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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 April, 2004, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Religious assemblies 'to go on'
Assembly generic
Religious assemblies have been part of school life for years
The Scottish Executive is reported to be set to defy a call for Christian assemblies to be scrapped in schools.

The Lord's Prayer will continue to be heard in primary and secondary schools, contrary to recommendations from a review group formed by the executive.

A copy of the group's report has been leaked to The Herald newspaper.

The National Secular Society (NSS) said the executive had been evasive and disingenuous in setting up the review group then disregarding its findings.

A Scottish Executive spokesman would not comment on the conclusions of an unpublished report but insisted that religious assemblies were not under threat.

The Lord's Prayer will still be heard in Scotland's schools and Scotland's other cultures, faiths and beliefs will be recognised within the context of a broadly Christian society
Scottish Executive

He said: "Ministers expect to publish the report soon and will respond formally at that point.

"However, they are clear that the Lord's Prayer will still be heard in Scotland's schools and that Scotland's other cultures, faiths and beliefs will be recognised within the context of a broadly Christian society."

The review group on religious observance was set up by Mr McConnell, the then education minister, in 2001 to make recommendations and review current guidance.

The following year it launched a consultation on the aims of religious observance, how often it should take place and where and when it should happen.

'Complex report'

The consultation ended in February 2003 and the report was due to be published by ministers late last year, but this did not happen.

According to The Herald, the report concluded that the Christian character of religious observance should be dropped and the timing should be changed from once a week in primary schools and once a month in secondary schools to a minimum of six times a year.

Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the NSS, said: "This report is facing facts - religion is not a major part of the lives of children in Scotland and they shouldn't be forced by law to observe it.

"Church attendances have dropped by over a quarter in the last 25 years, Scottish Sunday school attendance is now a seventh of what it was 100 years ago and a study of 30,000 pupils showed nearly 60% defined themselves as atheist or agnostic.

The executive spokesman admitted that there was still no fixed date for publication despite fears that the delay could make it difficult for the Church of Scotland to debate the matter at its general assembly, which starts on 15 May.

He said: "It was due to be published late last year but it has taken some time. It's a complex report. Ministers want to be able to respond properly."

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