PARENTS in Swindon want their children pulled from religious education classes that teach them about Islam, town headteachers have warned.

According to the annual report of the Standing Advisory Council On Religious Education - the thinktank of religious leaders, teachers, councillors and community members that meets four times a year to devise the religious education agenda in Swindon's schools - headteachers are looking for advice after being approached by parents who don't want their children to learn about Islam.

While the report says the parents concerned are a small minority, town Islamic leader Mansoor Khan has warned that fears about his religion must be addressed.

Mr Khan, the general secretary of Thamesdown Islamic Association, blamed the boycotts on fears created by the actions of extremists in the July 7 bombings and September 11 attacks in New York.

"That's bearing on people's minds but that's nothing to do with Islam," Mr Khan said.

"Even if it's a small problem it still needs to be sorted out."

He said he was willing to talk to any concerned parents at any school, and would investigate joining the advisory council.

Sacre's report says religious education classes reflect the multi-faith background of Swindon but the committee's adviser has been concerned about inquiries from headteachers from a small minority of parents wishing to withdraw their children from teaching on Islam."

It has introduced new units for early years in secondary schools to increase the number of faiths covered.

Advisory council member and Parks councillor Fay Howard said the committee would investigate further. "That is a very big concern," she said.

Coun Howard said the issue had spread to the Sikh community, saying she had heard of one parent requesting their child be withdrawn from an excursion to the temple in Gorse Hill.

Fellow councillor, advisory committee member and former headteacher Eric Shaw said education should expose children to a variety of ideas.

He said the emotive issue involved a very small number of parents but could not be ignored.

"It needs working out, not putting under the carpet," Coun Shaw said.

"I'm sure this has come up more as a result of recent unfortunate events or if families have somebody in places like Iraq."

Ridgeway School headteacher Steven Colledge said parents at his school had not asked for children to be removed from classes dealing with Islam but he was shocked to hear that it had happened elsewhere.

"It's hard to understand why a parent wouldn't want their child educated about the world," he said.

"Religious education is not about converting anybody to Islam or any other religion."

Drove Primary School headteacher Nick Capstick said any parent that wanted their child out of classes covering Islam was very shortsighted.

He said no parent at his school - which has pupils from the most ethnically diverse backgrounds in Swindon - had asked that their child be removed from any classes on religion.

His school recently held Christmas carols that involved children of all faiths, including Muslims.

"We would be reluctant to support any child being withdrawn from a class," Mr Capstick said.

He said the key to a happy school and community was understanding and respect of other cultures and beliefs.

"If you take your child away from that, you are being divisive," he said.