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Government tells Muslim state schools to stop discriminating against staff on the basis of gender

Following concerns raised by the British Humanist Association (BHA), the Department for Education has confirmed that discriminating against potential staff on the basis of gender is unlawful and asked three Muslim state schools to stop doing so. On Tuesday the BHA highlighted the fact that Madani Girls’ School in Leicester and Feversham College in Bradford were requiring every member of staff to be female, while similar behaviour by Madani Boys School was the subject of controversy last week. The BHA has welcomed the DfE’s intervention.

Responding to the BHA’s comments, a spokesperson for the DfE said, ‘All schools must comply with equality law. We asked Leicester City Council to raise this with the two Madani schools and the adverts have now been withdrawn. We have written to Feversham College to make clear their obligations under equalities legislation and have asked them to provide evidence of their recruitment policy.’

Feversham College initially claimed that its policy was lawful and was supported in 2001 by the then-Department for Education and Employment. However, at the very least the school’s recruitment policies were outdated, citing the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 – which was repealed four years ago. In addition, the BHA sought the advice of David Wolfe QC, who confirmed that the school’s approach is, in his view, unlawful. Such discrimination is only permissible when a ‘genuine occupational requirement’ can be demonstrated, which is not the case with respect to schools and gender.

BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal commented, ‘We welcome the Department for Education’s action to rectify the situation with respect to these three schools, and hope that these events will stop any other schools from trying to discriminate in this manner. These three schools’ behaviour was plainly unlawful and we fully expect that the schools now desegregate their staff.’

Notes

For further comment or information contact BHA Head of Public Affairs on 0773 8435059 or at pavan@humanism.org.uk.

Read the BHA’s previous statement: https://humanism.org.uk/2014/03/04/three-muslim-state-schools-identified-discriminating-hiring-staff-basis-sex/

Read about last week’s news involving Madani Boys School: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/10666129/Muslim-boys-school-bans-women-from-applying-for-job-as-science-teacher.html

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on ‘faith’ schools: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/religion-and-schools/faith-schools

View the BHA’s table of types of school with a religious character: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/schools-with-a-religious-character.pdf

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

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