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Humanists UK asks Ofsted to take strong stance on faith schools with a sexist ethos

Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman

Following reports that at least one mixed-sex religious school unlawfully segregating girls and boys may be allowed by the Government to simply split into separate single-sex schools, Humanists UK has written to Ofsted to raise concerns about the impact that this may have on pupils’ education.

In a judgment handed down by the Court of Appeal in October, a Muslim school in Birmingham that segregates boys and girls for the entirety of their schooling was deemed to be discriminating against its pupils on the basis of gender. In the wake of the ruling, Ofsted was clear in stating that it would ‘apply a consistent approach to all similarly organised schools’, comments that were followed by news that one such school had already been allowed by the Department for Education (DfE) to ‘de-amalgamate into two separate schools’.

Noting that certain religious schools are known not just to segregate boys and girls on religious grounds but to teach them different curriculums too, Humanists UK has questioned whether or not the creation of two separate schools will end the discrimination, in a letter to Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman:

‘If the segregation of girls and boys is more detrimental to girls, say, and a symptom of a discriminatory religious ethos, one wonders how much better off the girls will be in a single-sex schools as opposed to a segregated, co-educational one.

‘Given this… what assessments will be made by Ofsted of the education being provided by schools wishing to de-amalgamate as part of the pre-registration process? And if, as seems likely, inspectors were to find that the educational experience at the resultant girls’ (or boys’) schools is detrimental in some way, would the schools pass that pre-registration process.’

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman commented, ‘The ethos that leads certain religious schools to segregate girls and boys, and to teach them different things according to their gender, is one that should not be tolerated in our education system. But unfortunately, it is an ethos that is likely to live on regardless of whether segregated religious schools are forced to de-amalgamate or not.

‘What we have asked Ofsted to do, therefore, is carefully consider the impact that this ethos has on pupils’ education, and to assess whether or not it is detrimental even in schools that are not, or are no longer, segregated. Children deserve far better than to be discriminated against by their schools on the basis of their gender, and we hope both Ofsted and the DfE will bear this in mind when making decisions about which new schools it ought to approve.’

Notes

For further comment of information please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on 02073243078 or jay@humanism.org.uk

Read Humanists UK’s previous news item ‘DfE allows gender segregated faith school to split into two single-sex schools’: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/11/13/dfe-allows-gender-segregated-faith-school-to-split-into-two-single-sex-schools/

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

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’s 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.

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