For those leading schools in the maintained sector of education, the origins of the requirement to hold a daily act of collective worship lie in the Education Act 1944. The current requirement, in the Education Act 1996, is that taken over a term, the majority of such acts of worship should be wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character.
Different regulations govern required practice in community, voluntary and foundation schools. Schools in the independent sector operate under their own trust deeds. Newer academies also are subject to their own trust deeds.
Helpful clarification of these issues is available on the National Society (Church of England) website at www.natsoc.org.uk.
Worship for what?
In evaluating collective worship, inspectors are asked to consider whether worship (often called 'assembly') encourages pupils to explore questions about meaning and purpose, values and beliefs.
So collective worship provides the opportunity for schools to celebrate shared values, to acknowledge achievement, to value cultural diversity, to develop empathy, to reflect on national or local events...
SCALA believes that school worship can be a significant and powerful ingredient in enabling pupils to develop a thoughtful and reflective understanding of the world around them, and a sense of meaning and purpose.
There can be a conflict between the requirements of worship and the requirements of an assembly for the whole or sections of a school in which other objectives need to be pursued. In many maintained schools where a multi-purpose hall is used for assemblies it can be very difficult to create an environment appropriate for worship. In such a context it requires considerable diligence on the part of a chaplain to maintain the integrity of the time devoted to worship.
Inter-faith and multi-cultural contexts
SCALA, whilst clearly rooted in the Christian tradition, believes that all pupils need to understand and respect other faith traditions. In multi-faith contexts, where the school community incorporates pupils from several traditions, each should be encouraged to share its own perspective on worship, and collective acts of worship should seek the greatest degree of commonality.
For advice on aspects of collective worship for church schools, go to our Liturgy section.
For practical suggestions on worship materials, go to www.culham.ac.uk , the website of the Culham Institute, which will redirect you to other sites as well.