Schoolchildren told they would be punished for RACISM if they did not attend a religious workshop on ISLAM
Parents today slammed a school after children as young as eight were told they would be punished for RACISM if they did not attend a religious workshop – on ISLAM.
Angry mums and dads were sent a letter by Littleton Green Community School, in Huntingdon, Staffs., warning their children would be considered racist if they did not go on the school trip.
The visit to Staffordshire University – for Year 4 and Year 6 pupils – had been arranged as part of the children’s “cultural education” on November 27.
Headteacher Lynn Small wrote to parents and said if kids did not attend a “racial discrimination note” would be made on the pupil’s records and would remain there for their school careers.
On top of that, they were also ordered to pay £5 towards the cost of the trip.
Yesterday parents blasted the school’s “ludicrous” threats and accused the school of trying to blackmail them.
Stacy Waldron, 26, who has an eight-year-old daughter at the school, said: “I feel my child will be racist if I don’t allow her to go.
“This is my choice, not hers, and she shouldn’t have to pay for it.”
Mum-of-four Tracy Ward added: “I was shocked by the letter. To be told my kids have got to attend this workshop is disgusting.
“Everyone should have a choice but that’s my opinion and I don’t want a stain on my kids’ record as a result.
“They are not old enough to be called racist.”
Her sister Donna, whose daughter also attends the school, said: “It’s not our religion. We should have a right to stop our children going.”
Another parent Gillian Claridge, 55, added: “To be told we had to pay for the trip as well was just a kick in the teeth.
“How dare they threaten to brand the children racist at such a young age. Its going to make them feel like little criminals.
“The very nature of religion is all about choice – on this occasion they were not being given any choice at all.
“It was draconian move and its left a lot of parents fuming.”
Around 100 pupils across four years were expected to take part in the course – which would have involved them being shown Islamic artefacts.
But after parents contacted the school they were then forced to make an embarrassing U-turn and withdraw the threat after council chiefs intervened.
A letter from the head to parents on Thursday night apologised for “inaccuracies” in the previous correspondence.
In the letter Mrs Small asked parents to “on reflection disregard a section from the earlier letter”.
South Staffordshire MP Gavin Williamson slammed the original move – labelling it “bonkers”.
He said: “The idea of attaching a ‘racial discrimination note’ to children’s education records saying it will remain on their file for the duration for their school career seems unfair, particularly when it is no the child’s decision whether or not he or she attends.
“It seems a very heavy-handed approach.”
Defending the decision Mrs Small said that exposing the pupils to other faiths was part of the school’s statutory duty.
She said: “We are a mainly Christian school, but we have to cover at least one other religion as part of the national curriculum.
“This visit is part of that.
“They would not be taking part in any religious practices. We have had similar workshops on a variety of religions in the past – including one on Islam with no problems at all and the children have absolutely loved it.
“We have pupils and teachers at the school who belong to the Islam faith and it is right for the children to understand and appreciate their faith as well as their own.”
The school, which was told it “required improvement” in an Ofsted report earlier this year caters for 341 pupils aged between 3 and 11.
A spokesperson for Staffordshire County Council said: “This is a school matter and the council was only contacted once the letter had been sent.
“We believe it is important for children to find out more about different cultures.
“However parents also have a right to withdraw their children from religious activities.
“Clearly it is not appropriate for comments about racial discrimination to be made in these circumstances.”
The original letter – dated Wednesday, November 20 – read:
As part of the National Religious Education Curriculum together with the multicultural community in which we live, it is a statutory requirement for Primary School aged children to experience and learn about different cultures.
The workshop is at Staffordshire University and will give your child the opportunity to explore other religions. Children will be looking at religious artefacts similar to those that would be on display in a museum. they will not be partaking in any religious practices.
Refusal to allow your child to attend this trip will result in a Racial Discrimination note being attached to your child’s education record, which will remain on this file throughout their school career.
As such our expectations are that all children in years 4 and 6 attend school on Wednesday 27th November to take part in this trip.
All absences on this day will be investigated for their credibility and will only be sanctioned witha GP sick note.
If you would like to discuss this further please contact our RE Coordinator, Mrs Edmonds.”