Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar when Muslims observe 29-30 days of fasting and try to better themselves in the principles of faith. It follows the lunar calendar and this year Ramadan is expected to begin on Thursday 23 March, and end on Friday 21 April 2023, depending on the sighting of the moon.
The end of Ramadan is marked with the festival ‘Eid’ when people receive guests, exchange gifts and visit family.
For Muslim pupils in school, this can present unique challenges, especially when it comes to physical education (PE) activities. Exercise is important and is encouraged during Ramadan. However, proper planning and support is required to ensure pupils are able to fully participate in PE classes or school sport sessions while also respecting their religious beliefs and practices.
One school that has managed this well is Al Sadiq and Al Zahra School in Brent. The school is an independent Islamic faith school. During Ramadan the school had a Youth Sport Trust Girls Active festival planned to engage girls and develop their leadership skills through sport. To accommodate their fasting students, the school kept physical activity to a minimum and instead introduced problem-solving activities. At the end of the day the girls had to pitch their ideas (and their request for an Olympics-style opening ceremony marching kit) to two teachers who took on the role of ‘dragons’ in a Dragons’ Den-type panel.
Children and young people who are observing Ramadan have shared with us that whilst it’s important that adjustments are made during school to support them with fasting, they also don’t want to feel excluded or ‘singled out’. Therefore, it is great practice to make sure activities are wholly inclusive for all pupils in lessons/sessions.
For example, schools can make all young people feel included with a few small adjustments. After school clubs and in school competitions could be moved to before school as this is when students may have the most energy. PE lessons could cover activities which are less strenuous for all students which might include focusing on outdoor activities, rounders or table tennis. It is also important to note that pupils may be concerned about swallowing water so sports such as swimming where water can enter the mouth could be rescheduled.
These approaches are a great way to be as inclusive as possible to students who are fasting and also take an approach which helps everyone to be included.
If you are looking at how to plan activities during Ramadan, here are four top tips:
- Consult with your pupils and their families who are observing Ramadan to understand their needs and concerns during this time. This can help you to plan activities that are inclusive and respectful of their religious beliefs.
- Modify the timing of activities to suit pupil energy levels. Move extracurricular clubs to a before school instead of an after-school session to support when they are likely to have more energy.
- Adjust the duration and intensity of PE lessons to support pupils. These can be smaller, bite size activities, with more rest breaks; and involve ones that are not as high intensity.
- Avoid planning competitions and tournaments during the month of Ramadan that take place after school.
As pupils observe Ramadan, it is important they can be as fit and healthy as possible. As teachers, encourage pupils and educate them around the importance of adequate sleep quantity and quality, diet and hydration. There will be individual preferences around exercising, but by providing young people with the forum to talk about their faith, belief, culture and their experiences in the context of physical activities, schools and pupils can work together.
For more information, including a more detailed guide on Ramadan from Sporting Equals, please complete the School Games Inclusive Health Check which can be found here (https://www.yourschoolgames.com/taking-part/inclusive-sport/), there is more information on the Inclusive Health Check here, with further resources here.