Top UK school bans girls under 8 from wearing hijab, discourages fasting
The St Stephen's school says children under 8 are not allowed to don the hijab. Source: Shutterstock

A top primary school in London has banned girls under eight-years-old from wearing hijabs to school.

The St. Stephen’s Primary School also told parents that children should not fast during the school day in Ramadan, even though this is an important sacred holiday for Muslims.

The school’s head of governors, Arif Qawi, said children should not fast until puberty, reported The Sunday Times.

Citing health and safety as reasons for the decision, Arif said if the children were to faint under the school’s watch, “it is not fair to us”.

“It just seemed wrong. It is common sense,” he said.

Headteacher Neena Lall told the daily the changes were made to help integrate children into British society.

“A couple of years ago I asked the children to put their hands up if they thought they were British,” she said. “Very few children put their hands up.”

Arif said the school has since received backlash from parents, however, some mothers were relieved at the news.

“I could not see their faces because they were fully veiled. But I could see their eyes — which were sparkling. They were pleased we had taken it out of their hands.”

“I always ask, ‘Do you want your daughter to grow up to be like you or like Neena?’ They say, ‘Like Neena.’ When I hear that I think we have done our job,” he told The Sunday Times.

Arif said, however, that such a decision should not be the school’s to make. The Department of Education should have stronger guidelines and should not leave it for school governors to make the call.

Responding, the department said: “It is a matter for individual schools to decide how to accommodate children observing Ramadan, and to set uniform policies.

“We issue clear guidance on uniform and to help schools understand their legal duties under the Equality Act.”

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