Let's be proud of our daily worship

7th May 2004 at 01:00
I welcome chief inspector David Bell's speech inviting comments on what, as a society, we think about collective worship in non-denominational state schools (TES, April 23).

I have been privileged over the past 10 years to visit hundreds of primary schools. The acts of collective worship I have led, attended and inspected have, almost invariably, been creative and worthwhile occasions. Indeed, in an increasingly utilitarian curriculum, collective worship offers a welcome "space for the spirit".

As, according to the latest census, more than two-thirds of the population claim some sort of allegiance to Christianity, why do we need to apologise for an act of worship which is "wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character"?

Indeed if, as I know many schools frequently do, the word "worship" is defined as "related to what is of ultimate worth", there is plenty of scope for a wide variety of good practice to suit each school community.

My objection is to the evangelical secularists who appear to believe that they alone are objective, neutral and value-free. If the "broadly Christian" label is rejected, what will replace it? Broadly secular or broadly humanist? How representative would they be of the nation's values?

I am proud of the 117 Church of England primary schools in our diocese. I am equally proud of the many community primary schools I have visited which provide high-quality, daily acts of worship.

These foster a sense of community, the opportunity to celebrate joys and share sadnesses (the example of the Soham community comes to mind), and, a brief chance (most acts of worship are now between 10 and 15 minutes) to be still, reflect and, for the great majority of the population who want Christian values to be fostered, give thanks to God for the joy of being alive.

If we wish to ensure that each child has the best possible opportunity to achieve their potential, to quote from Mr Bell's article, I would argue that schools should celebrate, in their daily worship, Christianity in all its rich diversity.

Phil Metcalf

Director of education

Diocese of Gloucester

34 The Larches

Gloucester

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