Opinion Former Article

BHA: New survey on Collective Worship and RE in Wales finds most support legislative reform

A new survey of Welsh adults carried out by YouGov has revealed that more people support the replacement of laws requiring Collective Worship in schools than support retaining them, and more support fully opening up Religious Education (RE) to non-religious beliefs than oppose it.

On Collective Worship, respondents were informed that ‘Some people have proposed that the laws which require state funded schools to provide daily collective worship should be replaced by a requirement that they hold assemblies which consider moral and ethical issues shared by a range of different religious and non-religious beliefs.’ They were asked to what extent they would support or oppose such a change of law. The poll found that 41% supported such a change, while 36% did not.

And on RE, it was explained that ‘Some people would like the law changed so that non-religious views are taught in state funded schools alongside religious views.’ Again, respondents were asked to what extent they would support or oppose such a change of law. The poll found that 43% supported such a change, while 32% did not.

Reacting to the results, BHA Education Campaigner Richy Thompson said, ‘It is welcome that only a minority oppose inclusive reform of the laws on RE and Collective Worship that govern schools in Wales. In RE, many schools and local authorities do already recommend the teaching of non-religious beliefs alongside religious ones, and we hope today’s result will lead to a strengthening of that trend. And on Collective Worship, today’s results reinforce previous findings that the law as it stands is unpopular with parents, unpopular with pupils, and unpopular with teachers. It is time that this archaic requirement is replaced with something genuinely inclusive that can open up assemblies to all pupils and staff, and build a sense of genuine community within our schools.’

The results of the survey come just as the Evangelical Alliance Wales is to give evidence to the National Assembly for Wales’ Petitions Committee on 1 May on the subject of Collective Worship. The BHA is currently supporting an e-petition calling for the law to be changed. However, this petition has fewer signatures than a rival petition from the Evangelical Alliance, which prompted the Alliance to claim more support for its position than the BHA has for its own.

Commenting on the competing petitions, Mr Thompson continued, ‘The Evangelical Alliance’s petition may have had more signatures, but this was still only 0.1% of the population. We suspected its results were not representative of the country as a whole, so decided to put the question to the test. We are pleased that we have been proved right.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson on andrew@humanism.org.uk or at 07534 248596.

Total sample size for the YouGov poll was 1,047 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 23 - 26 April 2012. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Welsh adults (aged 18+).

The question on Collective Worship asked:

‘At present all state funded schools in England and Wales are legally required to hold a daily act of collective worship with their pupils. In faith schools the worship is provided in accordance with the school's particular religion, while in all other schools the collective worship should be wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character. Parents can withdraw their child from participating, however children not yet in sixth form can’t opt themselves out of attending.

‘Some people have proposed that the laws which require state funded schools to provide daily collective worship should be replaced by a requirement that they hold assemblies which consider moral and ethical issues shared by a range of different religious and non-religious beliefs.

‘To what extent would you support or oppose such a change of policy?’

The results found 20% Strongly support, 21% Tend to support, 18% Neither support nor oppose, 14% Tend to oppose, 22% Strongly oppose, 5% Don’t know.

The question on RE asked:

‘Currently, the law requires that all state funded schools in England and Wales that are not faith schools must teach pupils in Religious Education lessons about Christianity and other principal religions represented in Great Britain, but not specifically about principal non-religious ethical and philosophical views.

‘Some people would like the law changed so that non-religious views are taught in state funded schools alongside religious views.

‘To what extent would you support or oppose such a change of policy?’

The results found 19% Strongly support, 24% Tend to support, 21% Neither support nor oppose, 17% Tend to oppose, 16% Strongly oppose, 4% Don’t know.

Read the BHA’s e-petition calling for Collective Worship to be abolished.

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on worship in schools.

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

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