Assemblies face widescale review

3rd January 1997 at 00:00
Laws governing the contentious issue of collective worship in schools are about to undergo the most substantial review to date as religious leaders and RE professionals tackle the issue.

The Standing Advisory Councils for Religious Education, responsible for overseeing school worship, are already pressing for a change in the law.

The SACRE councils want to see fewer acts of collective worship to relieve pressure on space and time. They also want to remove the Christian emphasis of the current regulations.

Now there is pressure on the Government from a major coalition dedicated to rewriting the law. It includes the National Association of SACREs, the RE Council representing all the major faith groups in Britain, the Inter-Faith Network and the Culham College Institute, an RE think-tank.

The review will comprise 50 representatives and will stage three one-day conferences during 1987.

Under the present laws, school worship must be "wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character". But this stipulation has been widely criticised as meaningless and unworkable.

RE teachers, Her Majesty's Inspectorate, and the Church of England's education spokesman have all called for a rethink, as have Muslim and Jewish leaders.

The level of sensitivity surrounding the issue was illustrated shortly before Christmas when a maths teacher at Washwood Heath school in Birmingham disrupted school carols, denouncing them as un-Islamic. A disciplinary investigation is now being conducted.

The most recent advice from the Government has been that an act of worship "need not contain only Christian material". It must, however, contain some elements "which relate specifically to the traditions of Christian belief and which accord a special status to Jesus Christ".

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