ASCL has worked with imams, Islamic scholars, experts, Muslim chaplains in the education sector and education leaders to produce this information for schools. It is designed to help initiate discussions with Muslim students on how best they can fulfil their Islamic obligations during Ramadan, enabling them to make decisions for themselves.
In 2019, Ramadan, exams and tests will again fall within the same period. Ramadan is predicted to start around 5 May and will end around 4 June. This year, Eid al-Fitr festivities are most likely to be 5 to 6 June.
If there are concerns about a child or young person, schools and colleges have an overriding safeguarding duty and should apply judgement and common sense on a case-by-case basis.
If there are signs of dehydration or exhaustion, they must advise the young person to terminate the fast immediately by drinking some water. They can be reassured that in this situation, Islamic rulings allow them to break their fast and make it up later.
Some young people may feel guilty even though they feel that it is not in their best interests to fast, while others may want to fast because they do not want to miss the rewards of Ramadan.
Schools should be aware of these possibilities and apply judgement to determine where safeguarding or wellbeing issues arise.
Fasting is only obligatory under Islamic tradition when a child becomes an adult. However, jurists differ over when this is. It is recommended for children to practise shorter and partial fasts in order to train them for the full fasting when they become adults.
Parents and carers should be made aware of the following points of view to facilitate their decision-making:
Fasting and staying up late for prayers may affect memory, focus, concentration and academic performance. There is a lot of clear research about the effects of hydration, dehydration and nutrition on performance but a paucity of research specific to students observing Ramadan. Anecdotally, some Muslim pupils say that fasting enhances their performance, particularly if they have been used to it for some years. There is huge enthusiasm for fasting and some young people, who have made a positive decision to fast, say they feel energised during Ramadan.
Sleep deprivation should also be considered and may be the biggest factor affecting performance for children and young people including those who are both fasting and observing prayers at night, as well as those too young to fast but who are celebrating with their families.
Some Muslim jurists allow students who are experiencing hardship to break their fast during Ramadan (and make up the days later), if it affects their ability to revise and study. The Islamic scholars, experts, chaplains and leaders consulted by ASCL thought that sitting important examinations can be an exemption from fasting when a student fears that fasting will affect his or her performance adversely.