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Bid to appeal school gender segregation ruling refused by court

The Supreme Court, London https://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/24686795976

An application to challenge the Court of Appeal’s ruling that the gender segregation within a Muslim school in Birmingham constitutes unlawful discrimination has been refused. The request for appeal was made by the Association of Muslim Schools (AMS), which is responsible for coordinating all Muslim schools in the UK, without the support of Al-Hijrah, the school at the centre of the case. Humanists UK, which has long campaigned against gender discrimination in religious schools, has welcomed the news.

In October the Court of Appeal ruled that Al-Hijrah School had been acting unlawfully in segregating boys and girls for the entirety of their school lives. The ruling, which overturned a previous decision by the High Court, stated that such segregation is unlawful because it discriminates against girls and boys equally, denying them the benefits that come from socialising and interacting with the opposite sex.

Rejecting the application of the AMS to appeal the ruling at the Supreme Court, the presiding judges stated that ‘the school does not encourage or support the desire of AMS to appeal in order to overturn the decision’, adding that an appeal would ‘foster uncertainty… for the council and the claimant school which accept and wish to implement our decision.’

The ruling is expected to have implications on other schools, with Ofsted stating that ‘it will apply a consistent approach to all similarly organised schools.’ Indeed, it has already been reported that one school in North London has written to parents to warn that a split may be imminent.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman commented, ‘We’re glad that the case of this particular school has been put to bed. The court was right to deem the segregation of boys and girls as unlawful, and no doubt the Supreme Court would have ruled in the same way.

‘Questions still remain, however, as to what will happen to the other, similarly segregated schools that are affected by this ruling. Given that the segregation is enforced for overtly religious reasons, and most likely to the detriment of girls, allowing such schools to simply split in two may not be the natural, legally compliant remedy that many are claiming. We urge both the Government and Ofsted to interrogate the ethos of all of these schools before determining the best course of action.’

Notes

For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on jay@humanism.org.uk or 0207 324 3078.

Read Humanists UK’s previous news item ‘Faith school gender segregation unlawful, court rules’: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/10/13/comment-faith-school-gender-segregation-unlawful-court-rules/

Read Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson’s comment piece in The Telegraph ‘Schools which gender discriminate should not be allowed to split in order to evade court ruling’: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2017/10/31/schools-gender-discriminate-should-not-allowed-split-order-evade/

Read the court of appeal’s judgment: https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/judgment-interim-executive-board-of-al-hijrah-school-20171013.pdf

Read Humanists UK’s previous news item ‘Court of Appeal to hear faith school gender segregation case’: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/07/10/court-of-appeal-to-hear-faith-school-gender-segregation-case/.

Read the Faith Schoolers Anonymous article: ‘Faith schools and gender segregation: a worrying trend: https://faithschoolersanonymous.uk/2017/04/faith-schools-and-gender-segregation-a-worrying-trend/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/05/22/bha-becomes-humanists-uk/

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