Monday, July 12, 2010

Council forces schools to rearrange exams and cancel lessons to avoid offending Muslims during Ramadan

Head teachers in Stoke-on-Trent have been issued with the guidance for treatment of Muslim pupils who may still be fasting when the new term starts in September.

But critics dismissed the advice as ‘over-zealous’ bureaucracy and said all pupils would be forced to miss out on activities as a result.

During Ramadan, all Muslims who have reached puberty avoid eating or drinking between sunrise and sunset to encourage discipline and self-restraint.
To help them with this, Stoke council advises schools not to schedule exams or hold parents’ meetings and social events after school.

They should also avoid swimming lessons because some parents and pupils consider the risk of swallowing water too great.

It even advises schools to cancel sex education because Muslims are expected to avoid sexual thoughts while fasting.

Although the guidance was specifically drawn up to help Muslims, it will affect every pupil in the 89 schools in the Potteries.

According to the last census in 2001, 3.2 per cent of the population of the city is Muslim.

The co-founder of the the Campaign Against Political Correctness, John Midgley, said: ‘Instead of meddling in this politically correct way the council should trust the judgment of pupils, parents and teachers.

‘They should be able to cater for what goes on in schools without wasting time on overly bureaucratic and politically correct guidance.’

He warned that the advice could be counter-productive and encourage disapproval of the city’s Muslims.

And he added: ‘If there’s an over-zealous implementation of this guidance that may mean some pupils could miss out on activities.’

Ramadan is based on the lunar calendar, meaning it falls on a different date each year. It is between August 11 and September 9 this year.

For most of the holy month, the pupils will be on holiday. They will only be at school for the last week.

Mr Midgley said the guidance was a ‘waste of time’ as pupils are rarely examined in the first week of term and parents’ evenings would be unlikely to fall at that time.

But Ruth Rosenau, a councillor, said: ‘We live in a multicultural society and already accommodate Christian celebrations.

‘So we’re just asking teachers to be more aware and more accommodating of the Muslim ones.

‘These are not rules that are going to be introduced, but guidance asking schools to be slightly more flexible in how they deal with Ramadan.’

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