BHA welcomes Government removing its endorsement from guidance on Collective Worship

The Department for Education (DfE) has announced that it no longer views Circular 1/94, its guidance on Collective Worship in schools, as its official advice on the matter. Instead, schools can choose whether or not to follow the document when forming their policy on Collective Worship. The British Humanist Association (BHA), which has long opposed the document as divisive and outdated, welcomes the news.

In a joint statement issued last month by the National Association of Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education (NASACRE) and the Association of Religious Education Inspectors, Advisors and Consultants (AREIAC), announced that: ‘Since March of this year NASACRE and AREIAC have been in contact with the Department for Education regarding the status of Circular 1/94 with respect to what this Circular says about collective worship. In the course of this correspondence it has been made clear that 1/94 has no legal or semi legal status, nor does the Circular have a quasi-legal status. It does not represent the Government’s official advice on collective worship which schools are in some sense obliged to follow. Officials state that in this area local determination is a key strength and for this reason all schools and Academies can choose whether or not to use Circular.’

NASACRE Chair Bruce Gill told the TES that ‘There was a feeling for many practising in schools that the guidance was restricting their flexibility to respond to the diversity of their pupils. People felt shackled by this document.’

However, the DfE does not consider the guidance to have been withdrawn entirely, and is still endorsing it as ‘current’ on their website.

BHA Education Campaigner Richy Thompson commented, ‘We welcome the fact that Circular 1/94 is no longer considered to be Government advice on the matter. The reactionary document required Collective Worship in schools which are not “faith” schools to “contain some elements which relate specifically to the traditions of Christian belief and which accord a special status to Jesus Christ.” That this is no longer the DfE’s advice is a positive step.

‘However, more work needs to be done to encourage the Government to withdraw the guidance entirely, perhaps producing more inclusive guidance or, better yet, replacing the continuing legal requirement for all state schools to have daily Collective Worship with a requirement for inspiring assemblies which are inclusive to all, regardless of religion or belief. This reform grows ever more urgent in the increasingly diverse society we live in.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7462 4993.

Read NASACRE and AREIAC’s joint statement:  http://www.humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/nasacre-and-areiac-joint-statement-oct-2012.doc

Read today’s TES report: http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6300167

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on Collective Worship: http://www.humanism.org.uk/campaigns/religion-and-schools/worship-in-schools

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.