PROVIDING collective Christian worship in non-denominational schools is not ‘religious indoctrination’ but a chance for children to explore and develop spirituality, Church of England education official says , Reverend Nigel Genders.
He was responding on Monday to reports that the High Court had granted judicial review to a couple, Lee and Lizanne Harris, who had withdrawn their children from the Burford Primary School assemblies in Oxfordshire because they included acts of Christian worship.
Burford Primary has become managed by the Oxford Diocesan Schools’ Trust (ODST) since 2015 when it became an academy. It is not a school of faith. In seeking judicial review, the couple claim that the trust is not meeting the needs of non-Christian children. The case will be heard on November 29.
In a letter to The temperature On Tuesday, Mr Genders wrote that children currently feel ‘besieged by social media’ and have reported poor mental health, and that collective worship is a chance for children to explore existential questions. âOffering this in the context of genuine Christian worship is not ‘religious indoctrination’ but a chance for children of all faiths and none to develop spiritually and take a step back from an otherwise crowded day.
âThere is ample evidence of the value of collective worship for children and youth, which is why thousands of community schools also have strong partnerships with local churches and faith groups. What happens in schools should be evidence-based and should not be in response to campaigns by secular pressure groups. “
Humanists UK, who first reported the story, alleges parents removed their children after expressing concern that ‘during assemblies stories of God and Christianity are presented to students as’ facts “And” truths “and for visiting church officials to express views detrimental to children.” The group calls on the government to end compulsory worship and introduce a requirement that schools hold “inclusive assemblies Which are not focused on religious or non-religious beliefs.
The parents said in a statement: âThis case concerns the daily reality of what happens when our children go to school and are not in our care. We take this step with great reluctance, but we are convinced that we must try to make the education of our children as inclusive as possible.
âWe also don’t think it’s okay to let them play with an iPad because we’ve taken them out. They should be able to participate in an inclusive assembly, of equal educational value, welcoming and respectful of all students, regardless of their origin.
The chief executive of the trust, Anne Davey, said on Wednesday that daily collective worship was a legal requirement at all publicly funded schools in the UK. âAcademies like Burford Elementary School are required under the Secretary of State for Education’s funding agreement that worship be wholly or primarily largely Christian in character.
âODST is convinced that Burford Primary School has acted very appropriately. He followed the law in a similar fashion in all primary schools. In addition, it has provided for exactly what the law requires, including a provision allowing children to be removed at the request of the parents. “
The ethics of Burford Primary School had not changed since 2015, she said. âIt remains a community school without a specifically religious character. Changing the character of a school to become more openly Christian just because it is in trust with denominational schools is not something ODST would or could do. Preserving the individual character of each of our schools is of the utmost importance to us.
Earlier this year, the Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) was the first in the South East region to undergo the new OFTED summary assessment, in which an entire MAT is inspected at a time. He has been described as permeating in all his work his “common vision for the common good” (News, March 15).
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