Many people see the current law on assemblies in school as outdated, thinking either that it does not fully reflect the multicultural nature of contemporary British society or that it sits uneasily with a secular view of what state education should be.
The purpose of this short article is not to discuss these complex issues but to explain the current law and its implications.
The most up to date source of official information is DfES Circular 1/94 which you can find in pdf form here: media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/pdf/r/non%20statutory%20guidance%20on%20collective%20worship.pdf.
The Government also provides a useful summary here: www.education.gov.uk/aboutdfe/foi/disclosuresaboutchildrenyoungpeoplefamilies/a00289/school-assemblies
To sum up, the main points are as follows:
- the head teacher is responsible for arranging daily collective worship (assembly);
- daily collective worship must be wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character but only 51 per cent need be identifiably 'Christian' with the remaining 49 per cent reflecting other faiths or 'interests' over the course of a year;
- it can happen at any time of the school day and should generally happen on the school premises;
- parents can withdraw children from assemblies;
- teachers may withdraw from assemblies;
- the school's annual prospectus should carry information about collective worship and how parents may withdraw their children from it;
- the above apply to state community schools. Church or faith-based schools will have their own way of applying the law within their specific context.