Ten young children who were pulled out of a school trip to a mosque by their parents have been publicly humiliated by their school in Cornwall. The children, aged between eight and 11, were singled out in assembly and made to answer questions about their planned non-attendance.
Junior school children from Lostwithiel School in Cornwall are due to visit Exeter mosque, Devon in May as part of their Religious Studies lessons. The rural school has just 156 pupils on its books, nearly 100 of whom, aged between eight and 11, are expected to be taking part. The school says the aim of the outing is to teach children that jihadist groups such as ISIS are not a true reflection of Islam.
But the parents of 10 children refused permission for their youngsters to take part in the trip due to safety concerns, citing fears over Islamic terrorism. They reacted furiously to the news that their children had been made to publicly answer questions about their non-attendance, pointing out that it was not the decision of the children involved.
One parent, who asked not to be named, told the Daily Mail “We have grave concerns about the childrens’ safety during the trip due to the horrific events that occur every day. We have therefore decided not to send our children on this trip. This decision is not one based on ignorance or racial or religious beliefs, but one based purely on safety concerns.
“They were made to stand up after assembly. The sitting non-attendees were then asked individually why they were not going on the trip. This is not a decision the children have made, so discriminating against these children in this fashion is disgraceful, unacceptable and unprofessional.”
However, the Chairman of Governors of Lostwithiel School, Kat Smith, was unapologetic. She insisted that the school had a duty under the Equalities Act 2010 to promote different faiths and ethnicities.
“This is the first time pupils from the school have visited a mosque and it’s an exciting opportunity for them to learn about different faiths and ensure that they’re aware of the diverse nature of modern Britain,” she said.
“Because of recent news reports about extremist groups, such as ISIS, that identify themselves with Islam, a small number of parents have expressed concerns about the trip and the teaching of Islam in school.
“In response, the school held a special assembly with children to discuss these issues, and the head teacher has met and sent letters to parents with specific concerns.”
She insisted that the trip was safe for the children to take part in, and that, coming from a provincial area such as Cornwall, it was imperative that children be introduced to other faiths and cultures. And she explained that children should be taught that ISIS is not “a true reflection of Islam”.
“A full risk assessment has been conducted for the trip and there is no more risk attached to this trip than any other school trip,” she said.
“Religious Education forms part of the basic curriculum in schools and its teaching is enshrined in law. The school recognises that parents have the right to withdraw their child from RE in whole or in part, and provide alternative work to further their child’s knowledge and understanding of the parents’ beliefs and values.
“However, the school is aware that children growing up in Cornwall may have little contact with Muslims and it is aware that it has a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to promote good relations between people of different beliefs and ethnicities as part of its single equality duty.
“The Governing Body fully supports this trip and the teaching of RE, including Islam. It is the governors’ hope that the visit to the Mosque will provide an insight for pupils into the nature of British Islam, help them understand how Islam is presented in the media and that groups like ISIS are not a true reflection of the Islam followed by the vast majority of Muslims in Britain.”
The school’s headteacher Carolyn Huxley said that the trip would still go ahead and reiterated the need to teach children that jihadist groups such as ISIS are not a true reflection of Islam.
“Our hope from the visit to the mosque is that children will be given a view as to what are the values and beliefs of a ‘British Muslim’”, she said. “This trip will show the children the views of extremists are not a true reflection of Islam as a religion.”