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Thousands sign petition calling on Loxford School head teacher to review 'unacceptable' prayer policy

PUBLISHED: 17:00 21 May 2019

Loxford School is under fire after a picture of students praying in a car park emerged on social media. Picture: Google

Loxford School is under fire after a picture of students praying in a car park emerged on social media. Picture: Google

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An Ilford school has defended itself and revealed it will be opening a contemplation room later this month after a photo emerged on social media of students praying in a car park.

A photo widely circulated on social media appears to show Loxford School students praying in the school car park because the school will not accommodate some of their lunchtime prayers.

The school said facilities are provided in the building on Fridays, but it does not provide a room for their lunchtime prayers from Monday to Thursday.

More than 14,000 people have now signed a petition calling on head teacher Anita Johnson to review the school's 'unacceptable' policy and to provide a multi-faith room for the pupils.

Rukayyah Azain, a former teacher who left the school three years ago, said she was not provided with a place to pray when she worked at the school and has signed the petition.

She said: "Children and young people should be educated to respect and learn about different faiths and cultures. Staff members have a duty to ensure children leave school as well-rounded individuals who are respectful of everyone, regardless of creed, colour and gender.

"This ethos is not being advocated in a school when it is refusing staff members and pupils the right to pray and practice their religion. I think this petition should be the beginning of some change."

In a statement, David Low, chair of the Loxford School Trust, said the school allows pupils to pray in the local mosque and will now consider new 'arrangements' from Monday to Thursday.

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A school spokesman said: "Loxford School has facilitated prayers in school since the current head teacher took up her post in 2007. These prayers are supported by a large contingency of staff."

Mr Low: "Students have never been directed to pray outside. As an open and diverse school we take matters of welfare extremely seriously.

"Students also have the option to attend local places of worship during all lunchtimes with the consent of their parents.

"We keep these arrangements under review and will of course be seeking the views of the school's council, students, teachers, parents and the community moving forward and are working with local community teams and Imam Ajmal Masroor.

"We will seek to open a contemplation room for all students after the May half term.

"The students, staff and community of Loxford School have worked together to create an outstanding school with a proud tradition of inclusion within a diverse community. Our students deserve nothing less."

In a statement, leader of Redbridge Council, Cllr Jas Athwal, said: "I am satisfied that Loxford School has already made a range of suitable arrangements to allow pupils and staff space and time for self-reflection and prayers.

"We are currently working with the school to look at ways in which the school might further enhance these arrangements."

He added: "In Redbridge, we celebrate our diversity and are proactive in promoting understanding, peace and equality. I met with students and teachers at Loxford School. I understand that the events that unfolded and information that was circulated on social media have been inaccurately reported.

"We all have a duty to act responsibly and verify matters such as these, especially at this sensitive time when students are getting ready to sit their exams and need to focus."

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