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Call to end 'travesty' of compulsory worship

The body that oversees religious education in Scotland wants an end to religious worship as part of the formal school curriculum in non-denominational schools.

The executive of the Scottish Joint Committee on Religious and Moral Education agreed on Tuesday that religious observance should be redefined so it is acceptable to all faiths and to none.

Fred Forrester, the committee's joint secretary, said current arrangements were a "travesty" based on the "legislative archaeology" of the 1872 Education Act. But there is unlikely to be time in this Parliament to change the law. Although there is no statutory insistence on school assemblies of a "predominantly Christian character", as exists in England, HMIs adversely report on schools where religious observance is judged inadequate.

Mr Forrester, depute general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, says the committee wants observance to be replaced by "observing", in which pupils go along to local places of worship as part of their RE programme.

The joint committee had considered allowing pupils and teachers to opt out of religious worship but rejected it. "If groups felt the need to opt out of part of the curriculum, then that part of the curriculum was educationally suspect, " Mr Forrester told a Humanist Society in Glasgow.

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