WALES: Throwing 1,500 Yrs of Christianity in Wales to the Wind' Churches Slam Hutt for School Assembly Opt-Out THE BIG PICTURE ... Llyn Cefni Dam by Robert Parry Jones

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Byline: By TOM BODDEN Welsh Affairs Correspondent

CHURCH leaders in Wales yesterday condemned a decision to allow sixth-formers to opt out of the religious assembly in state school as an "act of betrayal".

Welsh education minister Jane Hutt agreed to bring into force regulations adopted in England in 2007 which allow pupils in year 12 and above to withdraw from the morning assemblies.

All maintained schools must provide a daily act of collective worship which is broadly Christian, for all their registered pupils.

Ms Hutt said: "Sixth-formers in maintained mainstream schools will be given the right to withdraw themselves from worship.

"Currently it is only the parent of a child who can make such a request.

"Once the amendment is in force, a parent will continue to be able to request that a child other than a sixth-former be excused from collective worship and a parent of any child at a school will be able to request that the child be excused from receiving religious education."

Regulations are also being made to extend the right to sixth-formers in maintained special schools to withdraw themselves from religious worship.

But the Church in Wales yesterday strongly objected to the move, claiming it was not consulted, while the Union of Welsh Independent Churches (UWIC) accused the Assembly Government of "throwing 1,500 years of Welsh Christianity to the wind".

The requirement for collective worship was established by the Education Act 1944. It is the duty of the headteacher to secure the worship and duties are also placed on local authorities and governing bodies.

But section 55 of the Education and Inspection Act 2006 enables school sixth-formers to withdraw from collective worship if they wish.

Dr Geraint Tudur, the UWIC's general secretary and former lecturer in church history at the University of Wales, Bangor, said: "The Assembly Government is throwing 1,500 years of Welsh Christianity to the wind - at the very time when young people need a sound moral and spiritual dimension in their lives more than ever. …