A headteacher attempted to invoke a UN convention to avoid singing Christian hymns at a religiously diverse infant school, but was rejected.


A third of students at Poulner Infant School in Hampshire have Christian parents, but head Jo Conner, a humanist, believes that singing Christian hymns infringes on the human rights of non-Christian students.

At present, all schools must provide an opportunity for collective worship to promote spiritual development.

The songs must be “wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character”. However, schools may apply for an exemption in particular circumstances.

She sought an exemption to the rules, claiming that singing Christian hymns is inappropriate considering the religious backgrounds of the other two thirds of the students, and means school assemblies cannot be inclusive.

The school hasn’t had any complaints from parents in relation to the worship music.

The Hampshire Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education (SACRE) rejected the school’s application. It said: “It was noted that, according to the application, 34 percent of parents at Poulner Infant School identified themselves as Christian, the largest religious group.

“Furthermore, that any parent had a right to withdraw their child from collective worship but no withdrawals had been recorded by the school.”