After School Prayer Issue at Academy
Parents and members of the local community approached us about the policies of an Academy in London. The Academy had recently decided that it was not going to allow Muslim students to pray afterschool, even if they were staying back to attend extracurricular classes or sessions afterschool.
This made life very difficult for students who would struggle to get home after school finished at 3.30pm before the time for maghrib started at circa 3.50pm. Until the point they were forbidden from doing so, students had been praying at the back of a classroom of a Muslim teacher who was happy for them to do so, and then leaving the school premises.
Muslim teachers and students tried to informally negotiate with the school leaders however they were unsuccessful. The school’s main concern was that students would be unsupervised, however they refused to countenance Muslim students praying even when some teachers volunteered to supervise them.
Due to this frustration, three students decided to make a statement and prayed publicly on a roundabout in front of the school. They were led in by a senior teacher who picked up their bags and ordered them to follow him. They were forbidden from praying in such a location going forward.
The IRU talked to a number of parties involved – teachers, students, and parents. Once we had a good idea of the situation we carefully considered the Academy’s legal paperwork available online.
In light of our findings, and relying on the relevant legislation we drafted a formal letter of complaint outlining the issues and suggesting possible resolutions.
We arranged a public meeting to discuss our findings with parents at a local mosque and at the meeting we explained to the parents what their rights are and how things can be moved forward. Given that the school had caught wind of the impending formal complaint and had indicated clearly that it was now willing to listen to the Muslim communities’ issues, we decided that it was right to try one last attempt at informal negotiation.
A small group of parents went down to the school two days later and met with the head teacher. He agreed to resolve all outstanding issues and the following day a letter to each of them confirmed that the school would now allow students to pray after school – a major success for the local Muslim community!