Muslim parents are considering taking legal action against a school because they claim their children have been forced to pray outside in rain and freezing temperatures.
Dozens of youngsters claim they have been left soaking wet and cold after Mirfield Free Grammar School and Sixth Form in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, refused to give them permission to pray indoors.
Shocking pictures have emerged which appear to show the children being forced to pray on grass verges and even the concrete playground – and the pupils claim they are being punished further for praying, with some given ‘final warnings’.
‘For children to be made to go outside in horrible conditions is surely wrong in anybody’s eyes.
‘The school has acted disgracefully. I am hearing from parents that children have been soaked to the skin and cannot concentrate in lessons.
‘This is the second winter in a row now. We have tried everything from handing over a petition signed by 70 pupils, hosting inter-faith meetings and talking to local politicians, but the school refuses to budge.
‘It is not unreasonable to ask for the children to be able to pray indoors, like they used to.’
Mr Badat added that he mosque would be willing to help the school by fundraising to enable the school to provide such facilities if cost is an issue, but so fair their offers have fallen on deaf ears.
Solicitor Yunus Lunat, from Leeds law firm Ison Harrison, said he had taken up the case on behalf of ‘a number of families’ and said the situation should not have reached this stage.
He said: ‘The students are not asking for anything that is outside the scope of the law. If I was an employer that is what I’d be questioning – the children’s welfare.
‘The parents and students are keen to stress that they wish to act within the law and are anxious to avoid any negative ramifications or reporting.
‘The families have tried to solve this amicably with the school for over a year now. They have come to me as a last resort.
‘The school is adamant that it meets the requirements of the Equality Act. I have written to the school asking them one question: how?
‘That was two weeks ago and I have heard nothing back. Seeing as they have been insisting to everyone for more than a year that they are acting within the law, it should not be too difficult for them to provide an explanation.’
Mr Lunat claims some of the children are even being disciplined for carrying out their obligatory prayers and a few of them are on final warnings.
He said: ‘There are children preparing for GCSE and A-level exams. They are not getting the best preparation possible and parents are concerned at the possible effect on results.
‘Even those who pray outside – some are going outside the perimeter of the school to use the roadside – are being disciplined. It’s overzealous and oppressive.’
Mr Lunat also claims to have seen a letter purporting to link the lack of prayer facilities with the Prevent counter-terrorism strategy and radicalisation.
One of the school’s sixth form students, 17-year-old Talha Asmal, fled to Syria to join ISIS and died in a suicide attack in June when he drove a vehicle packed with explosives into an oil refinery in northern Iraq.
Mr Lunat said: ‘I am shocked and concerned because that has no relevance at all to what is going on here. This is simply about children being allowed to offer their prayers in peace, without interference or threat.’
Exemptions have been made to allow sixth form students to use the town’s House of Resurrection monastery, but this has meant some children being out of school for up to an hour to make the three mile-round trip.
Mr Lunat said: ‘The last thing the parents and students want is for this to affect their studies.’.
The school’s Executive Principal Lorraine Barker said: ‘We are a broadly Christian academy and have never had a prayer room.
‘Before students join the sixth form we make them aware of the facilities we have on site and we are clear that we have no prayer room.
‘Sixth form students are welcome to go off site in order to pray and we have made arrangements in the local community for this to happen.’