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BHA welcomes Church of England backing on the abolition of compulsory worship

The BHA has welcomed calls by the Church of England’s leading education spokesperson to end the legal requirement for schools to provide compulsory opportunities for collective Christian worship. The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev John Pritchard, who chairs the Church of England’s Board of Education, said that compulsory Christian worship no longer reflects the ‘mood of the nation’ and has become spiritually redundant. Schools are still currently obligated to offer worship of a ‘wholly or broadly Christian character’ under the 1944 Education Act.

The BHA has welcomed Bishop Pritchard’s intervention, which came just a week after the National Governors’ Association argued that the collective worship requirement has become ‘meaningless’ as schools have become more diverse and that teachers are increasingly ‘unable or unwilling’ to enforce it. Both sets of comments represent an important victory for the BHA’s longstanding campaign to have the requirement scrapped.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented ‘The continued operation of this 70-year-old law requiring daily Christian worship in schools is widely opposed. Teachers don’t want it, parents don’t want it, pupils don’t want it, and according to opinion polls, 60% of the public don’t want it. Now the national body for governors is saying they don’t want it either.

‘We are contacted every week by parents with complaints and concerns at their children experiencing proselytising in school, with children as young as four coming home and telling their non-religious parents they believe in God, or being distressed at age-inappropriate tales about hell, or feeling excluded from a part of school life after having been opted out by their parents who for reasons of conscience have had no other choice.

‘In a plural and fair-minded society that cares about children and their development, schools should be holding inclusive assemblies that forward the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of all pupils and staff, regardless of their religious or non-religious beliefs. The BHA will continue to push for legislative reform around this issue.’

Notes

For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs, at pavan@humanism.org.uk or on 0773 843 5059.

Read more about the BHA’s work on Collective Worship: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/collective-worship/

The last public opinion poll on Collective Worship was in 2011. For more information: https://humanism.org.uk/2011/09/06/news-235-3/

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.

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