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Collective worship (CW)

The importance of collective worship

Schools are more than places of academic learning. They are full of young people, who grow into older people, who go out into society and contribute to the kind of world we live in.

Schools are people-builders and community-builders. What holds people and communities together are relationships and values and these lie at the heart of a school.

Collective worship and assemblies:

  • pull all members of the school together into a cohesive community
  • promote the shared values of the school
  • provide opportunities to reflect on deeper spiritual, moral, social and cultural values of religions and beliefs.

Collective worship is not the same as religious congregational worship:

  • it is an invitation to and opportunity for worship in an educational context
  • it provides opportunities to reflect on what is truly ‘of worth’ through the vehicle of Christianity and other faiths and the wisdom of non-religious philosophies and arts.
  • it includes and builds bridges with the pupils’ own views and experiences helping them to reflect on and develop their ideas about what is important in life
  • it helps create and sustain the ethos, values and learning culture of an aspiring and inspirational learning community. It is inclusive, invitational, participatory, reflective and celebratory

Legal requirements (with thanks to NATRE)

All schools must provide a daily act of collective worship for all pupils. The aim of collective worship is to develop pupils socially, morally, spiritually and culturally. The 1994 legal framework documentation regarding collective worship still stands. Added to this is the recent requirement to promote Fundamental British values as part of SMSC (Ofsted, September 2014, DfE, November 2014). Free schools and academies have the same requirement to provide a daily act of collective worship as maintained and faith schools, as part of their funding agreement.

Some schools struggle with the requirement that collective worship is broadly Christian. Some community schools will request a ‘determination’ if their school has a clearly defined non-Christian religious community. Maintained schools apply to their local SACRE and academies apply directly to the Secretary of State to request a change of determination. A determination can lift the requirement of the Education Reform Act 1988 that collective worship should be ‘wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character’ and usually lasts five years.

Right of withdrawal: parents have the right to withdraw their child from collective worship and secondary students can withdraw themselves once they reach the age of 18. Staff can likewise withdraw from collective worship. Whilst it is distinguished from religious congregational worship, there are many who nevertheless see any form of worship in school as inappropriate.

For more advice on the right to withdraw from both CW and RE, see the Guidance for schools and subject leaders 

For Academies and Free Schools, see:

DfE: Religious education (RE) and collective worship in academies and free schools

 Model policies

Schools may use the sample policy documents to help develop their own policy. Good practice suggests that stake-holders be involved appropriately in the development of this policy and to inform practice.

First published 19 August 2020 - Last updated on 09 September 2020