AN OLDHAM school has been forced to apologise after photos circulated on social media of pupils praying outside.

In a statement The Oldham Academy North issued a ‘wholehearted apology’ and confirmed that an investigation into the incident has launched.

The joint statement from the Oldham Interfaith Forum, Oldham Council and the Oldham Academy North, added: ‘The school is proud of its diversity and has never and would never stop students from praying or ask them to pray outside.

‘A thorough investigation into what happened has now launched and a prayer facility is now available for those who want to use it.’

The academy is writing to parents today to explain the situation and is ‘happy’ to engage with any members of the community who are concerned, according to the statement.

A former student at The Oldham Academy North, who does not wish to be named, has a brother currently at the school and said they were shocked by the pictures.

The former student who lives in Coldhurst said their brother knows the boys involved and that he understood they were praying during lunch break last Friday in one of the classrooms when a member of staff told them to leave. The boys then went to pray outside in the cold wind as there is no prayer room.

In a later statement an academy spokesperson said:'Earlier this week photos on social media began to circulate of students at The Oldham Academy North praying outside. 

'We would like to offer a sincere apology. We are proud of our diversity and have never, and would never, stop students from praying or ask them to pray outside.  

'While we have always sought to provide appropriate prayer facilities at the academy, we are working with Oldham Interfaith Forum and Oldham Council to address the concern this issue has caused.  

'At The Oldham Academy North, we consider our diversity our greatest strength. We will always do everything in our power to ensure our students, staff and our communities are given the very best opportunities in life.'

Oldham Council leader, Arooj Shah said: “When were made aware of the issues raised at the Oldham Academy North, we acted quickly to speak with the school to understand what had happened.

“Having spoken with the school leaders I am glad they have apologised to those who were affected and will be writing to parents to explain.

“Oldham is a proud and diverse borough and I hope that Oldham Academy North sees this as a strength for the school. We will continue conversations with the school around this matter and I have asked for a full investigation into the circumstances.

“We encourage members of the community to work with us while this investigation is carried out. In the meantime, I extend my sincere apologies for the upset and concern this has caused.”

Oldham Mosques Council development officer, Mufti Helal Mahmood, said: “We will be working closely with Oldham Academy North to ensure incidents like this can be avoided in the future. We have a strong history in Oldham of working together across different communities and faiths.

“We must not let ourselves be divided when issues arise but work through them in partnership to achieve peaceful resolutions.”