by NADEEM BADSHAH
PROBLEM NOT TAKEN ‘SERIOUSLY ENOUGH’
BRITAIN’S biggest Muslim group has accused ministers of failing to take bullying in classrooms “seriously enough” after research showed children are being home-schooled to prevent them being abused.
The research said some families are pulling their children out of schools because of name calling, including being branded “paedophiles” and “terrorists” by other pupils.
The paper by the University of Portsmouth and Birmingham found that racism was the main reason for parents to withdraw their kids out of mainstream education.
Ofsted, the schools watchdog, has raised concerns about a “loophole” that allows parents to remove their children out of school without telling the local authority – which the watchdog claims puts youngsters at risk of being radicalised by home tutors.
A spokeswoman for the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) told Eastern Eye: “Racist bullying and discrimination of young Muslim children has been a serious concern among many Muslim families for a long time, with stories of individuals choosing to home-school as a result not unusual.
“The MCB has previously raised these concerns with the government, but the response received suggested that this was not being taken seriously. While we hope for a change in the approach, it would be disappointing if it is only the risk of radicalisation to spur the government into action.”
The research included a case study of a family living in the West Midlands who removed both their children from school after their 10-year-old son was repeatedly called “Bin Laden” and “paedo” and was also assaulted.
The father said the Bin Laden incident had been “my tipping point” for deciding to home-school his kids.
Researchers cautioned that families who did this “were now more likely to be marginalised in a wider discourse about the threat of Muslim families to British life” even if they had no religious motivation for teaching their children at home.
Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, is against the idea of children being taught at home.
He told Eastern Eye: “It doesn’t do children any good at all; it deprives of them of integrating within society. Children should not be isolated in this way and there are no records of how many people are home-schooled; children are at risk.
“Whether you are Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh; it is much better for children to attend school. If there is an issue of bullying, it should be resolved. I will take cases up in my constituency, but that cannot be used as an excuse.
“Local authorities do not have the resources to check on the children; there is a risk of corporal punishment and there is no way of tracing that if they are home-schooled.”
Rama, from Newham in London, home-schools her friend’s children Musa, Somaiya and Asiya. She said: “With Asiya, she had trouble forming friendships; with Musa he had trouble staying in one place.
“With a school of 30 kids and one teacher, she can’t possibly be expected to give that one to one. The parents took them out. They are learning from home at their own pace.”
Figures from 2015 showed 36,609 young people were home-schooled in the UK, an increase of 65 per cent since 2009.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “Intimidation or bullying of any kind is abhorrent and completely unacceptable. Schools should be safe places.
“We have been working with religious groups to strengthen guidance on race or faith-related bullying.”