Christian assemblies in schools are under threat from a decision to allow sixth-formers to opt out, the Archbishop of Wales warned yesterday.
Dr Barry Morgan said the Government’s move to let over-16s withdraw from daily collective worship was the ‘thin end of the wedge’.
He predicted it could lead to religion being marginalised in schools, leaving them ‘narrowly focused on personal attainment’.
Legally all state schools - including those with no religious affiliation - have to offer a daily act of worship of a ‘broadly Christian’ nature, unless they apply to local boards to drop the Christian element.
Previously, pupils could only opt out with permission from their parents, but two years ago sixth-form pupils in England were given the right to remove themselves. A similar law change was introduced in Wales earlier this year. But Dr Morgan warned yesterday the move could condemn children to grow up in a ‘bland secular wasteland’.
‘Collective worship has been branded as something that young people grow out of by the age of 16, at precisely the time when it might be the best way of feeding both their minds and their hearts as they start to explore the responsibilities and consequences of adult life,’ he wrote in the Times Educational Supplement. ‘I am concerned that this is the thin end of the wedge and could be just the start of a process that devalues and ultimately marginalises the provision of collective worship in schools.’
But teachers who believe there should be no legal requirement for Christian assemblies called compulsory worship in schools an antiquated idea.
Gareth Lewis, of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers’ ruling executive in Wales, said worship had become a ‘tick box’ exercise aimed at impressing inspectors, and had led to farcical scenes such as children being urged to ‘pray louder’ when inspection teams were visiting.