Schoolchildren have been repeatedly humiliated by being forced to lie face down on the floor and listen to their head teacher pretending to telephone God to say they have been naughty, it has been claimed.
Angry parents of children who have allegedly suffered this bizarre punishment at St Joseph's Roman Catholic primary school in Devizes, Wiltshire, have prompted the schools watchdog Ofsted to ask Wiltshire council to investigate.
One parent, Tammy Brimble, claims her 11-year-old son Cyrus was subjected to the punishment by head teacher Sheila Jones. “When he told me what had happened to him and three other boys, I was upset.” It was “distressing for my child for her to call on God like that,” she added.
Ms Brimble has complained to Ofsted. And in a letter to Simon Napper, deputy chairman of the governors, she claims: “Cyrus has been subjected to the humiliation of being punished by Sheila on more than one occasion.”
Another mother, Alexandra Jones, who worked as a lunchtime supervisor at the school, told how the children had been talking among themselves “and then it came out that Sheila had made some of them lie face down in the prayer room while she pretended to ring God on her mobile phone.”
Ofsted has asked Wiltshire Council's safeguarding panel to investigate the allegations.
Ms Jones has not been suspended. In a statement, Colette Culligan, chairman of the school’s governors, said: “We are aware of an allegation against one of the teaching staff” but any “enquiries regarding this issue” should be directed to Wiltshire Council.
A Wiltshire Council spokesperson said: “We have received a letter from Ofsted and we are looking into the concerns raised.”
This is not an isolated case, claim campaigners.
“It is far too common that such proselytising or discrimination on the basis of religion causes distress, and we are frequently contacted by parents whose children have been left in tears after similar incidents,” said Pavan Dhaliwal, director of public affairs at the British Humanist Association.Reuse content