Bradford school accused of coercing parents to send kids to school on Eid

Dixons Trinity Academy Pic: Yorkshire Post

A Bradford school has been accused of “coercing” parents into sending their children into lessons on Eid day tomorrow, writes Roshan Muhammed Salih.

Last week the principal of Dixons Trinity Academy, Luke Sparkes, sent a letter to parents wishing them a Happy Eid but also implied that their children’s attendance record would be adversely affected if they didn’t come into school.

bradford letter5Pillars has learned that parents at the school (which is around 90% Muslim) are angry about the letter but are too scared to speak out. But a Bradford councillor and ex school governor has said the letter is “insulting, counter-productive and alienating to parents and students alike.”

The letter reads: “We would like to wish all our Muslim families a Happy Eid for next week. School policy does allow students to take up to one day for each religious festival, but most students come into school after Eid prayers in the morning ensuring that they are able to maintain their outstanding attendance.

“Please complete the reply slip attached to this letter so that teachers can plan for students’ learning. Pupils who arrive at school after morning prayers will not receive a correction due to religious observance.

“Please indicate on the enclosed reply slip which sessions (AM/PM) that you are requesting your child to miss.”

However, community activists who have spoken to school parents told 5Pillars that they’re concerned that:

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  • An absence on Eid day will count negatively towards their children’s attendance record.
  • The letter attempts to encourage students to only take part of the day off.
  • Parents and students are being asked to choose between their attendance record and the celebration of Eid.
  • The school seems to not be accommodating the majority of the children’s faith.

Dixons Trinity Academy

Dixons Trinity Academy has been described as an outstanding school by education standards watchdog Ofsted, which awarded it “outstanding” status in every category – teaching, achievement, behaviour and school leadership. It is also said to be vastly oversubscribed.

The CEO and executive principal of Dixons Academies Trust is Nick Weller who last year said there is “a co-ordinated attempt by a small group of unrepresentative people, whose views are not shared by most of the Muslim parents that I talk to, to gain greater control of governing bodies in Bradford and advance their agenda.”

Nearly a quarter of Bradford’s population is Muslim, and the city is home to the largest proportion of people of Pakistani ethnic origin – 20.4% – in England, according to the 2011 National Census.

Nick Weller of Dixons Academies Trust
Nick Weller of Dixons Academies Trust

Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice, is the second of two religious holidays celebrated by Muslims worldwide each year.

It honors the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim (as) to sacrifice his son as an act of submission to God’s command, before God then intervened through the angel Jibra’il to inform him that his sacrifice had already been accepted.

Faisal Khan, a Bradford councillor and ex school governor, told 5Pillars that the school’s actions are self-defeating, especially given that other schools in the area have taken up to 3 days off for Eid.

He said they were particularly worrying given the context of the Prevent counter-terrorism agenda being rolled out across British schools.

He added that a sensible approach – given the school’s Muslim demographics – would have been to use the flexibility that schools have by designating Eid a “training day” or an “occasional day.”

“This would be a win-win solution that allows children to celebrate Eid and feel valued without incurring any absence and without losing any statutory teaching days,” he said.

“But to inform parents about religious observance rights but expect the children to attend school is insulting, counter-productive and alienating to parents and students alike.

“Imagine if a school with a 90% Christian intake had told parents that they have to send their kids into school after midnight mass.”

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