Palestine divisions may force London school to close its doors

Second school in capital accused of anti-Islam prejudice increases security

Barclay Primary School in east London said it received bomb threats and 'racial allegations of anti-Muslim prejudice'. Photo: Google
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A school in London has warned that lessons may have to be moved online following protests over its head teacher’s decision to ban pupils from wearing pro-Palestinian badges.

Barclay Primary School was forced to close two days early for the Christmas holiday because of threats to its staff caused by what it termed “malicious fabrications”.

A social media video viewed more than 250,000 times alleged that an eight-year-old pupil was being bullied by teachers at the school for wearing a badge expressing support for Palestine on his coat.

Days after the allegation, masked men were seen climbing the school's fence to hang Palestinian flags and the unrest continued when the new term began this month.

Now a letter has been sent by the Lion Academy Trust, which runs Barclay Primary School, to parents telling them of measures it has had to put in place, including hiring private security, securing additional support from London's Metropolitan Police, closing the main reception and installing CCTV.

Parents were told the school, in Leyton, east London, and its staff received “alarming threats of bomb attacks, arson and the continued severe intimidation and racial allegations of anti-Muslim prejudice”.

The letter states that, if the situation doesn’t calm down, “further measures” will be taken to “close the school and revert to online learning for as long as we believe it is necessary”.

“This is the option of last resort – but please be aware that, should staff continue to be threatened, then we will have no option but to close the school,” the letter said.

The school revealed that over the Christmas period the police were notified after a “serious threat was received in writing”.

Parents were told an anonymous caller “made a series of racial slurs and a further threat to commit criminal damage (arson) against the school and to individual staff”.

A staff member said the school was being targeted by parents who are pushing a political agenda and making accusations the school is anti-Islam.

The boy at the heart of the row was off school for a month at the end of last year after refusing to comply with the school’s demand to remove the badge, it was reported at the time.

His mother is from Gaza and has lost many family members, his father told the BBC.

Meanwhile, a highly rated London school is being sued by a Muslim pupil over its decision to impose a strict policy of banning prayer rituals.

The Michaela Community School is run by Katharine Birbalsingh, who has been dubbed “Britain’s strictest head teacher” and is also a UK government adviser on social mobility.

Its lawyers allege the school, in Wembley, north London, has been subject to an online campaign amid allegations it is anti-Islam, with police called to respond to claims bombs had been planted there, forcing it to hire security guards.

Police in London have been warned they risk criminalising and profiling Muslim pupils after it emerged patrols are to be stepped up around schools due to the Israel-Gaza war.

The Barclay Primary School and Lion Academy Trust have been approached for comment.

Updated: January 19, 2024, 12:44 PM