Britain's top state primary school bans Hijab for under-eights and calls for UK-wide rule
nc St Stephen's primary school headteacher Neena Lall
And St Stephen's primary school in Newham, east London, is demanding the Government take the lead in establishing a national policy instead of letting individual schools make their own rules – and risk putting themselves in the firing line.
The school has warned parents to avoid having their children fast throughout the school day during Ramadan as pupils will be sitting summer exams.
Chairman of governors Arif Qawi said: “We did not ban fasting altogether but we encouraged children to fast in holidays, at weekends and not on the school campus.
“Here we are responsible for their health and safety if they pass out on campus. It is not fair to us.”
Mr Qawi said he had checked with Muslim clerics who told him that boys should fast from puberty but some St Stephen’s children were fasting from the age of eight or nine.
He urged the Department for Education to “step up and take it out of our hands”.
He said: “The same for the hijab, it should not be our decision. It is unfair to teachers and very unfair to governors.
“We are unpaid. Why should we get the backlash?”
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “It is a matter for individual schools to decide how to accommodate children observing Ramadan, and to set uniform policies.
“We issue clear guidance on uniform and to help schools understand their legal duties under the Equality Act.”
Although it is mostly as an optional item a survey of 800 primary schools found that nearly 20 per cent of them list the hijab as part of their uniform for children aged four to eleven.
A campaign led by Amina Lone , of the Social Action and Research Foundation, is fighting for young Muslim girls not to have to wear the hijab in primary schools.
Headmistress Neena Lall backed the changes and said the school made efforts to integrate pupils into modern British society.
She said: “A couple of years ago I asked the children to put their hands up if they thought they were British.
"Very few children put up their hands. Very few thought they were British. So I thought, okay we've got some work to do here."
St Stephen’s topped the Sunday Times Parent Power school league tables in 2017 and was rated "outstanding" in its last Ofsted report.