Primary school closes early after ‘escalating threats’ from pro-Palestinian parents

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Primary school closes early after ‘escalating threats’ from pro-Palestinian parents

Protesters gathered outside Barclay School in Leyton following a row over a pupil who refused to remove a Palestinian flag badge from his coat

Dozens of pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered outside Barclay Primary School in east London on Thursday after it banned children from wearing Palestinian badges on their clothes.

The school, in Leyton, warned of “escalating threats against staff” and took the decision to close early for Christmas. It follows a row over a pupil who refused to remove a Palestinian flag badge on his coat.

The school had sent a letter to parents on 17 November, warning that pupils had attended Children In Need day wearing Palestinian flags, badges and stickers. It asked them not to send children in wearing clothes, scarves or badges showing any political belief.

The letter warned that “inappropriate comments made at school including, extremist or divisive comments” would lead to formal meetings and potentially referrals to the government’s counter-terrorism programme, Prevent, or the Hate Crime Team in Waltham Forest.

But this week protesters turned up at the school gates calling for an eight year-old boy, whose mum is from Gaza, to be allowed back to school. The parents of the pupil had refused the school’s demand to remove a Palestinian badge from his coat. They said their son, who has since been off school for several weeks, was “traumatised” and “discriminated”against.

The demonstration attracted around 150 protesters chanting slogans both relating to the boy in question and more generally about Israel’s war in Gaza. Palestinian flags were also attached to lampposts along the road.

The Lion Academy Trust, which runs Barclay Primary School, has refuted allegations and said in a statement on its website: “No evidence to support any allegations or misconduct has been found.”

It said: “In the light of escalating threats against staff and the school, based on malicious fabrications being broadcast by various media outlets,  the Lion Academy Trust will be closing the school from 20th December 2023 to all parents and pupils for the Christmas break. This decision has been made after careful reflection and because we need the school to be a safe place for the children and staff.”

It added: “The correspondence issued to 8 families (out of a school of 1,325 pupils) on 17.11.23 has been misappropriated and we believe it has been deliberately taken out of context. The letter was specific to alleged misconduct by the parties to whom it was sent. Further, we are bound by our legal duty under Prevent and whilst we have never reported anyone to Prevent at the school, and would not wish to do so, we are seeking to be transparent by making individuals aware of the school’s legal obligations. We believe we are acting firmly on the basis of the range of evidence at hand and to suggest otherwise is a distortion of the facts.”


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