Parents Launch Court Action Over Christian School Assemblies

29 July 2019, 11:42 | Updated: 29 July 2019, 11:45

Burford Primary School joined the Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust in 2015
Burford Primary School joined the Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust in 2015. Picture: Oxfordshire County Council

A couple who believe their children are being indoctrinated by having to take part in school Christian assemblies will launch a high court challenge in a bid to make education more "inclusive".

Parents Lee and Lizanne Harris will say in an autumn judicial review claim that the school made their children take part in Christian prayers and watch re-enactments of Bible stories, including the crucifixion.

The couple would like the non-religious Burford primary school in Oxfordshire, run by the Church of England, to cater for non-believers.

According to the parents, when they withdrew their children from the assemblies the school refused to provide a meaningful alternative of equal educational worth.

Instead the school put the children in a room with an iPad, supervised by a teaching assistant.

The Harrises will argue at the high court in November that the school must provide an inclusive assembly as a meaningful alternative for pupils withdrawn from Christian worship.

Charity Humanists UK that supports the parents, said they believed their legal action is the first legal challenge on collective worship to reach the High Court.

"Harmful aspects of evangelism"

In a statement the parents said: “We enrolled our children into a state community school – which is meant to have no religious character – but over time we noticed harmful aspects of evangelism spreading into assembly and other parts of the school which goes against our children’s rights to receive an education free from religious interference.

‘When our children go to school they shouldn’t have to participate in Christian prayers, or watch biblical scenes such as the crucifixion being acted out, nor should they have to hear from evangelical preachers who spout harmful and often divisive messages.”

The couple do not want their children to take part in school Christian assemblies
The couple do not want their children to take part in school Christian assemblies. Picture: PA

"Statutory requirement"

The Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust that Burford primary school is part of said: "Collective worship, which is a statutory requirement in all church and community schools, is aimed at encouraging pupils to develop a sense of mystery, awe and wonder about the world."

The Trust said it was “confident that Burford primary school, as a community school, has acted entirely appropriately, and has followed all statutory requirements”.

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