HC Deb 22 January 1985 vol 71 cc848-9
6. Mr. Peter Bruinvels

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he is satisfied with the manner in which the provisions of the Education Act 1944, as they relate to morning assembly and religious education in schools, are being carried out by schools and by local education authorities.

Mr. Dunn

We have made it clear that we look to local education authorities and to the schools to ensure that the legal requirements are met. My right hon. Friend is concerned that there may be schools where those requirements are being breached, and is always prepared to look into complaints from parents or others on this matter.

Mr. Bruinvels

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that far too many schools are abusing the system and not teaching the true religious denomination, language and history of Christ? Therefore, will he confirm that it is the Government's policy to maintain a strong commitment to the Education Act 1944 as relates to the provision of religious education throughout all schools?

Mr. Dunn

The religious education provisions of the 1944 Act are part of the settlement between the churches and the state which underpins that Act. At present, we have no intention of proposing any changes to those provisions.

Ms. Clare Short

Is the Minister aware that in many schools, and certainly in schools in my area, there are children from all the great religions—Sikh, Muslim, Catholic, Jewish, Jehovah's Witness and Pentecostal—and that the schools are attempting to get the children to respect each other's religions, which is a fine move? Is he further aware that any attempt to prevent such an assembly would be a reactionary move?

Mr. Dunn

Religious education in county schools has to be provided in accordance with an agreed syllabus which has been drawn up locally. A number of local education authorities have recently revised their agreed syllabuses. I hope that more will do so. They can take an opportunity then to draw upon the full range of religious faiths in their communities. However, I expect such a syllabus to contain an introduction to the Christian tradition, and that should be a central part of religious education in this country.

Mrs. Rumbold

Does my hon. Friend agree that, although the law is as written in the Education Act 1944, it is a sad fact that a number of schools do not have morning assembly? Notwithstanding the points that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) made, it is possible to start the day with an assembly encompassing many different religions. Is it not a shame, therefore, that we do not ask schools to do so?

Mr. Dunn

My right hon. Friend and I would deplore any attempt by any school to abolish daily worship.