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Primary school forced to close as parents stage protest over boy ‘reprimanded for wearing Palestine badge’

Parents gathered outside the gates of Barclay Primary School in Leyton on Thursday morning to protest the alleged incident

Athena Stavrou
Friday 22 December 2023 12:15 GMT
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Crowds chanted ‘education is under attack’ as parents gathered with pro-Palestine placards and banners
Crowds chanted ‘education is under attack’ as parents gathered with pro-Palestine placards and banners (5 Pillars/X)

An East London primary school has been forced to close as parents staged a protest after an eight-year-old boy was allegedly reprimanded for wearing a Palestine flag on his coat.

Parents gathered outside the gates of Barclay Primary School in Leyton on Thursday morning to protest. Crowds chanted “education is under attack” as they stood with pro-Palestine placards and banners.

The Lion Academy Trust - which runs several schools including Barclay Primary School - has denied all allegations and said they have closed the school early for Christmas break in light of “escalating threats against staff and the school”.

The row was initially sparked after parents said they received a letter from the school reprimanding them for allowing their children to wear the colours of the Palestinian flag to Children in Need day on 15 November.

Have you been affected by this incident? Email athena.stavrou@independent.co.uk

The letter - which was sent two days later and then circulated on TikTok - warned parents and their children against making “overt demonstration of political beliefs” as the school wished to remain “apolitical”. It is claimed the letter said students would be referred to the government’s anti-terror scheme Prevent or the Waltham Forest hate crime team if extremist or divisive comments were made at school.

Lion Academy Trust confirmed the letter had been sent to eight families but said it had been “deliberately taken out of context” and said it had never reported a student to Prevent.

The school has denied allegations of mistreating an eight-year-old student and says the letter sent to parents was taken out of context (5 Pillars/X)

The father of the boy told 5 Pillars news outside the school on Thursday that his son felt “criminalised” by the school - which has denied the allegations of mistreatment.

Shahid Achhala told the news outlet his son attended Children in Need wearing Palestinian colours and a sticker, which was removed. When contacted by the school, Mr Achhala told them his son was simply expressing his grief for relatives he had lost in Gaza during the conflict.

When his son returned to school the following Monday with a Palestinian flag sewn into his coat, Mr Achhala claims he was isolated from his peers until Thursday and was then told he would not be allowed back onto school premises the following day.

“I said it’s not an issue of school policy. [My son] is of Palestinian ethnicity and simply showing empathy with dead relatives,” Mr Achhala told 5 Pillars. “It’s a show of grief. They refused to accept that and said it was a political statement.”

The academy trust said no evidence to support any allegations of bullying or misconduct have been found through either an external or internal investigation (5 Pillars/X)

In response to the allegations, the academy trust said: “No evidence to support any allegations of bullying or misconduct has been found through either an external or internal investigation.

“This has been formally referred by the school to the relevant external safeguarding authorities who have reviewed the allegation and found it to be false.”

The statement released on Wednesday said that the school said it would not enter into any further discussions due to the “threatening and completely unacceptable conduct being demonstrated”.

“We will never tolerate bullying or intimidation from any source - and have the full support of the Department for Education, Ofsted and the police in this matter,” the statement added.

“We will take any and all necessary steps to protect our pupils, staff and values.”

They also advised that if individuals object to guidance issued, it needs to be raised directly with the Department for Education.

The Lion Academy Trust has been contacted by The Independent for further comment.

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