Guidance for Ramadan 2023

Tuesday 21 March 2023

This year, Ramadan – a month-long period of Islamic prayer, fasting, self-control and goodwill to others – is predicted to start on the evening of Wednesday 22 March, depending on the sighting of the moon, and it will end at sundown on Friday 21 April.

Ramadan and schools [mainly, but not exclusively, secondary schools]

While bringing many benefits, strict fasting throughout Ramadan can impact on pupils’ overall well-being and their cognitive performance.

It’s important to note that no child younger than ‘the age of puberty’ is obliged or expected to fast. Younger children however, [i.e. those at primary or secondary schools] may practice short periods of fasting to prepare them for adulthood.

School staff need to recognise that unless there are genuine safeguarding concerns, they should not interfere with how young Muslim pupils observe Ramadan. That said, Islamic law does offer children the opportunity to delay or exempt themselves from fasting and late-night prayers if they believe it may adversely impact their performance at school, especially if they are facing the prospect of taking exams.

A word about fasting, prayer and safeguarding

During Ramadan, those fasting can eat and drink just before sunrise and again just after sunset. While fasting may bring about many benefits, the practice of fasting may also bring about greater levels of tiredness, lower energy, dehydration, reduced focus, memory and concentration – a concern for school leaders and Muslim pupils who are home-schooling.

During Ramadan, young Muslims may also take part in prayer events, often held in mosques and that finish late at night. Prayer sessions should ideally be kept short on school nights or, preferably, held on weekends when the impact of late nights or long prayer sessions on pupils could be better managed.

If there are safeguarding concerns about a pupil, schools have an overriding safeguarding duty and should apply professional judgement and common sense in each case. So, if you notice signs of dehydration or exhaustion in a pupil, you should ask the pupil if they are fasting. If so, encourage them to drink some water and reassure them that, in this situation, Islamic practice allows them to break their fast and make it up later. Muslim authorities agree that if there is a risk to a pupil’s health, pupils can break their fast and, indeed, they should do so immediately.

The NHS advises the following: “If you produce very little or no urine, or feel disorientated, confused or faint due to hydration; you must stop fasting and have a drink of water or other fluid. Islam doesn’t require you to harm yourself in fulfilling the fast”.

A note for primary schools

Primary school-age children may be encouraged by their families to do a partial fast, but ideally, such types of fasting should be under parental control and outside school hours. If fasting is happening in your primary school, school leaders and staff need to know so that they can safeguard against any risk to the health and welfare of pupils in their care.

A note for secondary schools

A thoughtful approach is needed, especially if you ask pupils whether they are fasting. We recommend that schools ask parents and carers to let them know if their child is fasting. If the pupil is presenting with poor health, it is also entirely appropriate to ask the parents and carers if their child is fasting.

Practical tips for schools

We strongly advise that you delegate a member of your school’s leadership team with the task of ensuring appropriate arrangements are in place to balance the school’s statutory safeguarding duties with its wider moral obligations.

Observing Ramadan is, of course, a particularly effective way of engaging pupils [Muslim or otherwise], staff, parents and carers. Schools should produce some information [e.g. say a leaflet or flyer] that helps to cover all the issues and that will become a useful template for subsequent years. You may also use the information in communications with all stakeholder groups [for example, to raise awareness among non-Muslims, create a resource for the school or become a topic for an assembly or an INSET day].

Inform fasting pupils of the allowances Islam gives them for breaking their fast – for example, making it up later if fasting jeopardises their welfare or performance at school

Provide a quiet, supervised space with activities for fasting pupils, especially during the lunch period

Check room temperatures to ensure they are no higher or lower than they need to be

Check whether it’s best to hold learning or revision lessons in the mornings or afternoons

Consider putting a bag together for fasting pupils that receive free school means to take home

Make allowances for fasting pupils who may need to reduce their overall levels of physical activity, say during PE lessons, and consider alternative activities on such occasions

Consider the impact of Ramadan on the setting of dates for other school activities, such as sports days, trips and end-of-year celebrations

Intervene to provide care for a pupil only when there’s a risk to their health, welfare or safety

Ensure rooms are shaded, well-ventilated and have water available for fasting pupils

Provide an additional room or space where fasting pupils can take rest breaks if needed.