'Collective Worship' is the correct and legal term for what many schools call 'Assembly'. More and more schools now use the term 'collective worship' though others refer to it as 'our service' or 'our act of worship' or 'school worship'.
Whatever it is called, there has been worship in schools of all types since local churches and local people set up the first schools for their own children some 300 years ago. When the 'state' later started similar schools some form of Christian worship took place in these schools, too. Independent and grammar schools also had worship as part of their school day from their own foundation four to five hundred years ago. The 1944 Education Act formalised all this requiring every school to have a daily act of collective worship.
The Education Reform Act 1988 reaffirmed the place of a daily act of collective worship for all schools, strengthened some provisions and gave greater flexibility in others. More recent Education Acts have made no further changes but Department for Education Circular 1/94, published in 1994, gives both general and particular guidance to schools and SACREs.
The law requires:
- That schools provide a daily act of collective worship for all pupils and students up to the age of 19 (This is their entitlement)
- That all community schools provide collective worship which 'is wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character'.
- That Church Schools provide worship 'in accordance with their school's Trust Deed' and follow the guidance of their denomination. In B&NES, this will be from the Diocese of Bath and Wells for Church of England schools (both Aided and Controlled) and from the Diocese of Clifton for Roman Catholic schools.
The law allows:
- Schools to provide collective worship in appropriate groupings within the school. The whole school does not have to meet together.
- Schools to provide collective worship at any suitable time during the school day. It does not have to be first thing in the morning.
- Schools to hold collective worship in places other than school e.g. a local church, in the open air, at a school camp/residential centre.
Parents or guardians of any child at the school have the legal right to withdraw their child from collective worship but there must be acceptable grounds and consultation with the headteacher.
Aims of Collective Worship
The DFE paper 1/94 suggests collective worship should aim:
- To provide the opportunity for pupils to worship God
- To consider spiritual and moral issues
- To enable pupils/students to explore their own beliefs
- To encourage participation and response
- To develop community spirit
- To promote a common ethos and shared values
- To reinforce positive attitudes
School Provision for Collective Worship
The purpose of collective worship is to foster the spiritual growth of both the individual and community. A school's collective worship allows participants, in an inclusive manner, to encounter and reflect upon a variety of important and widely held values, attitudes and beliefs. Schools therefore need to give extremely careful consideration to both the content and presentation of their collective worship, including such matters as timing, location, the use of symbols and the value of silence.
To provide the most effective collective worship, a school will need:
- A policy appropriate to its own circumstances
- A person to coordinate its collective worship programme
- Leaders who are trained and willing to lead (from within the school, the local community and beyond)
- The supervised contribution of pupils/students
- A calendar of themes for each week of the year
- A variety of resources (including specialist advice)
- A budget
- Systematic monitoring and evaluation of its worship by staff, pupils/students, governors and visitors/advisers.
Link to the following sites for material for Collective Worship:
For further information about B&NES SACRE annual report on Religious Education and Collective Worship, see our SACRE Business page
For the annual national analysis of local SACRE reports on Religious Education and Collective Worship, visit the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority site.