Lion Academy Trust (LAT), which runs four London primary schools where children have been banned from fasting, has “clarified” its position by implying that exceptions may be made under certain conditions for those parents who wish their children to fast.
The Trust made the statement after a media uproar ensued after a letter to parents emerged apparently banning fasting.
But Justin James, Chief Executive Officer of LAT, which is responsible for Barclay, Sybourne and Thomas Gamuel Primaries in east London and Brook House Primary in north London, said they were trying to balance “both our obligations under child safety and protection and working closely with our communities who we serve.”
James reiterated that it remains LAT’s policy to “not allow any children attending the schools to fast.”
But he added: “if you are considering your child fasting during the school week, you will need to meet with your Head of School individually to discuss how we ensure the safety and well being of your child whilst still ensuring that they are part of the Ramadan celebration. No child will be considered to be able to fast in school unless you have met with the Head of School…
“Should you wish for your child to fast, we need to confirm your contact details such as an updated phone number to ensure that we have access to you if there is any change of circumstances or should something happen at school during this period;
“To update medical records that the parents may have in order to ensure that the school has every piece of information that it needs – including any medications your child may be on so we can attend to any issues that may arise safely and appropriately;
“To discuss lunch time arrangements with parents – such as identifying a quiet place to rest for your child and to make sure these arrangements are clearly understood and agreed with;
“To discuss any trips and educational experiences to ensure that the appropriate support is in place – for example we could invite the parents to join the experience to ensure that their child is well looked after during this important time of the year;
“Agreed protocols to ensure that if a child is not feeling well – contact arrangements and welfare arrangements are understood – including ensuring we have absolutely clarity between our schools and home as to what steps will be taken when should an incident arise; and..
“Act in a joined up way with families to supporting the child together and to ensure that they understand that the school and their family are working together and we have their well being at heart.”
Although many will welcome the clarification and will argue that the school is thinking of the children’s welfare as well as making exceptions for those who insist on fasting, there is still some disquiet from Muslim educational professionals.
Reza Kazim, an educationalist and spokesman for the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), told 5Pillars that Muslims who felt there was no issue in what the schools have done were “very mistaken.”
“Some people need to read a bit about Malcolm X because they have a colonial mentality and don’t understand the depth of Islamophobia that is directed towards us by the existing power structure,” he said.
“Who the hell are these schools to decide if Muslim pupils can fast or not? Instead of sending out the message that ‘fasting is banned unless you fulfill this condition or that,’ the schools should be fulfilling their duties to work with parents to cater for the spiritual, cultural and religious needs of the children in their care.
“But instead of doing that what they have done here is to violate the rights of these pupils with their starting point that ‘fasting in Ramadan is not allowed’.”
He added: “Perhaps the teachers in these schools (which I understand have a high Muslim intake) should attempt to fast themselves so that they can show some empathy with the spiritual side of their students rather than implementing a policy which is disapproving of it.”