Shock as 76 CofE schools subject children to ‘Alive Praise’ worship concert

6 July, 2023

Thousands of children from 76 Church of England schools across Coventry and Warwickshire were bussed in to mass evangelising ‘worship’ concerts in an out-of-town arena last month, in a series of American-style concert shows.

The ‘Alive Praise Party’, which took place from 15-16 June during the normal school day, saw the schools in the Diocese of Coventry send 9,000 children aged between 7 and 11 to four events.

Humanists UK, which campaigns for the phasing out of state-funded faith schools, said such events are wholly inappropriate activities for state-funded schools to be carrying out.

Who’s behind this?

Alive Praise is run by Imagine Ministries, a charity producing evangelical material – resources designed explicitly to convert children to Christianity. A video summary of the event shows thousands of children in a large arena while musical acts and preachers ‘entertained’ by happy-clappy singing and dancing performers from the stage.

Is this kind of thing even allowed?

Disturbingly, even openly evangelical events – intended to turn non-Christian children into Christian disciples – are likely to be lawful, as they come under the banner of ‘collective worship’.

The UK is the world’s only country to require compulsory Christian worship as standard in all state schools. This practice originates in an archaic law from the 1940s which says every state school in England and Wales must hold ‘daily’ acts of ‘broadly Christian’ collective worship, or in the case of faith schools lead children in ‘worship’ that matches the school’s religion.

School evangelism is baked into UK law

Humanists UK campaigns for collective worship laws to be replaced with inclusive assemblies – free from evangelism or attempts to persuade children into (or out of) particular beliefs.

While in some schools the law on collective worship is ignored, or interpreted sensibly as only a vague mandate for school assemblies covering moral topics, when schools do choose to follow the letter of the law (and even when they lead children in acts of nakedly evangelical religious coercion) the law is frequently on the side of those schools, not parents. And regrettably many schools do just this – particularly primary schools, of which around two-fifths are Christian.

However, parents do have strong rights in this arena, and Humanists UK has been actively promoting its comprehensive Guide for Non-Religious Parents on religion in schools, in order to provide helpful advice for navigating the often complex system.

In 2019, Humanists UK supported two Oxfordshire parents whose child was isolated and stigmatised because of the school’s approach to so-called collective worship.

In current law, parents in England have the right to withdraw their children from collective worship. However, many see this is a ‘nuclear’ option as it sees the child effectively excluded from part of the school day. That can lead to children feeling left out or even victimised by their peers. Meanwhile some schools have been known (quite inappropriately) to frown upon parents wishing to withdraw their children in this way. All of this means that collective worship in church schools is still likely to be attended by a significant number of children from non-Christian families.

What can we do about it?

Cases like the ‘Alive Praise Party’ underline that parents have to jump through hoops, even in the most outrageous cases of schools manipulating young minds.

Humanists UK is urging a change in the law, and the abolition of ‘collective worship’ as a requirement in schools. It is also campaigning for an end to faith-based schools and faith-based admissions, as evidence shows these reduce parental choice as to local state schools. Studies show that many families are forced to attend religious schools despite their preferences. Parents then have little recourse when the school imposes highly sectarian collective worship or one-sided RE on their child.

Concerned parents can join Humanists UK as members to support its work. Humanists UK employs a dedicated campaigner working full-time to address issues around collective worship and faith schools.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Robert Cann said:

‘No child should be evangelised by their state school, much less 9,000 of them at once. This is an appalling use of public funds and a complete denial of the freedom of belief of these unfortunate pupils and their families.

‘Just this past week the Church of England has announced that it plans to use its schools to “double the number of children who are active Christian disciples” and here it is already trying to put that plan into action. The Government must urgently repeal the laws allowing state schools to behave in this way.’

Are you a non-religious parent whose child attended this or similar events recently? Please get in touch and we can support you.


For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 020 3675 0959.

Read more about our work on state funded faith schools.

Read more about our work on collective worship.

Download the Guide for Non-Religious Parents.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 110,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.