Kirk call for more inclusive school assemblies welcomed

By agency reporter
October 24, 2013

The Accord Coalition for inclusive education has welcomed the call by the Church of Scotland for Religious Observance in Scottish schools to be reformed.

The Kirk is advocating that Religious Observance be renamed ‘Time for Reflection’ and has stated explicitly that assemblies should not be confessional in nature, even when led by chaplains.

A statement on the Church of Scotland’s website elaborated: "All Time for Reflection/ Religious Observance should be genuinely inclusive of people of faith. This will not be easy but the Church believes that it can be achieved and to do so will make very significant contribution to creating a genuinely inclusive society that moves beyond tolerance to deep respect, understanding and common living based on real self-understanding about others' beliefs and values."

The chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, commented: "School assemblies should not just seek to be inclusive of people of faith, but also the non-religious, forging shared values and investigating ethical and moral values from a variety of sources, both religious and philosophical.

"The Church of Scotland’s call falls short of full inclusivity, but Accord welcomes its recognition that school assemblies should not be instructional, but can and should be inclusive of different beliefs in society.

"At the moment in England and Wales we have the worst of both worlds – oppressive laws that do not properly respect the autonomy of children, which require schools to provide daily Collective Worship of 'wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character', combined with a great many schools simply ignoring the law and not providing daily assemblies at all. Like RE in England, assemblies are being allowed to wither on the vine.

"Not for the first time policy and practice in Scotland makes England and Wales look left behind. The Anglican and Catholic Churches should re-examine their position towards assemblies, while the Department for Education at Westminster and Department for Education and Skills in Cardiff should revisit their guidance on assemblies and its statutory framework," said Dr Romain.

Religious Education in Scotland is called ‘Religious and Moral Education’ from ages 5 to 14, and ‘Religious, Moral and Philosophical Studies’ from 14 to 18, reflecting its broad and educational approach. Unlike in England and Wales, state funded faith schools are not able to have an admissions policy that selects pupils by religion or belief.

Accord is a wide coalition of organisations, including religious groups, humanists, trade unions and human rights campaigners. Its organisational and individual supporters share a common view on the need to reform faith schools, Religious Education and assemblies to make them open and engaging to pupils of all beliefs. Ekklesia is a co-founder of the Accord Coalition.

* Accord Coalition: http://accordcoalition.org.uk/

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