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Reflections on Ramadan at school

As our schools reflect on this year’s Ramadan provision, it is heartening to recognise how small actions on our part continue to positively impact the sense of belonging our students and families have at Habs.

Ramadan is one of the holiest months in the Islamic calendar and so many (if not most) Muslim families will welcome it with enthusiasm. The month is most known for the act of not eating or drinking during daytime hours and following the lunar calendar in Islam this means the fasting period changes every year. This year the month fell towards the end of the Spring term meaning shorter fasts for most people compared to recent summer Ramadans and allowing an opportunity for some students to participate in the requirements of the month for the first time.

It was first suggested by a lower sixth student a few years ago that we should look at how we support fasting students. He shared that there are elements to the fast (and by extension Ramadan) that would be helpful to highlight and could make fasting in school much easier for our students. With input from students, staff and parents, we set about drafting our first ever Ramadan policy. It included an explanation of the requirements of the month and some tips on how to support students.

In time, this policy has developed and grown to cover most aspects of school life and is annually shared with colleagues and parents in anticipation of the month of Ramadan. We know that parents appreciate this small but inclusive action.

An important starting point is asking parents to confirm that their child will be fasting during the month, allowing us to create a Ramadan fasting list that is shared with staff. In having this information, staff are mindful (and not alarmed) if students appear more tired than usual or lacking in energy.

Ramadan is highlighted in our school calendar every year which allows us to plan accordingly and whilst efforts are made to avoid hosting big school events, this is not always possible. If internal exams are scheduled for example, pastoral staff can meet with students and try to accommodate requests for alternative provision or adjustments to best support students. Our annual Model UN conference took place in Ramadan this year, we ensured all students were able to have dinner at the same time as the breaking of the fast would happen. A simple change that meant our students could continue to participate in school life.

Additionally, this year any Parents’ Evenings that fell during the month had prayer spaces and light refreshments available at the time of breaking the fast, making it somewhat easier for parents and carers to attend.

The co-curricular programme at Habs is popular and some fasting students feel able to continue as normal. Participation in Games and PE is encouraged if students are comfortable, with staff moderating physical activity accordingly with additional rest breaks provided. Those students who may not be comfortable in their usual participation play a more supportive role by providing coaching support or engaging in the more theoretical aspects of lessons.

If a student is unable to attend a fixture during Ramadan, we are very clear in our expectation of early communication of this. This is also the case for any after school activities or commitment with students asking permission to leave school in time to reach home for the ending of the fast.

There is a mutual understanding between School and students that students should continue to utilise their best efforts in and out of class during the school day when fasting, whilst staff will always be supportive, understanding and accommodating where possible. A big element of the month of Ramadan is an individual’s ability to balance the extra spiritual efforts with their usual commitments. In reminding students of this, we referred to it as “in the spirit of the month” which was a warm reminder of the balance they needed to employ in school during the month.

Some of our younger students in the Prep and Junior School also wanted to try and fast during the month and whilst this is not a requirement for them, the school wanted to make the experience as easy for them as possible by providing quiet spaces during the lunch break and keeping a watchful eye if the fast was becoming too difficult.

This year, the month of Ramadan allowed us to host our first ever Iftar for students both at Habs Boys and Habs Girls. It was a sold-out event with students and staff coming together for a traditional breaking of the fast. It was pleasing to see Muslim students invite their non-Muslim friends to join them in something that is so integral to their faith. Our parent body also hosted our first ever Eid party and again, this was well attended by the Habs community with an opportunity to celebrate a month full of traditions and culture.

As a school made up of students from a variety of communities and identities, we thrive on being able to support and nurture the families who choose Habs. As one parent shared with us at the end of the month “we felt so embraced and supported … the children were able to share their experiences with the wider community. These are special memories that will stay with them.”