Bangor Law School leads academic network on collective worship in schools

Bangor Law School is leading a UK wide inter-disciplinary project to examine the question of collective worship in schools. The majority of schools in the UK are required by law to organise acts of collective worship (England, Northern Ireland, Wales) or religious observance (Scotland) for their pupils. The majority of such acts during any school term must be of a 'wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character’ and should be concerned with ‘reverence or veneration paid to a divine being or power’.

Dr Alison Mawhinney, Reader in Law at Bangor Law School - together with co-investigator Professor Peter Cumper in the University of Leicester - has established an academic network to examine this statutory obligation. In addition to Dr Mawhinney and Professor Cumper, the Network is composed of educationalists, lawyers, philosophers and sociologists, drawn from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales: Aideen Hunter (University of Ulster); Julia Ipgrave (University of Warwick); Frankie McCarthy (University of Glasgow); Farid Panjwani (University of London)); Norman Richardson (Stranmillis College Belfast); Ann Sherlock (Aberwystwyth University) and Jackie Watson (University of East Anglia).

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the Network will examine the statutory obligation from a wide and holistic perspective. Research questions include: Is there a place for 'collective worship' or ‘religious observance’ in contemporary society? What is its purpose? What are the legitimate interests of the state in such matters? Are there variations in how the different countries in the UK treat collective worship/religious observance? How should schools take account of the rights of children, parents and teachers when organising such acts? And to what extent do these acts contribute to the development of shared values and the encouragement of cohesive and inclusive school communities in an increasingly plural and multi-cultural society?

The Network met for the first time in Bangor in September 2014 to begin discussions. Further activities include a seminar in Strathclyde University in March 2015 and a public conference to be held at the University of Leicester in November 2015. The keynote speaker at the conference will be the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.  

For further details about the Network, see http://collectiveschoolworship.com/

Publication date: 15 October 2014