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DfE allows faith school unlawfully segregating boys and girls to split into single-sex schools

A private Muslim school slammed by Ofsted for unlawfully segregating boys and girls has been given the green light to split into two single-sex schools. Humanists UK has said it is ‘astonishing’ that the school will be allowed to continue disadvantaging girls simply by officially separating into two schools and carrying on the same sexist practices as before.

Redstone Educational Academy, a private secondary school in Birmingham, has an Islamic ethos. A damning Ofsted report in 2019 highlighted unlawful segregation between boys and girls ‘for all school activities apart from assemblies’ and noted that boys were ‘treated favourably and have more privileges.’ The favourable treatment for boys included ‘more opportunities to play sport’ and getting to ‘choose the places to go to for work experience first.’ The report also said ‘some of the girls told us that they do not like this. They said that this was not fair and feel disadvantaged.’

A further Ofsted report, published just last month, noted that the school was ‘operating as two separate schools for girls and boys’ but that this was ‘without the formal approval of the DfE’. However, according to the BBC, authorisation for a split has now been given.

Following a 2017 court ruling establishing that segregation by sex in co-educational schools is unlawful, Redstone Academy is just the latest in a line of faith schools that have been permitted to separate into single-sex schools rather than being forced to adjust their curriculum and other practices to make sure girls and boys are treated equally. For example, in 2019, Hasmonean High School, a state-funded Orthodox Jewish secondary school in Barnet that segregated boys and girls for the entirety of their education and offered each a different curriculum, became two single-sex schools. In the same year, Yesoiday Hatorah, a Charedi Jewish primary school in Manchester, split into two schools for similar reasons.

Some two years after the court case, the DfE admitted that it had no information about how many schools are segregating boys and girls after Ofsted warned that ‘countless’ mixed-sex schools, including those in the state sector, continue to enforce policies of strict separation.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham commented:

‘It is astonishing that religious schools are being permitted to continue to disadvantage their pupils – usually the girls – by simply splitting into two separate schools and carrying on the same sexist practices as before.

‘Regardless of whether a school is mixed or single-sex, pupils should be able to expect equal opportunities to participate in activities, including sports and work experience, and to study a broad and balanced curriculum. To deny some of these options on the grounds of sex is not only discriminatory, but amounts to a failure to prepare pupils for life in modern Britain. It should not be tolerated.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham at ruth@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3000 or 07725 110 860.

Read the latest Ofsted report on Redstone Academy.

Read the BBC report on the DfE giving Redstone Academy the green light to split into two single-sex schools.

Read our article on Government decision to close private Muslim school that segregated pupils and teachers by sex.

Read more about our work on faith schools and private faith schools.

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