Back in the early 1990s, a lone Pakistani boy appeared in my otherwise entirely white primary school class. If that wasn’t isolating enough for him, each week, as we went into the assembly hall for hymn practice, he would be quietly ushered away. An hour later, we were reunited – the rest of us with heightened voices, him with a box of freshly sharpened pencils, which he had laboured at while we were gone. Every week, for an hour a week, over four school years. That’s 156 hours of sharpening pencils on his own. Just for being Muslim, in a school that was supposed to cater for everyone. The Guardian reports
This bonkers situation occurred because of a rule passed in 1944 as part of the settlement that brought religious schools under the state’s jurisdiction. Every English school is legally required to have its children take part in “collective daily worship” every day. Even if the school is secular, even if the school is packed to the rafters with atheists.
But while half of secular primary schools completely ignore the rule, the other half don’t. Which is why two parents, Lee and Lizanne Harris, are taking a case to court in the autumn after their children were made to take part in Christian prayers during school assemblies even though Burford primary school is a community school with no religious character. They withdrew their children from the assemblies, but the Harris family say the children were then put in a room with an iPad and a supervisor. Better than sharpening pencils, but not by much.
Read the full article and an alternative approach Let’s replace religious assembly in schools with a ‘thought for the day’
What do you think? Should an alternative, inclusive assembly become the norm? Inclusion not exclusion? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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