AN ASSISTANT headteacher has been praised by parents for going “beyond his duties” by choosing to fast with his pupils during Ramadan.

Daniel Paton, who teaches a mixed year five and six class called Team Bonsai at Sandy Lane Primary School in Allerton, committed to abstaining from eating or drinking during daylight alongside his “superstar students”.

The assistant headteacher, who is not a practicing Muslim, said he made the decision after watching his pupils “in awe and pride” over previous years during the holy month.

He added: “For many moons now, I have watched my superstar students fast throughout Ramadan, watched in awe and pride at their commitment in abstaining from food and drink whilst getting through an action-packed school day.

“During that time, I have supported them, but through supportive words alone.

“And, after a thoughtful message from a parent, I got thinking: ‘what if I were to fast with them?’

“Supportive words are one thing but walking the walk may mean so much more to them.

“Just like that, my mind was made up.

“I announced that I would be joining my Muslim children in fasting throughout Ramadan, and the responses, the support and well-wishes, were incredible.”

Shaheena Ghani, a parent of a pupil in Mr Paton's class, said: "We are totally impressed by the way Mr Paton has gone beyond his duties as a teacher and assistant head and to be physically, mentally and spiritually apart of this blessed month."

The most difficult part for Mr Paton was going all day without drinking any liquid and admitted he lost count of the amount of times people asked if that included water.

He said: "My tongue felt like sandpaper and my lips kept sticking to my teeth, picture a dehydrated, scraggy dog baring its teeth and that was me, stood at the front of the class trying to teach fractions.

“Another thing which did make me laugh, though, was how many times I had to answer the following question: ‘not even water?’

“If I said no once, I said it a thousand times.”

Mr Paton has been working in education for close to 10 years now and has taught Team Bonsai since 2017.

Practicing Ramadan has opened his mind and even prompted him to take another leap of faith in a separate part of his life.

He said: “The spiritual side of fasting was incredible: the willpower to say no, the togetherness with my pupils, their parents and my colleague, Mrs Sheikh (whose elegance was seemingly unaffected by her fasting, unlike mine), and the appreciation of health and privilege.

“I realised that, whilst I’m still able to, I should do the things that I have wanted to do for so long, and, after nine years away from the game, I have joined a local Rugby League side, Silsden Storm, something I have wanted to do for a number of years now.”

Ramadan began back in April and ended on the evening of May 12.

That same night, the festival of Eid al-Fitr (“Feast of Breaking the Fast”) started, to mark the end of the fasting period.

Mr Paton said the first thing he ate after Ramadan ended was a gulab jamun – a dense dessert ball which is popular in the Indian subcontinent – that a student had brought for him.

He was then treated to a feast of royal proportions, kindly provided by his pupil’s families.

The assistant headteacher said: “That [gulab jamun was] followed by a feast fit for a king that the wonderful parents of Team Bonsai had prepared.

“I have truly been spoiled by their generosity and I will never forget my very first fast.

“Such a special moment for Team Bonsai.”

The question is, will Mr Paton be doing it again?

He said: “I will indeed!”