Following media inquiries about the policy in place in the London borough of Brent on the daily act of collective worship, the Revd Nigel Genders, the Church of England’s Chief Education Officer issued a statement which is reproduced below:
Statement on collective worship in schools
Following media inquiries about a policy in place in one London borough on the daily act of collective worship, the Revd Nigel Genders, the Church of England’s Chief Education Officer, said:
“It has long been a legal requirement for schools to provide a daily act of collective worship.
“But schools tell us that, quite apart from any legal obligation, daily collective worship has proved a powerful tool in bringing pupils together, giving them a rare opportunity to pause and reflect in the midst of a busy day.
“The policy in Brent, which is not new, is not the formal removal of that requirement, as has been claimed – far from it.
“It is already open to schools to apply for a determination to lift the requirement that collective worship be ‘wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character’.
“In this case the council simply encourages schools to do that, to ensure that collective worship reflects children’s different backgrounds.
“Efforts to encourage schools to take collective worship seriously and make it meaningful to pupils are welcome.
“Indeed, even without applying for a determination, the law already allows schools wide scope for different acts of worship.
“Around one million children in England – a quarter of primary pupils and one in 16 secondary students – attend Church of England schools where worship is and will remain Christian.”
On 28 February, the Daily Telegraph carried the headline State schools could scrap Christian assemblies after London council changes rules and indicated that schools in Brent are being encouraged to scrap Christian-only worship in assemblies. Brent is thought to be the first council to be adopting this policy. It is one of the most ethnically diverse boroughs in the country, and figures in the 2011 census indicated that Brent’s population was: 41 per cent Christian, 18.6 per cent Muslim and 17.8 per cent Hindu.
Brent Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education in fact adopted a similar (maybe identical) policy in the immediate aftermath of the 1988 Education Reform Act, encouraging all their governing bodies to apply, after consultation with parents, for ‘determinations’ on a model prepared by the SACRE that recognised the variety of religious and non-religious belief in the borough.
Parents have three quarters of their children’s waking hours to engage them in religious worship if they so choose. The religion industry is sensitive to this issue because it wishes to make the strange act of attempting to communicate with supernatural entities appear normal, particularly in an educational context, so is anxious to compel all children to participate in this futile behaviour. It is indoctrination of captive, susceptible children.