Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Religious segregation in British school

Head 'forced out' over ban on Muslim assemblies. If it is a cardinal sin to segregate blacks and whites, why is it OK to segregate Muslims and non-Muslims? Rubbery Leftist principles again, it would seem

A head teacher who was accused of racism after she tried to scrap separate assemblies for Muslim children at her school has resigned. Julia Robinson's departure follows an 18-month dispute over her attempt to hold a single weekly assembly for all pupils at Meersbrook Bank primary school, in Sheffield, regardless of their faith. Although the plan was backed by staff and many parents, some Muslim parents objected and accused Mrs Robinson of being racist.

Sheffield council refused to discuss why Mrs Robinson had resigned but a teacher at the school said that she had been under a lot of pressure, while a parent claimed that she had her hands tied and was forced out. The school's chairman of governors has also quit.

More than 20 per cent of the school's 240 pupils are Muslims. Parents from the local mosque said that the Islamic services started ten years ago after they withdraw their children from the daily service. One said that the split came after a teacher tried to force a Muslim pupil to sing a Christian hymn.

The school and the parents agreed that Muslim pupils would attend four of the five weekly assemblies, which were inclusive in nature, but that on Tuesday, when a more formal act of Christian worship was held, Muslim pupils would take part in an Islamic service led by one of the parents.

When Mrs Robinson joined Meersbrook Bank in 2007 she set up a working group to review the separate practice. A teacher at the school said that Mrs Robinson took careful advice from the local education authority. “She wanted to hold assemblies for all the pupils, which would include all faiths. That is what happens in most schools but some parents wanted things to stay as they were. When she tried to stop them, feeling they did nothing to promote inclusiveness, she was accused of being racist.”

Mrs Robinson was “absent through ill health” for most of last year. She had been due to resume her duties this term, but some parents are understood to have objected to the local authority about her return. A teacher said: “She was under a lot of pressure. The plan was for her to come back but again some of the parents put a stop to that. Many of us here just feel this is all very wrong. Julia was doing the right thing and went through all the right routes. There's no other school we know that has separate assemblies like these. “The buzzword from the authority at the moment is all about community cohesion but there is little cohesion at this school. The staff are very upset at what has happened.”

A mother with three children at the school said that Mrs Robinson was “a marvellous head and loved by the children”. “What she was doing was quite right. The children sit together in class so why shouldn't they share a school assembly?” she said.

A Muslim parent said that the Islamic assemblies, which have been suspended for the past year, taught Muslim children to be good citizens and had “never received negative feedback” before Mrs Robinson's appointment. The parent, who is a police sergeant and a governor, said that the school was a place where children of different ethnic backgrounds “get on fantastically”.

The law in England and Wales states that children at state schools “shall on each school day take part in an act of collective worship”, which should be “wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character”. The head teacher is responsible for collective worship provision, in consultation with the governors. David Fann, who chairs the primary schools committee of the National Association of Head Teachers, said that he had never known a school to hold separate assemblies for children of different faiths. “Segregating children is not good practice. The whole point is to gather people together to share their views and to learn from other people's viewpoints.”

Some Islamic activists have urged Muslim parents to withdraw their children from school assemblies and to demand the right to hold separate acts of worship. Mrs Robinson was not at her home yesterday and was said to be “staying with friends to avoid the fuss”.


Australia: Careless government school "loses" little boy

A Caboolture mum is furious with her five-year-old son's school after a stranger found him beside a busy road a kilometre away. Stacie Warwick's son Dylan Doelz left his Year 1 classroom at Morayfield State School shortly after school started . without anyone noticing.

Ms Warwick said she was an "absolute wreck'' when the school phoned her at 9.45am last Wednesday to tell her that another mum had found the youngster wandering the streets.

Dylan, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is believed to have left the school soon after his mother dropped him off. She had stayed with him until 8.40am and spoken with his teacher.

She received a call from the school at 9.45am saying Dylan had been found at Morayfield Rd, near Domnick St, and had been returned to the school. He crossed at least three side streets before he was stopped by the other mum, who he didn't know. "He could have been hit by a car. It could have been a psycho who picked him up. There are so many possibilities of what could have happened,'' Ms Warwick said.

Ms Warwick said the woman who found Dylan told her she had to cajole him into her car. "The school definitely did not know he was gone until (the mother) called,'' Ms Warwick said. "It is just appalling. I should know he's safe there.''

After the incident, the school moved Dylan to another class at Ms Warwick's request and he has been moved to a desk near the class teacher. The school has also requested Ms Warwick hand him to the teacher every morning, which she maintains she does already, and offered to place him in "supported play'' at breaks. Here he would be fully supervised but separated from the general school population.

``I've asked that he not be in supported play because he'll feel like he's being punished,'' Ms Warwick said. ``He got quite a scare himself because a stranger pulled over and asked him to get in a car.''

An Education Queensland spokesman said principal Vicky Gahan had met with Ms Warwick over the incident, along with a senior department official. ``While concerned at the incident, the mother has indicated that she is supportive of the actions of the principal in implementing safe practices in the school,'' the spokesman said.

Education Queensland did not respond to the Herald's request to detail the school's procedures on this issue. Ms Warwick said the response from Education Queensland and the school did little to prevent the same thing happening to other pupils.


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