Batley Grammar School: Staff member suspended as parents protest use of Prophet Mohammed caricature

  • Report by Jon Hill

Parents have been protesting outside Batley Grammar School after a teacher allegedly showed a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed.

The school has "unequivocally" apologised for using a "totally inappropriate" resource in a religious studies lesson and has suspended the member of staff involved pending an independent investigation.

The start of the school day was delayed until 10am as a result of the protest, with West Yorkshire police present at the school gates.

A statement from the school's headteacher, Gary Kibble, said: "The school unequivocally apologises for using a totally inappropriate resource in a recent religious studies lesson."

Mr Kibble told ITV News that the member of staff involved also wished to convey their apologies and that the school had withdrawn teaching on this part of the course.

He added that it was important for children to learn about faiths and beliefs, but that it must be done in a "respectful and sensitive way".

Dr Abdul Shaikh, a local academic in Batley and Muslim activist, said he had heard about the incident on social media on Wednesday night.

He said: "I was shocked like many Muslims in the town that Muslim school children's religious sensitivities were completely ignored by the school teacher who decided to show an offensive image that lampooned the noble Prophet Mohammad.

"Every Muslim around the world holds the Prophet in the highest esteem. I feel that the school should be allowed to complete their investigation in due course and find a fair and adequate solution that satisfies first and foremost Muslim pupils, their parents and the wider Muslim community in Batley."

However, the National Secular Society branded the protest as an "attempt to impose an Islamic blasphemy taboo on a school".

Stephen Evans, chief executive of the National Secular Society, said: "Teachers must have a reasonable degree of freedom to explore sensitive subjects and enable students to think critically about them.

"And the school's weak response will fuel a climate of censorship, which is brought on by attempts to force society as a whole to accommodate unreasonable and reactionary religious views."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "It is never acceptable to threaten or intimidate teachers. We encourage dialogue between parents and schools when issues emerge.

"However, the nature of protest we have seen, including issuing threats and in violation of coronavirus restrictions are completely unacceptable and must be brought to an end.

"Schools are free to include a full range of issues, ideas and materials in their curriculum, including where they are challenging or controversial, subject to their obligations to ensure political balance. They must balance this with the need to promote respect and tolerance between people of different faiths and beliefs, including in deciding which materials to use in the classroom."