London: Row over school closures for Muslim, Hindu and Sikh holidays

London: Row over school closures for Muslim, Hindu and Sikh holidays

Two councils have instructed all schools under their control to shut for the annual celebrations of Eid-Ul-Fitr, Diwali and Guru Nanak's Birthday, in addition to the Christian festivals of Christmas and Easter.

The directive, by Waltham Forest and Newham councils, in east London, even affects schools where very few pupils are Muslim, Hindu or Sikh.

After concerns were raised, a review of the policy has been launched in Waltham Forest, with some criticising the closures as inappropriate, unnecessary and "political".

Headteachers have argued that they should be given discretion in deciding which days to mark, as happens in big multi-ethnic cities including Manchester, Birmingham and Bradford.

Whereas one in six Waltham Forest residents is Muslim, according to the last census, Hindus make up only 1.8 per cent of the borough's population, and Sikhs only 0.6 per cent. Jews outnumber Sikhs in the borough, according to the census, yet schools have not been told to close for any Jewish holidays.

Lynette Parvez, head of Kelmscott School, in Walthamstow, told officials conducting the review: "For a school such as Kelmscott where the vast majority of pupils are either Christian or Muslim, there is no need to take additional time out for Diwali or Guru Nanak.

"However, the school does promote and celebrate these events allowing the very small number of staff or pupils to have religious absence days if they request."

She added that schools should be allowed to decide whether or not to allow religious holidays based on their own circumstances.

Rachel MacFarlane, head of Walthamstow School for Girls, told the review: "We remain frustrated by the requirement on all schools, regardless of the religious profile of the staff and student populations, to close for Hindu, Muslim and Sikh festivals."

Craig Byron, Heathcote School coaching coordinator, called the closure decision 'political', saying: "If you compare the holidays to 20 years ago, all the changes are to do with political decisions, not what is best for the staff and students in gaining a rest."

The council has said that the policy is intended to "raise awareness of different faiths and cultures within the school community, which in turn supports cohesion for the wider community".


Source: Telegraph

No comments: