November 22, 2013
Parents have criticised a school after children as young as eight were told they would be punished for racism if they did not attend a religious workshop about Islam. Angry mums and dads were sent a letter by Littleton Green Community School, in Huntingdon, Staffordshire, 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.
Parents have criticised 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.”
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.
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.
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.”
A spokesperson for Staffordshire County Council said: “This is a school matter and the council was only contacted once the letter had been sent.