A lesson in religious tolerance

14th September 2007 at 01:00

It was refreshing to hear the views of some headteachers in our survey on school assemblies this week (page 1). Most remarkable was the consistency in their replies an overwhelming consensus in a profession whose views can sometimes take second place to what appears to be a growing fashion to fix what really is not broken.

Is Peter Black's campaign to have the Christian focus of assemblies, a requirement of the 1944 Education Act, scrubbed and replaced with a multi faith approach really necessary? Even at Cardiff's Fitzalan High School, where there is a huge percentage of multi-ethnic pupils, there is no shying away from the Christian element and the head appears to have no problems with that. Of course, the school caters for other faiths and rightly so.

The teaching profession should be credited with having enough intelligence to understand that a changing society dictates that assemblies have to move with the times and our survey does not suggest otherwise.

Not only are there more pupils from ethnic minorities in our schools today, but our survey revealed that we also have more teachers who are atheists and sit out assemblies altogether. Surely this would not have been allowed 50 years ago?

There are examples of making the daily gatherings less religiously motivated, concentrating instead on the values of right and wrong, in keeping with the teachings of most faiths. It was also found that some heads are questioning the daily act of worship altogether.

Some believe it should only be a three-weekly event fitted into a 10-minute slot. In reports Estyn has attacked many schools for holding "weak" assemblies. Would fewer held every week make them of better quality? Sometimes politicians seeking change really do have to listen to the professionals on the ground. They might learn a valuable lesson or two.

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