Schools should no longer be legally required to get children to take part in Christian worship during assemblies because of the sharp decline in Christianity in Britain, the Church of England (CoE) has said.
The 1944 Education Act requires schools to stage acts of collective worship “wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character”.
Only non-Christian faith schools are exempt from this.
Bishop John Pritchard, the Bishop of Oxford and the CoE's head of education, said the law should be changed as it was out of date in modern Britain and no longer "represented the mood of the nation" as it had in the 1940s.
He warned compulsory worship could also put off people the religion.
“I think in the 1940s when all of this was put together it was possible to say that collective worship represented the mood of the nation but I don’t think that is where we are now,” he told The Daily Telegraph.
“There is a sense in which a compulsion about religion does a disservice to that which I think is most important which is keeping the good news of the Christian faith alive in our culture.”
The bishop, who chairs the CoE's Board of Education, added Christian worship could be replaced with broader spiritual reflection that could "take the pressure off" children.
CHRISTIANITY IN BRITAIN:
He added: “I think in due course there needs to be a legislative response but not until there has been full discussion in the Department for Education and the educational world generally.
“At that point where society and government feel it is right I would want to go ahead with some kind of change which I think would be liberating for this very important time in the school day which I suppose has got trapped in the idea of collective worship and I would want to release it into spiritual reflection.”
Last week, the National Governors' Association called for the rule to be changed for all non-religious schools.
It is reportedly often not enforced due to a lack of staff willing to lead Christian worship.
Responding to the bishop's comments, Pavan Dhaliwal, head of public affairs at the British Humanist Association added: “In a plural and fair-minded society that cares about children and their development, schools should be holding inclusive assemblies that forward the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of all pupils and staff, regardless of their religious or non-religious beliefs.”