The Church of England is considering changes to the law on collective worship in schools which would scale down the contentious daily requirement to two acts of worship a week. The move comes amid claims from the official bodies responsible for religious education that the law is unworkable and with a coalition of religious groups pushing for change.
The law was originally proposed by the Church of England but the Rt Rev David Young, Bishop of Ripon and chairman of its board of education, admitted last week that it had caused practical and philosophical problems for schools. "Up to this moment, my Church has continued to support the law. Nevertheless we are aware of the very strong feelings and we are considering whether there is a case for altering the law to say two acts a week."
The law states that schools must hold daily acts of worship "of a broadly Christian character". The Government has so far refused to alter the law, despite findings by the Office for Standards in Education that only 60 per cent of secondary schools obeyed it.
Bishop Young told the Society of Education Officers meeting in Harrogate last week that problems were not just of a hall-not-large-enough nature. "Sometimes it is more profound . . . it is extremely difficult to deliver quality with that frequency."
Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education are considering proposals for fewer acts of collective worship and are concerned about the content of many assemblies.
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, want the law changed.
Bishop Young said: "Many feel the only way to cope with the present situation is to have one or two acts of collective worship prepared with great care, followed by some kind of class activity, moment of silence, or particular phrase recollection. Worship can't be compelled. You can provide opportunities but you can't compel."