Schools May Close for Ramadan and Other Non-Christian Festivals to Avoid Pupils Missing Classes

Daily Mail (London), April 20, 2009

Schools are closing for non-Christian religious festivals as well as Christmas and Easter to help curb absenteeism.

Growing numbers of councils are allowing schools to give pupils the day off to mark occasions such as Ramadan and the Hindu festival of Diwali.

Parents are legally entitled to take their children out of school for non-Christian festivals but end up missing lessons if the dates fall mid-term.

Now local authorities including Manchester, Oldham and Tower Hamlets in East London are granting schools permission to close for up to three days to cover holy days such as the Islamic festivals of Eid al Fitr and Eid ul Adha.

In guidance likely to be finalised in the summer, schools in some areas are being told they can consider closing for the day if 40 per cent of pupils are likely to be absent to observe a religious festival.

They must still offer 190 days teaching time so are scheduling staff training days to coincide with religious festivals or docking days from main holidays.

Figures for Manchester schools have shown a big rise in absences for ‘religious observance’ which accounts for almost one in ten of all missed days.

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