Policy prohibiting prayer rituals did not breach pupil’s rights

Posted on May 2nd, 2024

In the case of R (TTT) v Michaela Community Schools Trust, the claimant R has an anonymity order. The school, a secondary free school for girls and boys, has around 700 pupils from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, half of which are Muslims, which included R.

Policy decision

In May 2023, the governing body had decided to prohibit its pupils from performing prayer rituals on its premises, because the headteacher felt that prayer rituals fostered division among pupils and was contrary to the school’s ethos. The policy applied to all prayer rituals, regardless of religion. Muslims are required to pray five times a day, although the requirements of the school day meant that R was not always able to fulfil the obligation. The Duhr or Zuhr prayer is required to be undertaken in a window of time from when the sun passes its highest point in the day to the opening of the window for the next of the five prayers, the Asr prayer. As a result of the autumn/winter months, the window for performing Duhr takes place during the school lunch break. R believed this to be ‘free time’ to perform Duhr.

Breach of right to manifest religious beliefs

R argued that the above policy breached her human rights, namely article 9 European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and her freedom to manifest her religious beliefs.

Indirect discrimination

She also argued that the policy indirectly discriminated against Muslim pupils and the school failed to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and advance equality of opportunity contrary to the public sector equality duty. She also argued that two suspensions that she had been subject to had been procedurally unfair.

Justification defence

The school argued that R was not subjected to a ‘detriment’ because she was permitted to make up for missing Duhr by performing Qada prayers later in the day. Further, she had chosen a secular school which she knew to have a strict behavioural regime. The school further argued that the policy was justified because the performance of ritual prayer would conflict with the school’s ethos and behaviour rules and the practicalities could not be accommodated.


The court found that the policy did not interfere with R’s freedom to manifest her religious beliefs under article 9. R had chosen the school knowing of its strict regime and was able to move to a school which would allow her to pray at lunchtime. Further, she was able to perform Qada prayers later in the day. The court also found the policy was justified given the practicalities of facilitating prayer for Muslim pupils.

With regards to indirect discrimination, the court held the policy was ‘a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’ and therefore justified.

The court did find that a second fixed term exclusion given to R was unlawful because it was procedurally unfair.

Advice to schools

The above case does not act as a precedent to ban prayer during the school day and schools should not be quick to restrict pupils, or employees, from their religious rights. To do so, the school must be able to demonstrate that any decision is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

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