The obligation on teachers to attend acts of collective worship in schools varies according to the type of school in which teachers are employed and the nature of their role.

All maintained schools are required to ensure schools provide a daily act of collective worship for their pupils, except where there are permitted withdrawals.

Schools without a religious character

The basic position in maintained schools is set out in the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (SSFA). Section 59(2)(a) provides that teachers in maintained schools that do not have a religious character do not have to attend religious worship.

This protection also applies to headteachers. However, headteachers are under a responsibility to ensure that legal provisions in respect of collective worship are met.

Voluntary controlled schools with a religious character

In a voluntary controlled school with a religious character, if a teacher is identified as a ‘reserved teacher’ able to teach religious education, they have no right of withdrawal from collective worship.

Up to a maximum of one fifth of the teaching staff in such a school can be identified as a reserved teacher. All other teachers in the school have the same rights as teachers in maintained schools without a religious character.

A headteacher of this type of school does not have to be a reserved teacher, but their employment is governed by the proviso that ‘regard may be had to that person’s ability and fitness to preserve and develop the religious character of the school’ (SSFA s.60(4)). In practice, this provision allows a voluntary controlled school with a religious character to insist that its headteacher attends collective worship.

Voluntary aided schools with a religious character

In voluntary aided schools with a religious character, there is no right for teachers to withdraw from collective worship (SSFA s.60(6)).


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