Stirling Policy on Cultural Diversity and Religious Observance

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Cultural Diversity and Religious Observance

Guidelines For Schools on Meeting the Religious

and Cultural Needs of Children and Young People


1. Introduction This document aims to provide schools with guidance on the provision for and the response to the needs of religious minorities in terms of Religious Observance. It also takes into account both the sensitive nature of parental concerns about religious and cultural issues, whilst addressing the operational issues of school practice. It will be revised to take in to account the advice from SEED with relation to Christian beliefs and whole school religious observance.

2. Context


2.1 National Context The SOIED circular 6/91 makes it explicit that all schools should provide for religious observance (consultation 2003 report awaited). The report from the consultation exercise on Religious Observance produced by Learning and Teaching Scotland recommends that the Scottish Executive:

• Reviews the circular on religious observance

• Provides guidance on religious observance

• Provides guidance on the role of chaplains in schools

2.2 Local Context

2.2.1 The Authority expects that headteachers will respect parental and legal wishes in order to meet appropriately the needs of all children and young people in a changing multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-faith society.

2.2.2 Many schools have taken account of parents’ wishes on the basis of their religious adherence/convictions and have undertaken arrangements to accommodate these wishes through changes in school practices, procedures, rules and regulations.

2.2.3 All of these arrangements have been achieved through co-operation between parents and schools.


2.2.4 Further guidance is now required by schools to take account of specific religious views on various aspects of schools life e. g:

• Dress code

• Pupil participation in Sports Arts and Culture

• Provision of suitable prayer facilities

Stirling Council Race Equality Policy states: Children’s Services will:

• Play an active part in supporting establishments and services in their race equality work

• Identify, develop and promote good practice in achieving race equality in establishments

• Help to develop positive links between families ,schools and local communities

• Provide information, resources ,guidance and support so that establishments and services can develop good practice

This will ensure that establishments will:

• Prepare all children and young people for a life in a multi-cultural society and building upon the strengths of cultural diversity.

• Provide for the particular needs of children and young people having regard to their ethnic, cultural and historical background.

• Beware of and counter racism and the discriminatory practices, which give rise to it.

3. The Religious and Cultural Needs of Children and Young People.


3.1. Introduction This section will support establishments to review and improve practices and procedures to meet appropriately the religious and cultural needs of children and young people, as an integral part of the Children’s Services Race Equality Policy (December 2003).

3.2. Religious and Cultural Needs In meeting the religious and cultural needs of Muslim pupils, schools will recognise that cultural issues based on religion, such as modesty, the wearing of clothing with religious significance and dietary needs will affect some children in school.

3.3. Parental Concerns Schools are urged to bear in mind that parents may have strong reservations about the kind of relationships between boys and girls, particularly at the age of 10 and over, that are customary in our schools.

They should also be aware that certain curricular areas of experience, such as health education, Sports, Arts and Culture (in particular in mixed classes) and certain fund raising activities, including lotteries and gambling, may need careful consideration and discussion with parents.

3.4. Partnership There is nothing inherently unreasonable or exceptional in any of these concerns. The Authority believes that with goodwill and sensitivity it can work with schools to ensure that pupils will participate wholeheartedly in the curriculum.

3.5. Religious Festivals Children and young people may wish to celebrate their major religious and cultural festivals. For example, Eid ul-Fitr at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, Diwali, Passover and Chinese New Year .The absence required would only be one, or two, days. The Authority recognises the right of children and young people to celebrate their religious and cultural festivals through the school recording their absences as “authorised”.

3.6. Prayer Facilities The authority expects that schools, particularly secondary, provide appropriate accommodation for Muslim young people to have access to a designated room for prayer, particularly for mid-day Friday prayers. ( See Appendix 1).

3.7. School Meals It is important that schools respect the dietary regulations based on religious practice for example, pig-meat or meat not ritually slaughtered. This will be addressed through the recommendations and implementation of “Hungry For Success“.

3.8. Sexual Health and Relationship Education Sexual health and relationship education is cross-curricular and will be taught as part of Science, Religious and Moral Education and Personal and Social Development programmes Great care and sensitivity should be exercised in the teaching of this issue so that the religious or social beliefs of neither children and young people nor parents/carers are offended.

3.9. Dress and Uniform The Authority recommends that school should be sensitive to the basic principle of modesty, which informs the dress, worn by Muslim girls, in particular.

Schools should continue to allow Muslim girls to wear appropriate dress. In schools, which have particular uniform, parents should be asked to provide this in school colours. Dress for Physical Education and sports should similarly be guided by respect for the adherence to the principle of modesty.

3.10. Religious Symbols The wearing of religious symbols by children and young people should not be equated with the wearing of jewellery. For many pupils, the wearing of a religious symbol(s) is matter of personal religious conviction. Subject to their duty to ensure health and safety for children and young people, headteachers are recommended to allow this observance in accordance with other school guidelines.

3.11. Showering and Changing As previously mentioned the principle of modesty should be respected. From the age of puberty schools should seek the provision of individual cubicles for showering and changing facilities.

3.12. Swimming Adherence to the principle of modesty should guide the type of provision that is made for swimming. Where single sex swimming is not available, the headteacher will consider parental wishes.

3.13. Arts and Culture There are certain forms of Arts activities, which might raise issues for some parents and young and people. Staff will be aware of sensitivities and will make suitable arrangements For example, certain forms of contact dancing and hymn singing.

Appendix 1




Fasting (Saum) is part of the early life of a Muslim and is a requirement on all those who are over twelve years of age and healthy. The Muslim community and the Muslim family make preparations well in advance.

As fasting is a responsibility and an obligation in Islam, it is important that Muslim young people are supported whilst continuing with normal school life.

The Practice of Fasting

It is always helpful for staff to know what Muslim young people should be doing during the months of Ramadan, the exact regulations and some of the effects of prolonged dawn to dusk fasting. These effects may include sleepiness, mood swings and headaches.

Fasting is not regarded as an opportunity to avoid aspects of life but rather to cope with normal life under different circumstances. Some young people will need to reduce the physical exercise that they take during fasting while others will wish to continue as normal.

If young people are not able to cope with Physical Education it should be possible to arrange physical activities which are less strenuous or alternative written work.

Prayer Rooms

In the month of Ramadan, Muslim young people may wish to make prayers during the lunchtime. Schools are expected to provide prayer rooms. These rooms should normally be available for boys and girls separately.

It is therefore important that:-

(a) Everyone in the school knows why prayer rooms are being suggested and that non-Muslim members of staff who are involved in supervision are fully briefed.

(b) The local Muslim community is involved as required

(c) Where young people are supervised by anyone other than a teacher, it is important that they are well briefed, know what is expected of them.

Prayer in Islam

Before making prayers, Muslims require to wash as a physical preparation. Facilities, in close proximity, should be available to young people e for this purpose. It is not necessary for shower rooms to be provided as Wudu applies only to prescribed parts of the body, including the feet.

The essential times of prayer are:-

• After first light and before sunrise;

• Between the sun reaching its height and mid-afternoon;

• Between mid-afternoon and sunset;

• After the sun had finished setting;

• In the dark of the night.

If it is not possible to make the prayers at the appointed times, they can be made as soon as possible afterwards.

Muslims do not require a leader to make the prayers, although normally there would be a leader in the mosque. Prayers do not require the whole of the lunch break.

It is usual for males and females to pray separately. Senior pupils who are Muslim may be happy to help with the organisation of prayers in school at lunchtime.

General Points


Because Islam is based on the lunar calendar, the month of Ramadan moves each year. It is not likely to cause major problems in terms of external examinations this session but if staff are aware at the beginning of the session of the likely dates of the fast then clashes with practical examinations, internal assessments and preliminary examinations can be avoided.

Parents’ Nights and Other School Functions

Fasting is difficult for both adults and young people, and the timing of the fast, dawn to dusk, means that all food preparation and consumption must take place over a few hours every evening and very early each morning. This makes it very difficult for parents to attend meetings or other functions in the evening, during Ramadan. If it is possible to avoid parents’ meetings during Ramadan, while letting Muslim parents know that the school has specially arranged this, the benefits can be considerable.

Whole School Involvement

All young people should be fully informed about Ramadan and the implications for Muslim pupils of observing the fast. Awareness raising for all staff is equally important.

An atmosphere of trust with all young people and parents should be established for matters related to Ramadan. It should be discussed openly and honestly and suitable and manageable arrangements should be made.

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