Ofsted backs hijab ban for children under eight in primary school row
OFSTED’S chief inspector has backed a ban on hijabs for children aged under eight, claiming there is a danger posed by people who use religion to “actively pervert” education.
GOV.UK Amanda Spielman has backed a controversial ban on hijabs at a London school
Amanda Spielman has intervened in a row between parents and the headteacher of a primary school which has prohibited the youngest Muslims girls from wearing the head-covering.
Neena Lall faced opposition after she imposed the ban at her predominantly Muslim state school in east London.
The headteacher introduced the rule on the grounds that Islamic teaching does not require girls to wear the hijab until they have reached puberty.
Ofsted staff conducted a surprise inspection of St Stephen’s primary school in Newham on Wednesday morning, two weeks after school governors overturned Mrs Lall’s decision.
Mrs Spielman was due to say in a speech to a Church of England schools conference today: “School leaders must have the right to set school uniform policies in a way that they see fit, in order to promote cohesion.
“It is a matter of deep regret that this outstanding school has been subject to a campaign of abuse by some elements within the community. I want to be absolutely clear, Ofsted will always back heads who take tough decisions in the interests of their pupils.”
She was also due to tell school leaders to use “muscular liberalism” to defend their decision, rather fear causing offence, saying: “Ofsted inspectors are increasingly brought into contact with those who want to actively pervert the purpose of education.
“Under the pretext of religious belief, they use education institutions, legal and illegal, to narrow young people’s horizons, to isolate and segregate, and in the worst cases to indoctrinate impressionable minds with extremist ideology.”
In response, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain said: “As Ms Spielman continues to issue a disproportionate number of public statements about Muslims and apparent links to extremism, we hope she will consult before issuing further unjustifiable policies.
“A lack of appropriate engagement will undoubtedly strengthen the negative perception among many Muslim parents about Ofsted’s interventions.”
Mrs Spielman's was due to tell the Church of England schools conference that headteachers and governors may need to make “uncomfortable decisions” in the interests of their pupils, and not to assume that the most conservative sections of a particular faith represent all of its members.