Catholic school governors have condemned the National Governors Association for promoting the abolition of mandatory Christian assemblies in community schools. During its most recent meeting, the NGA decided to abolish the laws that say schools must conduct daily worship. The reason cited by the NGA was that very few schools continue to follow the tradition even today and the requirement is rather meaningless in communities where most people are not religious.
However, Elizabeth Mills, former governor at Henry Box School in Oxfordshire as well as Christ Church Primary School in London, said that a period dedicated to reflection is good for all students, irrespective of their faiths.
“We live in chaotic times. Many young people are denied the opportunity for quiet and learning a bit about their place in the world. Learning about the Christian faith – even for non-believers – helps all to become engaged with shared values and community life,” she said, adding that removing worship in schools is part of a general trend to marginalize Christianity.
Similarly, Wilfred McGreal, former chairman of governors at St Matthew’s Academy in London, said that students assembling for prayer has been a long lasting tradition and doing away with it will dissociate young children from contacting with the transcendent and spiritual.
“To undermine this link is a negative and an impoverishment. There can be a problem finding someone to lead an assembly but in a school there is always a person who can who is committed to Christian ideals in their life, even if they are not Christian themselves,” he said.
The Catholic Education Service has said that the existing arrangement is flexible enough for community schools to accommodate students from various faiths. According to their spokeswoman, abolishing Christian assemblies in schools would bring an end to the 1,500 year-old tradition in England.
Emma Knights, chief executive of NGA as well as a Catholic foundation governor said she understands how important it is for schools that have a religious character to promote worship but it is also rather unreasonable to expect a school that does not have a religious character to conduct prayers on a daily basis.
Photo Credit: National Governors Association