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We ned debate on worship in schools; COMMENT.

WHETHER you agree or not with the law stating an act of collective worship must be held every day in state maintained schools, few could disagree with the premise that everything done in our schools must be done well.

Now the Church in Wales has admitted collective worship in state schools is "not done particularly well", it is up to the Church and schools to act.

With schools under ever more scrutiny with Estyn, consortia, school categorisation and international Pisa tests looking at everything from wellbeing to science results, it seems that collective worship has either been forgotten as an irrelevance not worthy of measure or become a sacred cow that no-one dares touch.

Whatever the reason, it is wrong that its very existence and nature has been ignored for so long by those looking at everything else our schools do.

It has taken two teenagers, who believe compulsory religious worship should be kept out of school, to bring the issue to the national agenda. Good for them. Whether or not you agree with their aims, they must be applauded for bringing this to attention and not just day dreaming while prayers are intoned.

Rhiannon Shipton and Lily McAllister-Sutton, both 15, from Ysgol Glantaf in Cardiff, gained 1,333 signatures for their petition demanding the removal of obligatory acts of collective worship in state schools.

Last week the Assembly Petitions Committee agreed to ask Education Secretary Kirsty Williams to look into the matter. The debate has now prompted the Church in Wales to declare: "Often young people are put off collective worship in schools because it is not done particularly well. Collective worship should be a richly rewarding spiritual experience that is creative, interactive and informative."

Perhaps the very fact that it is not often "richly rewarding" may be an indication that some schools are not engaged and simply go through the motions to abide by the law.

As Rhiannon and Lily's petition says, perhaps school is no place for religious worship and some teachers, realising that, just tick a box to fulfil obligations. Doubtless there will be schools which carry out religious worship to a high standard, but that is not really the issue. We need a national debate to consider if, in increasingly secular times and increasingly multi-faith classrooms, collective worship of a broadly Christian nature is necessary or desirable and, if so, how best to do it.

Of course we need religious education to inform young people about the beliefs and faiths of others, but that should not be confused with compelling pupils by law to take part in collective worship.

This is not to dismiss religion or worship, but simply to ask what we aim to achieve by forcing it on our young people and whether we do indeed achieve that.

Poor-quality worship is surely worse than none?

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 3, 2017
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