Waltham Forest council has been accused of ignorance and Islamophobia over a questionnaire handed out to primary schoolchildren.

Last week, a voluntary questionnaire was given to pupils at Buxton Primary School in Cann Hall Road, Leytonstone, asking children as young as ten about their thoughts and feelings.

However, the leaflet has been criticised for questions deemed to be aimed at Muslim pupils, as children are asked to detail how much they trust members of a different race or religion.

It was handed out as part of Waltham Forest council’s Building Resilience through Integration & Trust (BRIT) programme, which is funded by the European Commission and is aimed at Year 5 and Year 6 pupils.

A council statement denied the anonymous questionnaire was directed at pupils of any particular faith.

The questionnaire asks pupils to say how much they agree to statements including whether they think God has a purpose for them, if they would mind if a family of a different race or religion moved next door and if they thought religious books are to be understood word for word.

The release of the questionnaire on social media by Mohammed Ansar, an outspoken British Muslim commentator, sparked a flurry of comments in which shocked parents said they would be outraged if their children had been asked to fill it in.



Massoud Shadjareh, chair of the Islamic Human Rights Commision (ICHRC), said he was concerned that if children answered honestly to any of the questions they could be put on a watch list.

He said: “They’re obviously targeting Muslim children and trying to pick their brains and thoughts and effectively profile them.

“But at this young age we should be thinking of nurturing and developing our children, not compartmentalising them.

"It’s also clearly racist and Islamophobic and there would be uproar if they had mentioned ‘Jew’ or ‘black’ in the identity question.

“This reminds me of the prelude to the Nazi holocaust when Jews were profiled before they started putting Stars of David on them.”

Cabinet member for children, Cllr Mark Rusling, and Cllr Liaquat Ali, cabinet member for community safety, released a joint statement saying they were glad to have "sparked a debate" on cohesion.

“Participation is completely voluntary for individual schools. The feedback received so far about the programme from local primary schools has been positive with more wanting to take part in the programme", it read.

“We encourage parents to get involved and when we start working in an individual school we invite them to an initial session to talk about the focus and content of the project which includes lots of different materials which are in no way directed at pupils of any particular faith.

“We’re glad that this has sparked a debate as our aim is to encourage people to talk about the importance of cohesion at all ages.”

Buxton Primary School Executive head teacher Kathleen Wheeler said in a letter home to parents the project had been "misunderstood" on social media.

She said: “The school takes extremely seriously its responsibility to develop pupils’ understanding of the world we live and our duty to create a community that is respectful of all religions, faiths and beliefs.

“These principles are at the heart of the schools’ ethos and will remain so.”