Your rights: Withdrawal from RE and Collective Worship
The National Secular Society would like to see an end to compulsory worship and proselytising RE lessons removed from the school timetable.
One of the major arguments against this removal is that it would be a disservice to pupils not to teach them at least the basics about the world's different religions. Most secularists would be happy with pupils being taught about world beliefs, provided that no one religion was given special preference or presented as the 'right' one and that the non-religious position was also covered (and given no less respect than the religious ones). Because of the Government's preoccupation with religion, campaigns to drastically reform RE and scrap compulsory worship are unlikely to succeed in the short-term.
Secular parents therefore need to consider the best option currently available, however unsatisfactory. Withdrawal is one possibility.
In England and Wales Parents have the statutory right under Section 71 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998to withdraw their children from RE lessons and acts of Collective Worship at all maintained schools, including faith schools. Parents are not obliged to give a reason for requesting withdrawal.
The parental right to withdraw a child should be freely exercisable and the school must give effect to any such request.
Currently, very few parents exercise this right. Many parents are reluctant to separate their child from classmates. Also, while schools are supposed to keep worship separate from other elements of assembly, many schools fail to do this, and parents may not wish for their child to miss the entire assembly.
Before exercising any right of withdrawal we would recommend discussing your concerns with the Head Teacher.
We would also only recommend withdrawal only if the child is genuinely keen on the idea themselves. Parents may also want to consider their motives in this. It would be all too easy for parents frustrated at RE and CW to unwittingly draw children into their own battle with the school.
Requests for withdrawals are best made in writing, the simple text below should be perfectly adequate.
As parents of [Child's name] we formally request that he/she is withdrawn from worship/RE of any kind in future, without any detriment.
If you experience any difficulty or obstruction in exercising your right of withdrawal, or have any specific concerns about RE or Collective Worship in a particular school, we would like to hear from you.
Sixth Form Pupils
Sixth-form pupils at mainstream schools and maintained special schools are able withdraw themselves from collective worship, without the need for a parent's permission. Section 55 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 amended section 71 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 to ensure the right of sixth-form pupils to be excused from attendance at religious worship if they request so.