents requesting that their children be withdrawn from collective worship, it has emerged.