Sunday, July 05, 2015

Parents ban their children from joining primary school religious education trip to a local mosque amid fears they would 'be shot'

  • 10 pupils pull out of trip to mosque after parents express 'grave concerns'
  • One parent expressed fears of child being exposed to 'violence and guns'
  • Lostwithiel School in Cornwall planned RE trip to Exeter mosque next week
  • However, other parents backed trip to promote education of various faiths
Sally Cox, 39, stopped her son Jed Pearce, 10 (pictured together above), from going on the mosque trip, expressing fears of 'violence and guns'
Sally Cox, 39, stopped her son Jed Pearce, 10 (pictured together above), from going on the mosque trip, expressing fears of 'violence and guns'
Children as young as eight have been banned by their parents from attending a British mosque as part of a school trip over 'safety' fears, with one mother claiming she 'doesn't want to put her son at risk of being shot'.

Nearly 100 primary pupils from Lostwithiel School in Cornwall were due to travel 68 miles to visit the mosque in Exeter, Devon, as part of an RE trip to learn about different faiths.

The schoolchildren, from years three to six, were due to visit the city's cathedral before taking a tour of the mosque and observing a congregational prayer.

However, about 10 pupils have now pulled out of next week's school trip after their parents said they would be exposed to 'violence and guns' and expressed 'grave concerns' about the teaching of Islam.

Christine Trevethen, 47, a housewife from Lostwithiel, Cornwall, has stopped her 10-year-old daughter Keira going on the visit.

She said: 'We are not the only ones that don't want our kids to go - but a lot of the others haven't been honest enough to do so in the consent form.

'I do not want my daughter going to the mosque for personal reasons. I don't agree with the religion and what it stands for - but I am not prepared to go into the reasons why.

'We have now been told our children are going to be excluded from RE lessons as a result, which is a big concern.

'We tried to go through the right channels but the school handled it very badly.'
Sally Cox, 39, a self-employed cleaner from Lerryn, Cornwall, has also blocked her son Jed Pearce, 10, from going on the visit.

She said: 'I did not want him to go because they are a violent religion and many of them have guns.

'You can see what they are like every day on the news. There was a Muslim bomber in Exeter just a few years ago.

'We were just being honest saying we did not want them to go.

'It is unsafe. I don't want my son being shot. Also this is not a religious school yet they are willing to take a whole day out for religion.

'I don't want them to do that. I want him to be in school learning Maths and English - not being put at risk of being shot.

'They decided to take him out of RE, but I said I am fine with that.'

Another parent, who did not want to be named, said: 'We have grave concerns about the children's safety during the trip due to the horrific events that occur every day.

'We have therefore decided not to send our children on this trip.

 This decision is not one based on ignorance or racial or religious beliefs, but one based purely on safety concerns.'

The parent said she was furious after the pupils who pulled out of the trip were singled out in a school assembly.

She said: 'They were made to stand up after assembly. The sitting non-attendees were then asked individually why they were not going on the trip.

'This is not a decision the children have made, so discriminating against these children in this fashion is disgraceful, unacceptable and unprofessional.'

However, not all parents are opposed to the trip, with some backing the school and suggesting the visit is a positive move.

Alice Mitchell, 35, a playworker from Lostwithiel, said: 'I think we need to educate our children to be tolerant and dispel the rumours the media can congregate.

'I am all for my children going on the trip. I think celebrating diversity is a great thing.

'It is all down to fear. People are scared of other religions. There is a lot of misconceptions.'

And Sian Cornish, 41, a self-employed retailer, from Lostwithiel, added:' 'I did not even realise it was an issue. I was delighted my child had the opportunity to experience another culture in their ways of worship.

'I think it is important to celebrate other cultures - even if you don't agree with them.'

Kat Smith, the chairman of governors for the school, said a group of parents had expressed concerns about the trip due to recent terror attacks by groups such as ISIS.

She said: 'This is the first time pupils from the school have visited a mosque and it's an exciting opportunity for them to learn about different faiths and ensure that they're aware of the diverse nature of modern Britain.

'Because of recent news reports about extremist groups, such as ISIS, that identify themselves with Islam, a small number of parents have expressed concerns about the trip and the teaching of Islam in school.

'In response, the school held a special assembly with children to discuss these issues, and the head teacher has met and sent letters to parents with specific concerns.

'A full risk assessment has been conducted for the trip and there is no more risk attached to this trip than any other school trip.'

Ms Smith said the school had a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to promote good relations between people of different beliefs and ethnicities.

She said: 'Religious Education forms part of the basic curriculum in schools and its teaching is enshrined in law.
Kat Smith, the chairman of governors for the Lostwithiel School, said parents expressed concerns about the teaching of Islam at the school
Kat Smith, the chairman of governors for the Lostwithiel School, said parents expressed concerns about the teaching of Islam at the school
'The school recognises that parents have the right to withdraw their child from RE in whole or in part, and provide alternative work to further their child's knowledge and understanding of the parents' beliefs and values.

'However, the school is aware that children growing up in Cornwall may have little contact with Muslims and it is aware that it has a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to promote good relations between people of different beliefs and ethnicities as part of its single equality duty.

'The Governing Body fully supports this trip and the teaching of RE, including Islam.

Carolyn Huxley, headteacher of the primary school which has just 156 pupils on its books and teaches those aged four to 11, said the trip would still be taking place on May 7.

She said: 'Our hope from the visit to the mosque is that children will be given a view as to what are the values and beliefs of a British Muslim.

Exeter Mosque, described as the 'Islamic Centre of the South West', is open daily for prayers and also welcomes those wishing to learn about the Quran and basics of the Deen.

The Mosque also welcomes groups as part of education programmes and regularly hosts school trips.

Lostwithiel School, which has around six teachers, said the trip was planned to enable children to learn further about different religions.

The school said it follows the Cornwall Agreed Syllabus for Religious Education and part of the curriculum encourages children to study Christianity in great detail, as well as finding out about Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism and Islam through school trips, visits from outside speakers and class teaching.

The Muslim Council of Great Britain said it was concerned by the views of some of the parents who strongly opposed the trip.

A spokesman said: 'We would have thought a well-rounded education involves learning about those of a different faith.

'These laudable initiatives take place across the country. It is therefore disappointing to hear that some parents have chosen to pull their children out of a visit to a mosque due to events elsewhere in the world.

'We hope this incident is atypical and not reflective of a growing sentiment against Muslims in this country.

'We commend the headteacher for rightly stating that such a visit will help her pupils to understand real Islam and dispel the myths and hysteria that surrounds our religion.'
MailOnline has contacted Exeter Mosque for comment.

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