Collective worship is fit for the scrapheap

Collective worship is fit for the scrapheap

Former UK Education Secretary Charles Clarke, above, has called for the abolition of collective worship in schools.

A study he has co-authored with Linda Woodhead, professor of sociology of religion at Lancaster University, argues that the requirement has failed to keep up with changes in attitudes to religion since it was introduced in the 1940s.

Clarke says it can no longer be enforced – but calls for the compulsory teaching of religious literacy.

The study says there needs to be a “new settlement” in the relationship between religion and schools, arguing that the obligation for a compulsory act of worship is often not really fulfilled.

However, there is a “nod and wink culture” about not admitting this.

The report, published as part of the Westminster Faith Debates about religion and values, says that schools should be allowed to make their own decisions about how to hold such a morning assembly and what should be included.

Clarke says that even though many heads have not wanted to carry out such an act of worship there has been a political reluctance to grasp the nettle.

The reason there has been no change in 70 years is that politicians have been very wary of dipping their toes in this debate.

But the report argues that there should be a stronger and more relevant form of religious education in schools, which should be compulsory for all schools and include non-religious beliefs, such as humanism.

These lessons in religious literacy would teach pupils about different faiths and involve visits to different places of worship.

The concerns about radicalisation and fundamentalism meant that this was a very necessary lesson, said Clarke.

It was important to teach about mainstream, moderate interpretations of religion, rather than:

Letting extremists dominate the argument. It is very important to grow up knowing what faith is and what faith is not. Religious questions keep coming up in the news, there needs to be an understanding of it.

The report also looks at the place of faith schools and concludes that the right for parents to send their children to such schools should be protected.

Clarke described this as a “fundamental right” and unlikely to be something that any government would challenge.

Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, welcomed the call for a review of the place of religions and non-religious worldviews in school.

Since the current arrangements were made in the 1940s, he said, society had:

Changed beyond recognition and yet the education system is fossilised.

John Hall, the Anglican dean of Westminster, said:

The place of religion in education is contested but there is no doubt that young people need a far better understanding than they currently have of the powerful motive force that is religious – and non-religious – faith, for good and ill.

And they need to develop spirituality and morality.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said that religious education is:

Vitally important to help children develop the British values of tolerance, respect and understanding for others.

It prepares young people for life in modern Britain and that is why it remains compulsory at all key stages. All locally agreed RE syllabuses must be broad, balanced and reflect the teaching and practices of principal religions.

She said that faith schools were:

An important part of our diverse education system, allowing parents to choose to have their child educated in line with the tenets of a faith.

Meanwhile, Catholic commentator Damien Thompson, writing for the Spectator,  laments the fact that Christianity in the UK faces a “catastrophic” future and will be extinct.

It’s often said that Britain’s church congregations are shrinking, but that doesn’t come close to expressing the scale of the disaster now facing Christianity in this country.

Every ten years the census spells out the situation in detail: between 2001 and 2011 the number of Christians born in Britain fell by 5.3 million — about 10,000 a week. If that rate of decline continues, the mission of St Augustine to the English, together with that of the Irish saints to the Scots, will come to an end in 2067.

He blames rampant secularism. Oh, and the BBC.

Yes, the BBC is biased against – and ignorant of – Christianity.

14 responses to “Collective worship is fit for the scrapheap”

  1. JohnMWhite says:

    Nobody is ‘born’ Christian. That’s like saying people are born Aresnal supporters, or born enjoying the music of Queen. And look at the nonsensical knot the Department of Education ties themselves into trying to argue that a broad-based approach to RE teaches tolerance and so does forcing a specific religion on children in faith schools. I cannot abide these imbeciles talking so much nonsense. I can’t even begin with the BBC comment.

  2. Broga says:

    The people who are not ignorant about Christianity are atheists. For many it is their knowledge that destroys their belief. Reading the bible objectively is the way to atheism. I wonder what percentage of clergy are atheists?

  3. Angela_K says:

    Well said Charles Clarke!

    Of course religious schools have been so good at social cohesion and everyday the Press is full of stories illustrating the damage done to children and society. Religion will scream and whine hysterically as it declines, I look forward to its death with pleasure.

    I read that piece from the grubby catholic apologist Damian Thompson, he also writes for that ghastly catholic rag “The Daily Telegraph” I often wonder if he and Tom80 are related.

  4. Maggie says:

    Close down religious schools. Teach comparative religion in schools. Have it taught by atheists.

  5. Broga says:

    The believers just don’t get it. Their problem is that what they preach is incredible. The educated drift away and the ignorant remain. Apart, of course, from priests, the royal family and politicians who see advantage in making religious noises.

    To survive in any form Christianity would have to adopt a different attitude to what it claims to believe and make adjustments. But that would mean it was no longer Christian belief.

  6. L.Long says:

    YES!! Religious studies!!! Like most of the books o’BS are BS!!
    isLame BS is wrong!!, Just like xtian BS, Hindodo BS, jew BS, and pagan BS.
    There are and never were flying horses, talking snakes, and just because you’re a virgin does not mean your bastard son is a gawd.
    I’m all for religious studies!!!

    Broga…DON’T expect any religion to change, they have ALL refused to remove the bigotry, hate, killing, & fear from their books’ oBS. So since their dogma will never change, they can only maintain a certain level of hypocrisy before things explode again at some point. The historical changes in both isLame and xtians show this.

  7. Brian Jordan says:

    There is neither need nor justification for forcing children to visit “places of worship” They could be observed with far less cost, time wasted and trouble on a couple of DVD’s. Also, many of these buildings are designed to over-awe the impressionable, as are the rituals carried out there. Children should not be subject to these influences by the state.
    As for “allowing parents to choose to have their child educated in line with the tenets of a faith”, surely their right is to inculcate their faith in their unfortunate children and certainly NOT to have their children indoctrinated for them at the state’s expense.
    As for “Vitally important to help children develop the British values of tolerance, respect and understanding for others. It prepares young people for life in modern Britain and that is why it remains compulsory at all key stages.” one wonders what topsy-turvy world these people are living in. Religions are fundamentally divisive and modern Britons are predominantly and increasingly non-religious.

  8. dennis says:

    xtians will be gone in England in 2067. WOW! I have hope that will come to pass for all sky fairies. the sky fairies will cease for me the day I die, but not today as I am having to much fun laughing at their mysterious insanity. atheist ask the question, how do we get science and logic and reason taught in religious schools, now that is diversity.

  9. melvin polatnick says:

    Catholics students in school form gangs. They pray as a group forcing outsiders to join or be abused. Catholic teachers are tolerant of the practice and often encourage it.Mothers of outsiders must fight back. Teachers that condone abusive group prayers should be fired and jailed.

  10. Tom80 says:

    Sorry-no relation to Damian Thompson. I note that the report says parents should be able to send their children to “Faith Schools” if they wish. In view of the way the system is carried out now it would be better to do away with the act of Collective worship, unless it is a Faith school, as if you send your child to a faith school, then you would expect there to be an act of collective worship.

  11. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    What a pity he didn’t come to this conclusion when he was in power and could do something about it.

  12. Vanity Unfair says:

    I am in favour of schoolchildren being given tours of religious establishments as well as introductions to different faiths. A couple of terms of:
    You must/must not wear a hat.
    Remove your shoes/ keep your shoes on (they don’t like hippies.)
    You are forbidden to eat this month/there’s a ceremonial meal laid on.
    This bread and wine does/does not turn into human/heavenly flesh and blood/ we strongly disapprove of/ absolutely forbid alcohol.
    What you believe is/ is not more important than how you act but the other way round will/ will not save you.
    God/ the ideal is one/ three/ three-in-one/ thousands of/ different aspects of one unknowable/ knowable spirit/spirits/ philosopher.
    The holy teachings were accumulated over centuries/ revealed overnight/ collected from friends/ assembled from traditions and are immutable/ subject to change with history/ fixed in the C18/ not yet properly understood.
    The girls in the class will stay with the main party/ go upstairs/ into a back room/ leave immediately and may/ may not ask questions of the male/ female/ mixed clergy.
    Boys and/or girls are to be mutilated at birth/ puberty/ never unless/ even if they want to be.
    The teachings are revealed for all/ only understandable in one language/ reserved for the clergy/ available on payment.
    The world will end any time now/ whenever our god wants/ at 3:32pm GMT on 19th. October, 2017 unless we repent now/ never/ actually it ended forty years ago.
    We must get along with each other as best we can/ forgive our enemies/ exterminate non-believers/ hide from the rest of the world.
    We believed different things in the past but there has been another revelation/ there was a false revelation but our god has undeceived us/ things have changed and we must too/ we weren’t making enough money under the old system.
    And so on…………
    Eventually the students are going to take the Mercutio Option. Act 3:1:111
    Not that it really matters because deep down all faiths are the same, aren’t they?

    Not being a cabinet minister must be a great education. Mr. Clarke might have thought of ending school religious assemblies while he was S of S for Education and had lots of clever civil servants to advise him instead of waiting eleven years and no longer having the power to do anything about it.

  13. Vanity Unfair says:

    To G M-R:
    Apologies. I was away thinking and did not see your more succinct thought until after I filed. I did try to edit my seeming plagiarism but was unsuccessful. You have priority.

  14. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    @VU, no worries, that was a good post. 🙂