School caught up in Palestinian row may be forced to close over ‘despicable’ threats

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School caught up in Palestinian row may be forced to close over ‘despicable’ threats

Barclay Primary School in East London has faced escalating threats including 'racial slurs' and arson since it banned pupils from wearing Palestinian badges

Pro-Palestinian protests outside Barclay Primary School in December 2023
Pro-Palestinian protests outside Barclay Primary School in December 2023

A primary school in East London may have to close because of security risks since its decision to ban political symbols, including Palestinian flags.

Barclay Primary School in Leyton warned parents it may have to resort to online learning because of escalating threats over the Christmas period, including arson, made against the school and its staff.

The Lion Academy Trust, which runs the school, wrote to parents on 10 January, warning that staff had received a “serious” written threat, which was referred to the police and has since received more threats including “an anonymous caller making a series of racial slurs” and “a further threat to commit criminal damage (arson) against the school and to individual staff.

The school said that if the safety of children or staff cannot be assured, the doors may close “with limited notice” and “revert to online learning for as long as we believe it is necessary.”

The letter, published on the school’s website, noted how the school had secured extra private on-site security, as well as an increased presence by Metropolitan Police officers in the local area.

Barclay was forced to close early in December due to “escalating threats against staff” following a row over an eight-year-old pupil who refused to remove a Palestinian flag badge on his coat.

The boy had been off school for weeks, resulting in protestors turning up at the school gates calling for the pupil, whose mum is from Gaza, to be allowed back to school. 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.

In a statement posted on the Barclay Primary School website on 19 January, the Lion Academy Trust said it is working with all relevant agencies to navigate a route back to business as usual whereby our pupils, families and staff are all able to focus on teaching and learning.”

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