Many parents think education is all about literacy, numeracy, exams, league tables, etc.


Nothing further could be from the truth. Mental and academic development is only one aspect of state education.


This is what the latest guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) says:


Maintained schools have obligations under section 78 of the Education Act (2002) which requires schools, as part of a broad and balanced curriculum, to promote the:

  • spiritual,
  • moral,
  • cultural,
  • mental and
  • physical development


of pupils at the school and of society.


All maintained schools must meet the requirements set out in section 78 of the Education Act 2002 and promote the spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development of their pupils.


Through ensuring pupils’ SMSC development, schools can also demonstrate they are actively promoting fundamental British values.


Meeting requirements for collective worship, establishing a strong school ethos supported by effective relationships throughout the school, and providing relevant activities beyond the classroom are all ways of ensuring pupils’ SMSC development.


Pupils must be encouraged to regard people of all faiths, races and cultures with respect and tolerance.


It is expected that pupils should understand that while different people may hold different views about what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, all people living in England are subject to its law. The school’s ethos and teaching, which schools should make parents aware of, should support the rule of English civil and criminal law and schools should not teach anything that undermines it. If schools teach about religious law, particular care should be taken to explore the relationship between state and religious law.


Pupils should be made aware of the difference between the law of the land and religious law.


To conclude there is no such thing as secular education or secular schools in England.


The question then arises whose spiritual, cultural and moral values? The teachers', governors', policitians' or parents' (especially in cases of disagreement)?


This is what the 1998 Human Rights Act - which incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights - says in respect to the right to education:

Protocol 1, Article 2: Right to education


No person shall be denied a right to an education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.


The Queen on the Application of K v London Borough of Newham (2002)


A devout Muslim wished his 11- year-old daughter to be educated at a single sex school. For religious reasons he felt that it was inappropriate for a girl beyond this age to mix with boys or young men at school. There was nowhere on the admissions form for him to indicate this view and it was not considered by either the admissions authority or the appeal panel. The court held that this was a violation of his right to ensure his religious beliefs were respected in the education of his daughter. The court stressed that it was the failure to consider the father’s religious convictions which gave rise to the violation, and not the decision itself.

(Case summary provided by the British Institute of Human Rights)

Parents’ right to respect for their convictions


Article 2 of the First Protocol also provides that the State must respect the right of parents’ religious and philosophical convictions in respect of education and teaching.  This aspect of the right is closely aligned to the right to freedom of religion in Article 9.  This right belongs to the parent rather than the student.


What constitutes a philosophical conviction (being a belief, beyond an idea or opinion) includes convictions that are worthy of respect in a democratic society, are compatible with human dignity and do not conflict with the student’s right to education.


This right does not prevent the State from setting and planning the school curriculum, but it does require the matters in the curriculum to be conveyed in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner so that parents’ different religious and philosophical convictions are respected.

As education involves spiritual, moral and cultural development the law allows parents to exercise their statutory right to withdraw their children from:

  • Religious Education (RE),
  • Collective Worship and
  • non science aspects of Sex and Relationship Education (SRE)

Parents do not have to give a reason and the school remains responsible for the welfare of withdrawn children.


Parents cannot withdraw their children from music or swimming lessons.

The MPA - What we do?

The Muslim Parents Association is an independent, non-profit making organisation that provides advice, support and training for Muslim parents to advance the education of their children on a variety of themes.

Run by Parents for Parents

Educational Environment

"The child has a different relation to his environment from ours. Adults admire their enviroment; they remember it. The things he sees are not just remembered; they form part of his soul. He incarnates in himself all in the world about him that his eyes see and ears hear. In us the same thing produce no change, but the child is transformed by them." Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind. 


Meeting the needs of Muslim pupils in state schools
Meeting the needs of Muslim pupils in state schools by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB)
Adobe Acrobat document [8.6 MB]

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