Only 40 per cent of secondary schools in Devon stage the daily acts of collective worship demanded by the law, with 90 per cent finding the requirement difficult, according to a survey by the local education authority.
This supports the findings of the Office for Standards in Education which last year published a report suggesting that only 60 per cent of secondary schools obey the law - which states that schools must hold daily acts of worship, "wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character".
The National Association of Head Teachers last year found that eight out of 10 heads are unable to guarantee that this will take place in their schools. The principal problem cited by schools in the Devon survey is lack of space. Significantly, it shows that the smaller the school, the greater the chance of it holding daily acts of worship.
Eighty-nine per cent of primary schools held a daily act, with 45 per cent suggesting that they have difficulty meeting the law.
After lack of space, the next difficulty facing secondary schools was staff anxiety about leading worship - a problem which became worse, the more tutor or class groups were used to hold assemblies.
Despite these doubts, however, a surprising number of schools felt they were complying with the law in terms of content although the authors of the survey detected a degree of contradiction. Ninety-two per cent of schools claimed their content is broadly Christian and that their worship reflects the traditions of Christian belief. But only 63 per cent of schools concerned themselves with reverence to a divine being; and only 75 per cent of schools accorded a special status to the person of Jesus Christ: both required under the Government's interpretation of the law.
The majority of secondary schools, 70 per cent, made no distinction in principle between an act of worship and a routine assembly.