Worship In Schools: More Schools Opting For Multi-Faith Alternatives

Worship In Schools: More Schools Opting For Multi-Faith Alternatives

worship in schools

The number of schools asking to opt-out of Christian worship seems to be slowing. But a higher number are opting to take up multi-faith alternatives instead. Read on the find out all of the details!

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Over the last three years, 48 schools applied to opt-out of a daily act of worship. Of the 48, 42 were granted. Determinations allow schools to change their collective worship from being “wholly or broadly” Christian in nature. This rule has been in place since 1944.

What Do Religious Leaders Think?

worship in schools

Most of the schools requesting determinations in the past three years asked to hold multi-faith assemblies instead. Rev Stephen Terry, chair of the Accord Coalition, said this was “encouraging”:

This indicates that educators take seriously the increasing diversity of cultural traditions present in modern British society.

Of the 42 schools granted determinations, Holbrook Primary School in Coventry was the only one to opt for assemblies of no faith. Alongside this, Plashet School in Newham has been given the go-ahead to run a mix of alternative faith, multi-faith and no faith elements throughout each week.

If we break the numbers down by council, Brent Council granted the most – 11. Camden and Bradford councils both granted seven. Despite this, the number of schools applying to their local SACRE boards has been declining quite rapidly. Between 2013 and 2015, around 40 schools per year were applying. One explanation for this could be because of the rise of academies. Academies have to apply directly to DfE for determinations, rather than their local board. Conversely, this could also mean that the total number could be dramatically higher.

Rev Nigel Genders, chief education officer for the Church of England, said:

The fact that only 42 out of 25,000 schools have done so suggests that schools are able to work within the broad definitions that exist in law.

The Catholic Education Service said that collective worship is an “essential part of the life of every school”, and can also provide a “shared language of values to build a close-knit cohesive community”.


Earlier this year, a survey on behalf of Humanists UK found that less than a third of people believe acts of worship are appropriate for school assemblies.

Alastair Lichten, head of education at the National Secular Society, said:

These findings are yet another reason for ministers to repeal the requirement for schools to hold acts of worship and ensure any worship is genuinely voluntary.

Many schools already hold inclusive ethical assemblies that may provide space for voluntary worship but don’t direct it.

What do you think? Has your school opted out, or do you believe there is still a place for compulsory worship in schools? Let us know in the comments!

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