UK solar eclipse: London school children banned from watching rare celestial event 'for cultural and religious reasons'

London school confirmed children were not allowed to leave classrooms due to religious and cultural 'concerns associated with observing an eclipse directly'

Heather Saul
Friday 20 March 2015 14:58
The total solar eclipse over the Faroe Islands on 20 March, 2015
The total solar eclipse over the Faroe Islands on 20 March, 2015

A parent has described his anger after his daughter’s class was banned from leaving the classroom to watch the solar eclipse on Friday for “cultural and religious” reasons.

Pupils at the North Primary School in Southall, west London, were not allowed to go outside to watch the rare celestial event.

Phil Belman, the father of a seven-year-old girl who attends the school, said his daughter was told to make a pinhole to watch the eclipse through on Thursday evening.

“This morning I heard for religious and cultural reasons the kids were going to be banned from any part in the eclipse,” Mr Belman told ITV.

He said he rang the school and asked to be put through to the headmaster to demand an explanation.

“I was put through to him straight away and he confirmed it, religious and cultural reasons. I said that was totally outrageous. I asked him to elaborate and he refused.

“It's just going back to the dark ages really.”

Ivor Johnstone, a headmaster at the school, said the decision was taken because of concerns associated with observing an eclipse directly in some cultures and religions. However, he said children were still allowed to watch the eclipse on screens.

Mr Johnstone said in a statement: “Although we are sorry for any disappointment, pupils were still able to watch the eclipse on screens in classrooms.

“However, the overcast conditions in west London today meant they would not have been able to see it live in any case.”

Ealing Council said decisions such as this are made by headteachers locally.

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