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The law on ... Collective worship in schools

Basic issues

It is a legal requirement to have collective worship in schools. This is set out in the School Standards and Frameworks Act 1998 that states "each pupil in attendance at a community, foundation or voluntary school shall on each school day take part in an act of collective worship".

The law does allow for different arrangements to be made for the collective worship. Schedule 20 of the 1998 Act states that worship must be collective but can be a single act for a collective group of pupils or acts for a particular group of pupils, for example those in different age groups.

In community schools, the Act states that the worship must be wholly or mainly of a Christian character. The act of worship must take place on school premises but exceptionally, on the agreement of the headteacher, it can take place elsewhere. The headteacher is responsible for collective worship but this must be done in consultation with the governors.

In voluntary or foundation schools that are not of a religious character, the daily worship must be in accordance with the Trust Deeds and arrangements implemented by governors following consultation with headteachers. In foundation and voluntary schools with a religious character, the act of worship must be undertaken in accordance with the Trust Deeds but will focus on the religion of the school as to practice. Independent schools are not bound by the Act but will usually have acts of worship set out in the foundation deeds or agreed by the board of governors.

What to watch out for

There is much debate about whether it is appropriate to impose a broadly Christian-based worship. The UK is becoming increasingly cosmopolitan and there are a number of religions represented in the UK. The pupils attending schools across the country are likely to come from different religious backgrounds and Christian worship may be inappropriate in their or their parents' beliefs. Schools should be open to hearing representations from parents on worship and respect wishes of parents who may not adhere to Christianity

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