Public Conference

Collective Worship and Religious Observance in Schools:

An Evaluation of Law and Policy in the UK

13 November 2015

University of Leicester


The Network reported its findings and recommendations to a wide audience of stakeholders on 13 November 2015 in Leicester.  The report may be found here.


The Report strongly recommends that governments in the UK should urgently consider afresh the rationale underlying the duties of collective worship and religious observance in schools. It argues that there is currently no accepted rationale – and only when one is agreed can an informed debate begin on whether the current duties should be maintained or amended. 


The report recommends that if no rationale can be found for a collective activity in schools, then the current duties should be abolished.


It acknowledges that the different countries in the UK may choose to take different approaches to the question of whether to maintain, abolish or amend the duty in light of the aims and values of each country’s education system.


In addition to urging a reappraisal of the current duties, the report makes a number of recommendations with respect to the current implementation of the law and policy surrounding collective worship and religious observance.  It recommends that:


      • All educational authorities in the UK should issue guidelines to schools to clarify that the right to withdraw from acts of collective worship/religious observance extends to all schools
  • All schools in the UK should clearly publicize the content and format of acts of collective worship/religious observance so that parents and pupils are knowledgeable about what happens during these activities, and able to make informed decisions about whether to opt out


  • All schools in the UK should make parents and pupils aware of the right to opt out of acts of collective worship/religious observance
  • All schools in the UK should provide appropriate alternative activities, with educational value, where opt outs have been requested


Specific recommendations for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, in regard to collective worship/religious observance, are also made in the report.


 In addition to the presentation of the Network’s report, the conference included responses to the report's findings and recommendations from governments, stakeholders and academics.


Speakers include: the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief, Professor Heiner Bielefeldt; the Professor of the Sociology of Religion, Linda Woodhead MBE (Lancaster University); the Professor of Theology and Education, Mary Elizabeth Moore (Boston University); and the Professor of Education, Geir Skeie (Stockholm University).




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