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Tuesday, 11 January, 2000, 17:35 GMT
Sunday school in steep decline

Assembly Pupils are no longer attending Sunday school, says a survey


The number of children going to Sunday school has halved in the past 20 years, claims a survey.

This continues a decline throughout the last century, which has seen attendance fall from 56% in 1905 down to the current level of 4%.

According to a survey by the Christian Research group, there are now 700,000 children under the age of 15 attending Sunday schools, compared to 1.4 million in 1979.

The report's author, Dr Peter Brierley, believes that the decline reflects wider social changes - such as the decline in church attendance and the shift towards Sunday as a day for shopping or for divorced parents to see their children.

"It is the competition element which is a major issue. People may choose to take their children shopping or out for the day and a lot of schools have sports on a Sunday morning or music practices which parents want their children to be involved in.

"There are also now a lot of divorced and separated families and Sunday may be when dad is allowed access."

But the Church of England says that the decline also reflects deliberate changes in how parishes want to appeal to young people.

"We are deliberately trying to drop the old Sunday school image because it sends out the wrong message," says Diana Murrie, the Church of England's National Children's Officer.

"Many people who are now parents had a very bad experience and remember them as being boring and terrible and they don't want it for their children. Churches are now trying to provide something more exciting and not based on learning."

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See also:
02 Jul 99 |  Education
Churches say schools lack spiritual dimension
15 Jun 99 |  Education
School prayers off the timetable
20 Dec 99 |  Education
Clinton sets limits on religion in schools

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