Compulsory Christian assemblies may soon be dropped from UK state schools and replaced with 'multi-faith' worship after a local council has become the first to make the move.
Brent Council in London made the 'ground breaking' decision to free its state schools from having to provide Christian worship in its assemblies, the Daily Mail reports.
Currently British state schools, funded by the government, are legally obligated to provide daily Christian worship of some kind. This normally takes the form of congregational singing in assemblies, though studies have shown that many schools ignore the rule.
In the new move, Brent Council's Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education (SACRE) will now support multi-faith assemblies, which will include those of any faith and none. The council have today received an award from the Accord Coalition, which lobbies for religious education and inclusivity in schools.
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE, who chairs the award's judging panel, said to the Daily Mirror: 'The current worship laws are unpopular and prevent schools from providing an inspiring programme of assemblies that are truly inclusive of all staff and children.
'Society may be Christian-based but is multi-faith with many also of no belief-system, and so uniform worship should no longer be compulsory for our educational system.
'Brent Council's ground breaking approach rescues an opportunity for pupils to communally explore and forge shared values, in a way that is workable and respectful.'
Romain added: 'We hope all other local authorities will take inspiration from Brent Council's approach, which we highly commend.'
Chief executive of Christian Concern Andrea Williams said the decision was 'a shame'.
The move follows years of ongoing conversation about the role of Christian worship and influence in British state schools, particularly as the prevalence of Christian faith declines among British families.
In 2015 former education secretary Charles Clarke called for the rule on Christian assemblies to be revoked. The Bishop of Oxford John Pritchard said in 2014 that the compulsory collective worship belonged in the 1940s, and suggested instead times of general 'spiritual reflection'.
The Rev Nigel Genders, Church of England chief education officer, said: 'It has long been a legal requirement for schools to provide a daily act of collective worship.
'But schools tell us that, quite apart from any legal obligation, daily collective worship has proved a powerful tool in bringing pupils together, giving them a rare opportunity to pause and reflect in the midst of a busy day.
'The policy in Brent, which is not new, is not the formal removal of that requirement, as has been claimed – far from it.
'It is already open to schools to apply for a determination to lift the requirement that collective worship be "wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character".
'In this case the council simply encourages schools to do that, to ensure that collective worship reflects children's different backgrounds.
'Efforts to encourage schools to take collective worship seriously and make it meaningful to pupils are welcome.
'Indeed, even without applying for a determination, the law already allows schools wide scope for different acts of worship.
'Around one million children in England – a quarter of primary pupils and one in 16 secondary students – attend Church of England schools where worship is and will remain Christian.'