Collective Worship and Religious Observance in Schools:
An Evaluation of Law and Policy in the UK
The majority of schools in the UK are required by law to organise acts of collective worship (England, Northern Ireland, Wales) or religious observance (Scotland) for their pupils. The majority of collective worship acts during any school term must be of a 'wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character’ and should be concerned with ‘reverence or veneration paid to a divine being or power’.
Is there a place for 'collective worship' or ‘religious observance’ in schools? What is its purpose? What are the legitimate interests of the state in such matters? Given that education is a devolved matter, are there variations in how the different administrations treat collective worship/religious observance? Do significant differences exist in the way that collective worship/religious observance is provided in practice in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales? How should schools take account of the rights of children, parents and teachers when organising such acts? And to what extent do these acts contribute to the development of shared values and the encouragement of cohesive and inclusive school communities in an increasingly plural and multi-cultural society?
These are some of the topical questions that the Research Network on Collective Worship seeks to investigate. The Network is composed of academics from a range of disciplines including educationalists, lawyers, philosophers and sociologists, drawn from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Through a series of events over a 24 month period (Jan 2014 – Dec 2015) the Network will evaluate the law and policy on collective worship in UK schools.
This website provides details about these events (2 Network seminars, 1 public conference) and their outputs. It also aims to act as a comprehensive resource point on all matters relating to collective worship: legislation; reports; articles and current developments, as well as providing links to organisations with an interest in this topical and often controversial issue.
UPDATE: The findings and recommendations of the Network were presented at a public conference on 13 November 2015. Click here for the report.