THE Department of Education (DfE) confirmed this week that it has not withdrawn Circular 1/94, which provides guidance to schools on collective worship. The circular says that in most schools special attention should be given to the person and status of Jesus.
The DfE statement was released after two religious education organizations suggested schools should ignore the guidelines.
A statement from the association that represents the RE advisers, AREIAC, and the association of local supervisory authorities RE, NASACRE, indicates that in trying to meet the legal requirement of collective worship, many institutions are encountering difficulties. which result from the declarations of the circular.
“For this reason, NASACRE and AREIAC advise schools not to use Circular 1/94, but … should be guided by the legal requirements set out in the Education Reform Act 1988 (ERA ). “
The circular, questioned since its first publication in 1994, attempted to clarify the 1988 law, which stipulates that collective worship must have a “largely and mainly Christian” character, but allows schools with a large number of pupils of minority faith to withdraw from its demands.
AREIAC and NASACRE failed last year to have the circular withdrawn. Their statement, however, indicates that during a discussion with DfE officials, their representatives were informed that schools could choose whether or not to use the guidelines.
This week, however, a DfE spokesperson said: âDfE policy has not changed at all. The law has not changed either and remains perfectly clear: all schools must hold a daily act of collective worship which must be largely Christian. The only exception is for schools that have chosen to follow another faith. “
The author of the RE advisers’ statement, Dilwyn Hunt, admitted that the 150 AREIAC members were not unanimous in calling for the circular to be withdrawn. A spokesperson for the RE Council, of which ARIAAC and NASACRE are members, said he had “distanced himself” from her.
A Church of England spokesperson said: “These long-standing guidelines have always been interpreted effectively by religious and community schools for students of all faiths and none.” He would “expect all schools to include” Jesus in their worship.