Leyton News

Leyton primary school rocked by Palestine flag row warns it may shut after threats

Barclay Primary School told parents it would consider moving all lessons online due to receiving ‘serious threats’. In November the school banned pupils from wearing pro-Palestine symbols

By Marco Marcelline

Barclay Primary School, Credit: Google Streetview

A Leyton primary school that ordered a pupil to remove a Palestine flag patch stitched to his coat has warned parents it may move all lessons online if “serious threats” to its staff continue.

In a letter addressed to parents, the Lion Academy Trust, which runs Barclays Primary School, said that a “serious threat was received in writing” over the Christmas period. The letter also states that an “anonymous caller made a series of racial slurs and a further threat to commit criminal damage (arson) against the school and to individual staff”. 

The letter continued: “If this situation does not revert to a normal mode of operation or should the trust believe despite these measures, the safety of children or staff cannot be assured, then we will – with limited notice – close the school and revert to online learning for as long as we believe it is necessary”.

“This is the option of last resort – but please be aware that should staff continue to be threatened, then we will have no option but to close the school.”

As a result of the threats, the school said it has procured private security personnel to support staff and installed CCTV cameras, and closed off walk-in access to the main reception.

The furore began when pupils turned up to school sporting Palestinian colours, badges and stickers on a non-school uniform day for Children in Need on 17th November. The school subsequently sent a letter to at least eight families advising them that “overt demonstration of political beliefs” was banned. 

The school has been subject to weeks of additional pressure since the parents of an eight-year-old boy alleged that he had been bullied and mistreated by teachers for wearing a Palestinian flag to school despite the ban on political symbols.

In an interview with the BBC, the boy’s father said he was wearing the flag as a symbol of solidarity with Palestinian relatives who had been killed during Israel’s ongoing assault on Gaza.

He added that teachers had prevented his son from having “lunch with others in his year group”. The boy has reportedly been off school since 23rd November.

The school, which has been rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, chose to close early for Christmas due to “escalating threats against staff”. 

On 21st December at a protest outside the school, the boy’s mother said that her son had been left “traumatised” after being “emotionally abused through a series of punishments, treatments and discrimination at school”. She added that “the separation from his friends, the disruption to his school routine and the absence of his beloved class teacher” had  “taken a toll” on him.

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She also accused the school of being “confrontational and aggressive” in its liaisons with her family regarding the situation. “The treatment we received, the evidence, 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”, she exclaimed.

In a statement responding to the allegations of bullying and mistreatment, the school said: “No evidence to support any allegations of bullying or misconduct has been found through either an external or internal investigation. This has been formally referred by the school to the relevant external safeguarding authorities who have reviewed the allegation and found it to be false.

“We will never tolerate bullying or intimidation from any source – and have the full support of the Department for Education, Ofsted and the police in this matter. We will take any and all necessary steps to protect our pupils, staff and values.”

Leyton and Wanstead MP John Cryer wrote on X/Twitter: “I have seen media reports alleging threats made to Barclay primary school and protests outside the school. There are myriad claims and counter-claims and I have written to the school and am in contact with the council.

He added: “It is clear to me that however angry some people might be, protests and threats directed at schools are simply not acceptable.”

The Metropolitan Police said that “an investigation is under way after a number of threats were made” to the school. The police force continued: “Our priority is the safety of pupils and staff and we have increased patrols in the area. Anyone with information is asked to contact MetContact [the Met’s non-emergency reporting service] quoting 3618/19Jan.”

Chief Superintendent for Waltham Forest, Simon Crick said: “We are taking these threats incredibly seriously and would like to reassure pupils, teachers and parents that we are doing everything in our power to keep you safe while our investigation continues. 

Hate crime will not be tolerated in London and we will take action against those who commit offences and pose a threat to communities.”

Are you personally affected by the ongoing events at Barclay Primary School? Please contact us: [email protected]

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