The DfES Circular 1/94 gives the current advice of the Department of Education on collective worship. It clearly sets out the aims of collective worship. Collective worship in schools should aim to provide the opportunity for pupils:
• To worship God
• To consider spiritual and moral issues and to explore their own beliefs
• To encourage participation and response, whether through active involvement in the presentation of worship or through listening to and joining in the worship offered, and
• To develop community spirit, promote a common ethos and shared values, and reinforce positive attitudes
All maintained schools must provide religious education and daily collective worship for all registered pupils and promote their spiritual, moral and cultural development. Local agreed RE syllabuses for county schools and equivalent grant-maintained schools must reflect the fact that religious traditions in the country are in the main Christian whilst taking account of the teaching and practices of other principal religions.
Collective worship in county schools and equivalent grant-maintained schools must be wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character, though not distinctive of any particular Christian denomination. Parental have the right of withdrawal from RE and collective worship.
The most recent legal statement of the requirements for collective worship (as distinct from assembly) are contained in the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. These build on similar requirements in Section 346 of the Education Act 1996, the Education Reform Act 1988, and Section 25 of the 1944 Education Act, where the law on compulsory collective worship began. Section 70 of the 1998 Act states that, subject to the parental right of excusal or other special arrangements, “…each pupil in attendance at a community, foundation or voluntary school shall on each school day take part in an act of collective worship.”
Schedule 20 to the 1998 Act gives more detailed information on the worship requirements. It notes the different practical arrangements that are allowed: “a single act of worship for all pupils or separate acts of worship for pupils in different age groups or in different school groups.” A “school group” is defined as “any group in which pupils are taught or take part in other school activities”.
In community schools the head teacher is responsible for collective worship provision, in consultation with the governors. The majority of acts of collective worship in any given school term should still be “wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character”. In other acts of worship, consideration should be given to “circumstances relating to the family backgrounds of the pupils which are relevant for determining the character of the collective worship which is appropriate in their case” and to the “ages and aptitudes” of the pupils.
A “broadly Christian” act of worship must contain some elements which relate to the traditions of Christian belief and which accord a special status to Jesus Christ. (Circular 1/94, paragraph 63). Only on special occasions can the act of worship take place somewhere other than on the school premises, subject to the agreement of the head.
Parents have the right to have their children excused from worship in any state-funded school. These exemptions are covered by Section 71 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998.
Aims of Collective Worship at Woodside Junior School
Collective Worship contributes significantly to the ethos of Woodside Junior School and it is our aim that it is a time when the school common aims and values:
For the Pupils:
We also intend that Collective Worship contributes to the development of the pupil as a ‘whole’ person by providing opportunities to:
Collective worship time is distinct from curriculum time. However, at Woodside Junior School collective worship will, at times, feature aspects of the curriculum, which will enhance the experiences of pupils by reflecting on the work done in classes. At times, collective worship will enrich classwork through its consideration of subject matter from different perspectives.
To ensure collective worship provides opportunities for spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, it will address a wide variety of themes and topics, use diverse stimuli and resources and provide pupils with the opportunity to‘respond’ on their own level.
The Organisation of collective worship
Collective acts of worship are incorporated into whole school assemblies. At Woodside Junior School, we follow a weekly timetable of assemblies.