New Ramadan guidance to improve inclusivity of physical education classes in schools

Groundbreaking guidance developed by Dr Irfan Khawaja will help create a more inclusive school environment for Muslim students and staff engaging in physical education (PE) during Ramadan.

Thought to be the first of its kind in the United Kingdom to support curriculum and extra-curricular PE, the guidance gives schools practical advice for supporting fasting Muslim students and staff during Islam’s Holy Month so they can continue to participate in physical activity. 

Dr Khawaja, a Senior Lecturer in Physical Education at BCU, said:

“I wish such guidance had been in place when I was a student and subsequently a PE teacher at secondary school.  

“In this increasingly interconnected world, it is essential children and young people come to understand and respect diverse cultures and religions, including in the most pragmatic and straightforward of ways. 

“It is my wish that this guidance should be a force for good in supporting the existing work that schools and other educational establishments do to create truly inclusive environments.”  

Access the Ramadan guidance paper.

Dr Khawaja collaborated with the Association for Physical Education (afPE), the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the Youth Sport Trust (YST), and the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA) to produce the paper, which will be published by the afPE. 

In it, he advocates for inclusive activities and timetabling that minimise adaptations and avoid drawing attention to Muslim students during Ramadan. The guidance includes practical adaptations for a comprehensive list of PE activities, including swimming, trampolining, athletics and gymnastics, so fasting students and staff can take part in the same activities as their non-fasting colleagues. 

Ramadan - or ‘the hot month’ in Arabic - is an Islamic celebration of fasting and prayer in honour of Allah – the Arabic name for ‘God’. It lasts around 29 to 30 days, during which time Muslims gather with their families and communities, fasting from dawn to sunset and reciting the Quran. 

While Ramadan encourages Muslims to engage with daily life as normal, the paper also highlights the need for effective communication between schools and their staff and students. That way, schools can offer appropriate support during Ramadan so that Muslim staff and students continue to enjoy PE lessons and any extra-curricular physical activity.  

Dr Khawaja will discuss the guidance and help facilitate several practical workshops at a conference on Monday, 29 January 2024, at The Pavilion, Birmingham.  

Prominent Muslim athlete Haseebah Abdullah - the first hijab-wearing boxing coach in England who many will remember from the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham - will be among the panellists, sharing her personal experience of training and competing during Ramadan. 

Club Captain for Harborne Ladies Hockey Club, Christine Dalby, who has a great track record in promoting inclusive hockey, including work supporting England Hockey, will also be sharing her experience of fasting whilst performing and coaching. 

For further conference details and to book a place, please visit the Eventbrite page

Dr Salim Khan, Head of Life Sciences at Birmingham City University, said:

“There is very little guidance and support for educators responsible for physical education, physical activity and sport in schools and educational settings during the holy month of Ramadan. This guidance paper will open the door to a better understanding, allowing educators to approach Ramadan and physical activity in a considered and culturally sensitive manner.”  

Sue Wilkinson MBE FRSA, CEO of the Association for PE, said:

“This guidance is much needed and answers existing calls from the education workforce for practical, inclusive ideas that benefit all. It has been a privilege to be part of the collaborative effort to publish this document, which will continue to represent value to countless PE students and teachers for years to come.” 

Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, a national council member of the Muslim Council of Britain, said:

“It’s been a pleasure to work on producing this guidance which will help not only fasting students and fasting teachers, but everyone in schools. It provides clear guidelines based on Islamic teachings and addresses the misconceptions around physical activity during Ramadan. The Muslim Council of Britain is delighted to be supporting this much-needed resource.”  

Vicci Wells, Head of Sport at the Youth Sport Trust, said:

“Ensuring regular access to PE, sport and activity is vital for the physical, emotional and social wellbeing of children and young people. This valuable guidance empowers teachers and practitioners to collaborate with pupils, creating an environment in which they can safely and happily participate in PE and sport during Ramadan. It is a useful resource for schools, wider sport sector providers as well as young people and their families.” 

Catherine Edmunds, Diversity and Inclusion Sector Lead at the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity, said:

“We want to continue to develop a sport and physical activity sector that is accessible for everyone, regardless of age, sex, religion, disability, or cultural background, and this guidance will support the great work that the sector is already doing to create a more inclusive environment and a healthier, more active nation.” 

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