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Prevent: Catholic school contacts counterterror programme after row over six-year-old's hijab

Governors supported staff decision to speak to programme because the mother and child spent time in Sudan
The school stressed that it consulted Prevent due to concerns about dealing with the child's mother (AFP)

A Catholic primary school in England contacted the Prevent counterterror programme after a row involving a six-year-old child who recently began to wear the hijab and allegedly refused to clap for Christian children, according to reports. 

The school in the northern city of Newcastle spoke to officials from Prevent to consult on how to deal with the child's parent. According to the Sunday Times, the girl began wearing a hijab after returning to the UK in September from Sudan.

The row began when the girl was told to remove her headscarf because it is banned under the school's uniform policy. It then escalated when the school banned the mother, a 36-year-old woman, from entering the premises after she complained about the incident. 

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Speaking to the Sunday Times, the mother, who was not identified, said her daughter was upset and said she "felt no love" after the incident.

"They don't like me because of my scarf," the six-year-old girl is quoted as telling her mother. After that happened, the newspaper reported, the child decided to only clap for Muslim children in school assembly.

The mother stressed that the daughter voluntarily asked to wear the headscarf and cried when her parents told her not to. But since the incident, the child has taken off the headscarf. 

In a statement to the Sunday Times, the school said the consultation with Prevent was not a formal referral of the daughter but a discussion on how to deal with her mother. 

"[We sought] advice from the Prevent programme, but it was not in relation to the hijab," the school said. 

Last January, an investigation by the school's governors supported its staff's decision to contact Prevent because the child was "threatening" and "sought to undermine the authority of the headteacher".

“Staff would have been negligent not to have raised concerns about them, given that [the mother and child] had spent several months in Sudan during the Covid pandemic,” the investigation said.

Commenting on the ordeal, the mother said she had developed "hypertension" because of the incident and stressed that her family were "peaceful" people. 

Under the Counter-Terrorism and Security act (2015), public bodies in England, including schools, are obliged to monitor and report to Prevent any individuals who are at risk of being radicalised. 

The Prevent programme, however, has been heavily criticised by teaching and trade unions for targeting the Muslim community.