Mus­lim school guilty of sex dis­crim­i­na­tion

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - WORLD -

LON­DON: A Mus­lim faith school in Bri­tain was found guilty Fri­day of sex dis­crim­i­na­tion for seg­re­gat­ing boys and girls in lessons and on breaks, and mak­ing them walk down sep­a­rate cor­ri­dors, in a rul­ing that will af­fect other schools with sep­a­ra­tion poli­cies.

Three ap­peal judges ruled that the Al-Hi­jrah School in Birm­ing­ham in cen­tral Eng­land was dis­crim­i­nat­ing against pupils con­trary to the Equal­ity Act, over­turn­ing a High Court rul­ing last year, but added that girl stu­dents were not more dis­ad­van­taged than boys.

Amanda Spielman, chief in­spec­tor of ed­u­ca­tion watch­dog Of­sted, wel­comed the rul­ing, say­ing it was her or­ga­ni­za­tion’s duty to en­sure chil­dren were prop­erly pre­pared for the fu­ture and it was dis­crim­i­na­tion to keep them apart.

“It places these boys and girls at a dis­ad­van­tage for life be­yond the class­room and the work­place, and fails to pre­pare them for life in mod­ern Bri­tain,” Spielman said in a state­ment, which added: “Ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions should never treat pupils less fa­vor­ably be­cause of their sex, or for any other rea­son.”

For re­li­gious rea­sons the vol­un­tary-aided school, which has about 770 pupils aged be­tween 4 and 16, be­lieves to­tal sep­a­ra­tion of the sexes from age nine on­ward is oblig­a­tory. The school de­clined to com­ment. Spielman said the case had sig­nif­i­cant im­pli­ca­tions for gen­der equal­ity and the rul­ing would be con­sid­ered care­fully to see how it would im­pact other school in­spec­tions.

She has pre­vi­ously said about 20 other schools in Bri­tain – Mus­lim, Jewish and Chris­tian – have sim­i­lar seg­re­ga­tion poli­cies.

The lo­cal au­thor­ity, Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil, said Al-Hi­jrah School was be­ing held to a dif­fer­ent stan­dard to many other schools with sim­i­lar ar­range­ments across the coun­try.

Spokesman Colin Di­a­mond said the U.K. De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion had not pub­lished guide­lines on gen­der sep­a­ra­tion and this had not been an is­sue at five pre­vi­ous in­spec­tions at Al-Hi­jrah, which was set up in 1988 in a mosque and has ex­panded since.

Lo­cal me­dia re­ported that for 60 places ev­ery year the school re­ceives about 1,000 ap­pli­ca­tions, mak­ing it one of the most over-sub­scribed schools in the coun­try.

“If it is na­tional pol­icy that schools prac­tic­ing gen­der sep­a­ra­tion are con­sid­ered to be dis­crim­i­nat­ing against pupils, then lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and the schools them­selves clearly need to be told,” Di­a­mond said in a state­ment. – Thomson

About 20 other schools in Bri­tain have sim­i­lar seg­re­ga­tion poli­cies

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