Muslim school will not allow girls to eat lunch until after boys have finished, Ofsted chief says
Al-Hijrah school in Birmingham is still segregating boys and girls despite a Court of Appeal ruling in 2017 that found it was unlawful, according to Luke Tryl, director of corporate strategy at Ofsted.
Addressing the women and equalities select committee, he said that Ofsted inspectors are trying to hold schools account for discriminating against girls but feel “isolated” when their stance is not backed up by ministers.
“Our inspectors are going out and having to make some quite tricky judgements where there are those potential clashes [between equalities laws and religious freedoms],” Mr Tryl said.
“We perhaps don’t always feel we get the support we need from the rest of Government in pushing that forward.”
He said that Al-Hijrah school was enforcing a “very strict gender segregation” which included “denying the girls to have their lunch until the boys had had theirs”. “And we had some very discriminatory texts for instance, encouraging violence against women,” he said.
Mr Tryl said that Ofsted welcomed the Court of Appeal's ruling that gender segregation within the school fell foul of equalities laws, but despite the case concluding in mid-2017 the school has still not de-segregated.
While Ofsted inspectors can highlight segregation in their reports, the power of enforcement falls to officials at the DfE.
Mr Tryl told MPs: "The Court of Appeal rightly said that schools needed a transition period where they were segregating and yet still we have not just Al-Hijrah but we have countless other schools, mixed schools which are segregating on the basis of sex.
"Similarly other schools who have refused to teach about sexual orientation issues. We have commented on reports but we haven't seen a change there.
"This is where I talk about the isolation. We go out there. We make these tough decisions and we often take quite a lot of criticism for the stance we take but we don't always see the enforcement action we would like to see."
CORRECTION: This article was originally illustrated, wrongly, by a photograph of pupils at Gatehouse School, East London. The school has nothing to do with the matters reported by the article, and we apologise for the photograph's inclusion. It has now been removed.