Fact Check: Is Brent Council the ‘first’ to allow multi-belief assemblies?

Fact Check: Is Brent Council the 'first' to allow multi-belief assemblies?

Several national newspapers this week reported Brent Council as the first in Britain to allow multi-belief school assemblies in place of daily Christian worship – but Schools Week has found little evidence for the claim, with the council insisting its schools have been able to do this for 11 years.

The reports were based on a press release from Accord, a group campaigning for all state-funded schools to be non or multi-faith, which said the council was the first to “allow schools to be freed from having to provide daily Christian worship by instead allowing them to provide multi-belief or no-faith assemblies”.

But the council has allowed multi-faith assemblies since 2006 and is not alone in “allowing” alternative approaches to daily worship.

Department for Education guidance, issued in 1994, says that schools can apply to councils to be exempt from laws written in 1944 requiring daily worship in schools to be “wholly or broadly” Christian.

A Schools Week investigation previously reported that 125 schools were granted exemptions in 2015, with several councils given “multi-belief” determinations, similar to those in Brent.

Accord said its claim was based on information from 23 standing advisory councils for religious education (13 per cent of the total in the UK) that nominated the council for the organisation’s inclusivity award.