School at centre of 'Prophet Muhammad cartoon' row moved to online learning

26 March 2021, 08:46 | Updated: 26 March 2021, 17:56

Batley Grammar School in West Yorkshire has moved to online learning
Batley Grammar School in West Yorkshire has moved to online learning. Picture: LBC
Vicki Smith

By Vicki Smith

A school at the centre of a row over a teacher reportedly showing students an "inappropriate" cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad has moved to online learning overnight.

Dozens of pupils and parents and a local religious scholar gathered outside Batley Grammar School in West Yorkshire for the second day in a row this morning after it emerged the picture had been used as part of a religious studies lesson.

A teacher has been suspended over the incident pending an investigation.

Demonstrators were outside the building for around two hours on Friday morning but have since moved on.

LBC was sent a screenshot of a message to parents saying that "after careful consideration" the school had decided to move to remote learning.

Some parents received the message last night, while others only got it this morning.

Read more: Teacher suspended for 'showing pupils cartoon of Prophet Muhammad' in lesson

Read more: Robert Jenrick 'troubled' teacher has 'gone into hiding' over cartoon of Prophet Muhammad

Read more: Teacher who showed 'Prophet Muhammad cartoon' to pupils 'backed by student petition'

Some parents received the message last night where some didn't get it until this morning
Some parents received the message last night where some didn't get it until this morning. Picture: LBC

It has since been reported the teacher has "gone into hiding" and is receiving police protection following the outrage caused by the cartoon.

A petition backing the teacher who showed the cartoon has been set up, purportedly by a student.

The online petition, set up by a user called "A BGS student", states the teacher "was trying to educate students about racism and blasphemy".

However, it is not yet clear whether it was set up by a student of the school.

LBC has asked to speak to the petition’s creator through the petition website.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick today told LBC he was "deeply troubled" by those reports.

Speaking with Nick Ferrari, the Housing Secretary said it is "unacceptable" for teachers to feel threatened and intimidated whilst doing their jobs.

"This is a country based on free speech, and teachers should be able to tackle difficult and controversial issues in the classroom and issues shouldn't be censored," he explained.

"And secondly, and most importantly, it is absolutely unacceptable for teachers and staff in our schools to be threatened or intimidated.

"We need to make sure that there is tolerance and respect.

"I was troubled by the scenes I saw outside of the school gates. We don't want those who work in our schools, parents or children feeling intimidated when they are coming in just because a difficult issue has been tackled in the classroom."

Jenrick then added the teacher needing police protection was "reminiscent of the scenes we saw in France", referencing the horrific killing of history teacher Samuel Paty in Paris last year after he showed a class a cartoon of Prophet Muhammad.

"We don't want to go down that route, of course a teacher should not have to go into hiding in this country because of something they may have done or said in the classroom,"

Mr Jenrick said."We need an atmosphere of respect and tolerance and we need to be sure our teachers are comfortable to tackle complex and difficult issues.

"So I would strongly urge those people who have taken to the streets to dial this down and work with the school in a productive and sensible way."

The equality watchdog has said police could take enforcement action over the sharing of a teacher's identity after one was suspended for showing pupils a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed.

Equality and Human Rights Commission chair Baroness Kishwer Falkner said: "Children's education should not be disrupted by protests in what has already been a difficult year. The school is taking action and ought to be trusted to do so.

"A teacher's identity being shared, making them fear for their safety, is simply unacceptable and could result in enforcement action from the police.

"Schools are places where children learn about ideas, values, difference and respect. This sometimes involves exposing them to contentious issues and different views and ideas. For schools to meet their legal duty to foster good relations between people from different groups, this should be done in a balanced, respectful and sensitive way."

LBC has contacted Batley Grammar School for comment.