Daily Worship in Schools – To Opt Out or Not?

There was a discussion in yesterday’s news regarding daily collective worship in schools. This was as a result of a BBC survey which showed that 64% of school children do not attend Christian daily worship.  Many schools are not honouring the statutory requirement to provide daily Christian worship but are instead using assemblies to talk about moral values, community and responsibility.  64% of the adults questioned in the survey believed that the legislation should not be enforced.

This encouraged me to re-evaluate a discussion that we had when our daughter started school.  We are not religious and before our daughter started school she had no concept of religion, God or Jesus . The only time she had attended church was for a wedding  and she  knew nothing about prayers or hymns.  We felt that when she went to school it would be wrong to force her to pray, sing hymns and immerse her in Christian culture, as this did not reflect our beliefs.  We were however, happy for her to learn about all kinds of cultures and religions in R.E lessons so that she could understand that there were an array of beliefs in the world.

We were quite surprised that worship would form a part of her daily school life in a secular school.  Parents of particular faiths had the opportunity to choose faith schools for their children that would reflect their religious culture, but as secular parents we were not given the same options.  Our first reaction therefore was to opt out of collective worship.  The school fought hard to persuade us otherwise.   Eventually we decided to allow her to attend ‘service’ for a number of reasons:

  1. If she didn’t go what would she do instead and who would supervise her?
  2.  We didn’t want her to appear different to the other children in her early days at school.
  3. The content of the service was largely based on non-religious stories, they sang very few hymns and though prayers were said actual praying was optional.

Towards the end of last term my daughter came home a number of times saying that service was boring and I began to question again our decision to let her attend.

She has just entered Junior School so the opportunity to opt out presents itself again. I no longer have the worry about what she will do while assembly is on, she is an avid reader so could occupy herself reading during this time.  Now that she is older and settled with her peers I do not think that she would feel excluded.  I am unsure about the content of assemblies is in her new school so have been unable to make a judgement on this.

I asked my daughter what they did in assembly.  She said that they didn’t pray, they were told stories but they weren’t about God and stuff.  She said that they had a story about Narnia and had talked about School Rules.  I asked her if they sang hymns, ‘What is a hymn?’ she replied.  I explained that it was a song about God or Jesus, she told me that they didn’t.

Is assembly still boring?

It’s ok it’s very short.

If you wanted you could choose not to go to assembly and do something else like read instead.

Her face lit up at this suggestion.

Have a think about it, if you like you can go for a few weeks and see what you think. If you think it is boring or they talk too much about God you could choose not to go.

I have left the final decision with her, she is old enough now to see it for what it is and to make a choice.

I do wonder however how many parents who don’t hold religious beliefs just go along with allowing their children to attend assembly as it is the easy option.  I feel that if we all made a stand in the belief that our children could be doing something more constructive with their time, then schools would begin to challenge the legal requirement.  If schools were faced with a large proportion of children who do not attend assembly and had to work out what to do with those children, then maybe they would make a stand?

I have left the decision with my daughter but am still undecided  as to whether we should make a stand.

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2 Responses to Daily Worship in Schools – To Opt Out or Not?

  1. mishmashmum says:

    Oh my God (no pun intended here!)… I absolutely identify with what you’ve written. I thought I was the only one that this bothered! I specifically sent my son to a secular school because, as an Atheist (I was brought up Catholic, went to a Catholic school etc etc) I did not want my son to have religion forced on him when he was too young to understand. I was so annoyed about this whole collective worship thing when I found out. I don’t have anything against religion, but if I wanted my son to be religious then I would have sent him to a faith school. I did debate about taking him out of assemblies, but how do you explain to a 4 year old that he has to be different to his friends. It just wouldn’t work and I feel that it is unfair to be put into that situation. I absolutely have no problem about my son learning about different religions, as it is important to reduce ignorance and to help break down social barriers, I just don’t see why these kind of assemblies have to happen in non-faith schools!

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  2. I’m so glad someone else shares my dilemma. I remember being really shocked that having chosen not to send my daughter to a faith school she would still have to follow an act of daily worship.
    I was at TEDx the Education Revolution this weekend. Ken Robinson talked about standardisation in education offending diversity – how true in this case!

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