A college has allocated space for Muslim students to pray after some took to praying outside the college.

Recorded on December 15, a viral video showed a group of students having to pray Jummah (special Friday prayers) outside Oldham Sixth Form College (OSFC).

The pupils claimed they had been 'praying in corners of classrooms and in a tiny cupboard room' until they took a stand to call on the college to provide space. 

A student at OSFC who wished to remain anonymous said: “We have campaigned for five months, but since the video went viral the college management have been forced to give us a room where we can all pray Jummah. 

“The problem has been resolved until March 22 when they will review the situation. After the story in the Oldham Times they have had to give us a proper room where we can pray Jummah collectively. From over 2,000 students at the college, a majority are Muslim.

“However, we have the room for a trial period until the timetable changes. We prayed today (Friday) and about 70 people joined. We held two Jummahs with about sixty in the first one and ten in the second.

“We prayed outside on two occasions. After the second time it went on social media and the press became interested in our story and they finally gave us a room.”

Oldham Interfaith Forum were approached and they explained that they were involved in the prayer issue at the college.

Father Phil Sumner, voluntary project manager at Oldham Interfaith Forum spoke about the College’s “lack of appreciation” around the issue of establishing a long-term prayer room within the college.

He confirmed that dialogue was ongoing with the college to help facilitate a prayer room but due to staffing issues there has been no discussion since late December.

“A major issue is that there are mosques near to the college but due to differences in traditions it is not always possible for all students to pray there.”

A local businessman commended the students for practicing their religion though they are faced with “resistance.” 

He said he was “proud” of the boys for holding onto their faith.

Oldham Sixth Form College said in a statement: “We’ve had a really positive relationship with our diverse community for many years and we work hard to meet the needs of all individuals, particularly when it comes to people’s religion.

“We welcome everybody equally and work closely with our students and local leaders, including the Interfaith Forum and Oldham Council, to ensure our students and staff can observe their religion in the best possible way.

“This includes having our own ‘Multi faith and reflection’ (prayer) room, which has a segregated facility, is easily accessible, available at all times in the centre of our campus and is monitored by staff.” 

The statement added: “Our students regularly attend local mosques in their lunchtimes too and we have worked hard with community leaders to facilitate this.

“This academic year, some students did request additional space in college to facilitate communal prayer on Fridays and our leadership team have worked closely with our students and representatives of the Interfaith Forum to resolve this, despite our challenges with limited room availability. 

“Following an initial trial, new arrangements have now been made to accommodate additional space for prayer, including a second space on Fridays that is available before exams start next term.

“While we cannot afford to make alterations to our timetables due to the significant disruption this would cause to the college day and to people’s learning, we realise the importance of Jummah prayers, and facilitate them where we can.”

Councillor Arooj Shah said: “It’s so important for our young people to have an appropriate space where they can observe their religion and it’s great Oldham Sixth Form College already has a dedicated area in place for its diverse students and staff to use for prayers.

“Some students already choose to observe prayers in mosques close to the college, but extra   efforts have also been made by the college, in conversation with students, to identify additional space inside the college which anyone can use.

“The Interfaith Forum has also been on hand to offer its support with this and it’s great to see everyone working together to enhance this provision.”