A HEADTEACHER says the majority of parents backed the decision to invite a Muslim leader to talk to pupils despite a protest outside the school.

A demonstration took place outside East Stanley Primary School, in Stanley, County Durham, on Wednesday lunchtime.

The protest was in response to a lesson on Islam which included a talk by a visitor from an Islamic centre in Newcastle.

One parent said ahead of the protest: "The school are forcing our children to learn about Islam against the wishes of the parents and someone from Newcastle Islamic Centre is coming in to preach."

But Joanne Williams, the school's headteacher, defended the lesson.

She said: "As a school we feel it is important that in our modern secular society children are given a wide range of opportunities to learn about, interact with and learn tolerance and respect for other cultures, religions and communities.

“We let parents know that this visit was taking place as well as organising a session for families, and we are pleased that we have seen support from the majority of our mums and dads.”

In December, police were called to the school after concerned parents told teachers of a group of Muslim men on their knees praying in a car park nearby.

Police attended the school, but the men had already moved on.

It is thought they were travelling and had stopped to pray prior to sunset, in accordance with Islamic practice.

Some people criticised the response of the school, the police and the parents, although others leapt to their defence.

The school said it had followed standard practice, while the police said they attended because of a potential obstruction in a public car park.

Inspector Kelly Martin, of Stanley Police, said Wednesday's protest passed off peacefully without incident and no arrests were made.

She said: "After the incident in December the school wanted to do some work with the Muslim community so people could be educated and that is why we were involved, supporting the school in facilitating that and not to police any protest, I want to be very clear about that.

"Our staff would have been there anyway. It was about community cohesion.

"While people are entitled to there opinions and to register there objections within the law, our objective is to bring the community together to understand each other and be tolerant of other views and not alienate or isolate people."

One flag held by the protestors had the words North East EDL Angels on the front.

Another protester had Activist Against Child Groomers on the back of her hoodie.

Several of those involved covered up their faces during the protest.


THE protest over a lesson on Islam at a County Durham school has polarised opinion on social media and The Northern Echo's website. Here are a selection of readers' views:

"Weirdos after an excuse to loiter outside a children's school in masks. Learning about religions is important. Being indoctrinated is quite different. My son enjoyed his visit to a mosque. The people were lovely. He is still an atheist."

"Islam is not a religion - it's a death cult. Wake up."

"Islam can go to hell. I learned all I needed to know after 9/11, 7/7 etc."

"Yes that's right, keep the kids completely in the dark about other religions and cultures so that they too end up as adults like these reactionary thick idiots standing outside that school."

"(They're) not idiots at all. No doubt they'll be getting brainwashed into thinking it's a 'religion of peace'."

"We live in a world full of all races and religions, and children should learn to embrace them instead of hating and fearing them. Yes this is England but it doesn't mean it's only English people living working and contributing to it. Live and let live."

"Absolute embarrassment to the North-East. What chance have the children got if the parents act like this."

"I don't think they should be teaching kids about any religion."

"Christianity is the only religion they need to know. I wouldn't allow my children to be taught about Islam - they associate Islam with war."

"My son goes to this school and he loved them coming yesterday. The protesters' view is not shared by the majority of parents."