The Oldham Academy North secondary school has apologised after a video went viral which showed Muslim pupils praying outside in the cold weather, sparking outrage among the local community and parents.
The footage showed Muslim pupils praying in their uniforms outside the school building after a teacher didn’t allow them to pray in a room.
A joint statement from Oldham Academy North, Oldham Council, and the Oldham Interfaith Forum read: “Earlier this week photos on social media began to circulate of students at The Oldham Academy North praying outside. The Oldham Academy North, Oldham Interfaith Forum and Oldham Council would like to address the understandable concern this has caused.
“Firstly, the academy would like to offer a wholehearted apology. The school is proud of its diversity and would never stop students from praying or ask them to pray outside. This situation arose due to a lack of space in the school, caused by a flood which created a huge amount of damage and made 15 rooms unusable.
“A room has since been found for students to pray in, and we understand they are happy with the space. The academy is writing to parents today to fully explain what has happened, and are happy to meet with any members of the community who are concerned.
“At Oldham Academy North, we consider our diversity our greatest strength. We will always do everything in our power to ensure our students, staff and our communities are given the very best opportunities in life.”
Oldham Council leader, Arooj Shah, told the Oldham Times: “When were made aware of the issues raised at the Oldham Academy North, we acted quickly to speak with the school to understand what had happened. Having spoken with the school leaders I am glad they have apologised to those who were affected and will be writing to parents to explain.
“Oldham is a proud and diverse borough and I hope that Oldham Academy North sees this as a strength for the school. We will continue conversations with the school around this matter and I have asked for a full investigation into the circumstances.
“We encourage members of the community to work with us while this investigation is carried out. In the meantime, I extend my sincere apologies for the upset and concern this has caused.”
And Oldham Mosques Council development officer, Mufti Helal Mahmood, said: “We will be working closely with Oldham Academy North to ensure incidents like this can be avoided in the future. We have a strong history in Oldham of working together across different communities and faiths.
“We must not let ourselves be divided when issues arise but work through them in partnership to achieve peaceful resolutions.”