Schools - Change Law to Reflect Our Times; OUT OF DATE? RELIGIOUS WORSHIP Deborah James Finds the Credo of Regular Christian Worship Has Been Left Behind in Many Schools
Byline: Deborah James
HEADTEACHERS have called for a change to "outdated" laws forcing them to hold daily prayers for pupils.
A Daily Post poll found secondary schools across the city are already failing their legal duty to hold a collective act of Christian worship each day for every pupil.
Many children are only attending assemblies once a week, and non-religious texts are being read in place of daily classroom "prayers" - which the Government says can replace a religious assembly.
Teachers in Liverpool's state-run community schools say the law, last updated in 1944, is out of touch with an increasingly multi-faith society.
It follows national calls for a cut in the amount of compulsory prayer in secular schools, after an investigation found more than half the schools in Wales were flouting the law.
Last night Brian Davies, headteacher at Calderstones school, and Liverpool branch secretary for the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), called for a rethink.
He said: "You can't make people worship a god, you can't hold an assembly and make people pray, they will either do it or they won't, you can't force them."
Liverpool city council has urged schools to remember their duty to uphold the law.
But Cllr Paul Clein, executive member for education, said he would like to see compulsory worship dropped for non-religious community schools.
He said: "My view is that holding prayers is fine for a religious school, and as long as it is done by choice then I have absolutely no problem with it.
"But I would be in favour of a change in the law for secular schools. I don't think it's the role of schools to inculcate religion on children.
"We have 60 native languages spoken in Liverpool at the moment, which just shows the spread of different religions that exist in the city.
"It makes it inappropriate that any collective act of worship in any single religion should have to take place."
But religious leaders and teachers at the city's church-run schools have hit back, saying spiritual growth is vital to children's education.
Our poll of the city's community secondary schools found many are either stretching or completely failing the law - although around a half of the schools asked failed to respond.
Of those that did, many said instead of daily Christian prayers, they prefer to use non-religious texts or readings from other faiths more appropriate for their multicultural pupils.
Daily assemblies including hymn singing and Bible readings, while traditional prayers have been replaced by weekly meetings of year groups.
In some schools, these now involve secular readings, guest speakers from the community, performances, humanitarian reflections, and texts from different religions.
Teachers say the focus should now be shifted from Christianity to more general moral guidance.
Brian Davies said that, at his school, each pupil is required to attend assembly once a week.
MR DAVIES said: "Liverpool is quite unique in that there is a large number of religious schools in the city' Roman Catholic schools make up almost half the secondary education sector.
"In the community schools, I think it's very difficult to have a collective worship session for every single student every day.
"Also, our children are from different religions and many who don't profess to have any religion at all.
"We have got children from all types of backgrounds and it's a nightmare if we try to hold a collective act of worship
"It is the law, I wouldn't say we are breaking the law, but we can't get everyone together every day.
"We do have a thought for the day that I read out in assembly, and that is read out in each class by the teacher.
"Sometimes it is Christian, but not always, sometimes it is Hindu or Muslim, or something from another religion, sometimes it is not religious, sometimes it is on a humanitarian theme, something to encourage the children to think. …