Protesting outside Barclay Primary School in Leyton

Around 200 students, parents and supporters gathered outside Barclay Primary School in Leyton, east London, on Thursday morning to show their support for eight year-old Yahya. The school management disciplined him for wearing a small Palestinian flag on his jacket.

Parent Dimah told Socialist Worker, “The size of this turnout is a sign of how angry we feel at the aggressive and unhelpful way the school has acted. They will not let us stand for Palestine, even in a tiny way. 

“Yet they were all for showing support for Ukraine. It’s a double standard, and we will not accept it. Yahya has been punished wrongly and the school has doubled down on that by its approach. It is part of a wider picture of how Muslims are treated.”

Anas, another parent, said, “The school should work with parents, not against them. I want to see a school based on human values.”

Protesters held placards with slogans such as, “Yahya’s education is under attack. What do we do? Stand up. Fight back.”

Pablo Phillips from Waltham Forest NEU education union came to the protest and spoke to show support for the students and parents.

The large majority of those protesting were Muslims. But there were also non-Muslim parents and students.

Parent Anne told Socialist Worker, “I came to show my support for Yahya and my Muslim friends. But I also dame because I am as angry as anyone about what is happening in Gaza. It’s an issue for all of us.”

A teacher from the school posted on WhatsApp, “The letter from management asserts that the accusations against the school are unfounded, but it neglects to address various concerns at the school. 

“Notably, it doesn’t address the restriction on a Palestinian boy wearing his flag while others display theirs, his isolation during lunch and break times, and the prohibition of staff discussing Middle East issues in class. 

“On Children In Need Day, students wore colours resembling the Palestinian flag in a display of solidarity for the humanitarian crisis. However, senior leadership staff entered classrooms with a seemingly investigative and intimidating demeanour. 

The badge that Yahya wore

“They singled out students, instructing them to go home and change if their attire related to Palestine. There’s a clear directive from management to report and suppress any expressions of solidarity with Palestine. In contrast, when Ukraine faced political issues, the school openly supported Ukraine and held informative assemblies. 

“On Children In Need Day, another boy wearing a Moroccan football top with red and green colours was also removed from class, as the colours were deemed to bear a resemblance to the Palestinian flag.

“I spoke with the children in my class who were instructed by management to remove their flags or change their uniforms. Many of these children sought refuge in this country, and it’s disheartening for them to be told to remove symbols of their heritage.”

Everyone needs to stand up for Palestine, keep up the protests, and not be intimidated. And the trade union leaders need to speak out against any such actions from bosses.

School has been ‘confrontational and aggressive’ 

This is the statement from Yahya’s family. It was read out by a friend because the family have been overwhelmed by everything happening in Britain and in Gaza

Thank you very much for coming out today, especially during these early hours. I appreciate your presence and I wanted to take a moment to share a few thoughts with you. 

Firstly, I want to say a few words about the school. We entrust them with our children every day, expecting a safe and nurturing environment. However, the recent events have left us disheartened. The treatment we received, the evident arrogance displayed and the overall behaviour towards us have been nothing short of appalling.

It is disheartening to witness such a lack of empathy and understanding, especially in times of crisis. 

The additional burden of family pressures from Gaza has only added to our stress as parents. The school’s response and management of the situation have been confrontational and aggressive.

As parents, we have concerns not only for our children’s education but also for their emotional well-being in an environment that should foster care and support. This brings me to my next point, the impact on our son Yahya. 

Yahya has been traumatised after being emotionally abused through a series of punishments, treatment and discrimination. 

He was told he would not be allowed back to school with his coat. He would not be welcomed to the school. He was refused homework and denied an education. He has been unable to go back to school since 23  November.

The separation from his friends, the disruption to his school routine and the absence of his beloved class teacher have also taken a toll on him. 

As parents, we are doing our best to provide him with the support he needs at home, attempting to establish a semblance of normality amid chaos.

The resilience of our children is both inspiring and heartbreaking, and it highlights the importance of a compassionate response from those around us. 

“Our son was told he was ‘not welcome, he was refused homework and denied education’ for wearing Palestine badge” says family in a statement at the protest outside Barclay primary school in east London

— Socialist Worker (@socialistworker) December 21, 2023

I would also like to take a moment to express our gratitude to everyone who has shown up today. Your presence is a testament to the solidarity that exists across our community, transcending all faiths and backgrounds. Your messages of support have been invaluable and we want you to know how much it means to us

In times like these, when communities come together, it not only provides solace but also reaffirms the strength that lies in unity. 

While we navigate through this challenging period, it’s crucial not to forget the people of Palestine and Gaza, our brothers and sisters. They are enduring much more difficult times. 

The struggles we face here are a fraction of the hardships they endure daily. It’s a stark reminder that even in our own trials, we must not lose sight of the broader picture and continue to extend our thoughts, prayers and support to those who need it most. 

We will not let them make Palestine a dirty word, whatever pressure they apply. In conclusion, I want to thank you all once again for your presence, your support and the solidarity you have shown. Let us continue working together towards building a community that thrives on compassion, understanding and resilience. Together we can weather any storm and emerge stronger on the other side. 

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