East London school changes Ramadan fasting policy after complaints

An east London school which forced fasting pupils to go home for a break during Ramadan has abandoned the policy after complaints from parents.

Newport Primary School, in Leyton, had said it was “unable to make provisions” for fasting children during lunchtimes. Parent Nusrat Siddiqui said the policy had meant her daughter could not fast and had “ruined her Ramadan”. The school declined to comment, but parents have now been told that fasting pupils could remain on the premises.

Ms Siddiqui said that her 10-year-old daughter wanted to fast but had been unable to due to the policy. “Two weeks of my Ramadan has been ruined. It’s the holiest month in our religious calendar and the school should know that, seeing as the majority of the pupils are Muslim,” she said. “My daughter wanted to fast but couldn’t because I was at work and couldn’t pick her up during lunchtime. They have clearly done it because of the wrong reasons.”

In a letter dated 18 June, the school said that for health and safety reasons fasting pupils should have a rest during the day, and therefore “must be picked up by an adult” at lunchtime.

Eleven days after Ramadan started, parents received another letter saying the decision had been reversed following complaints. The letter from head teacher Prue Barnes said: “Although the volume of communication has been from significantly few parents it is now interfering with the daily management of the school and detracting from our focus, which is the education of all children at Newport.”

Waltham Forest Council said Newport Primary School was issued with advice from Public Health England. Councillor Mark Rusling said:”The school concerned serves a large Muslim community, the majority of whom have supported this policy.”

BBC News, 15 July 2014