Oxford

Burford school agrees to provide alternative to Christian assembly

Lee and Lizianne Harris Image copyright Harrises
Image caption Lee and Lizianne Harris said they wanted alternative assemblies for their children

A couple who threatened to take a school to the High Court over its religious assemblies have won their fight for alternative activities for their children.

Lee and Lizianne Harris withdrew their two children from assemblies at Burford Primary School in Oxfordshire over fears they were being "indoctrinated".

The legal bid said the school breached their right to freedom of belief.

Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust said the case had diverted valuable funds.

The couple, who are non-religious, enrolled their children at the town's only state school in 2015, before the trust took over.

But the children were unhappy watching Bible stories, including the crucifixion, during the Wednesday assemblies.

Since 2014 they had been left in a separate room for up to 20 minutes with an iPad and a teaching assistant, their parents said.

Image copyright Google
Image caption Burford Primary School said it wanted to avoid "wholly unnecessary court costs"

The couple said they were "delighted the school had backed down" and added: "Ultimately, we took this case to ensure our children receive an inclusive education without the indoctrination of one enforced religion."

Academies that are not faith schools, like Burford Primary, are required to ensure each pupil takes part in a daily act of collective worship which is Christian in character, unless they have been withdrawn by their parents.

The school, which has 105 pupils, will now offer alternative activities for 10 children not taking part in collective worship, but would not offer an "alternative assembly".

In conceding, the trust said the activities would be overseen by a teacher for the Harrises' children, which will lapse when the youngest leaves school.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Harrises threatened to challenge the trust in the High Court

Anne Dellar, chief executive of the trust, said it took the "pragmatic decision to avoid wholly unnecessary court costs".

She said: "While recognising every parent's right to withdraw their child from collective worship, we are saddened that this case has diverted valuable funds and staff time."

Organisation Humanists UK, which backed the family, has called for the law requiring daily religious worship to be replaced with inclusive assemblies.

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