Amanda Spielman, the head of Ofsted and chief inspector of schools, said the move was to tackle situations in which wearing a hijab “could be interpreted as sexualisation” of girls as young as four or five, when most Islamic teaching requires headdress for girls only at the onset of puberty.
The announcement – in the form of a recommendation to Ofsted inspectors rather than an update to the inspectorate’s official handbook – follows a meeting last week between Spielman and campaigners against the hijab in schools, including Amina Lone, co-director of the Social Action and Research Foundation.
“While respecting parents’ choice to bring up their children according to their cultural norms, creating an environment where primary school children are expected to wear the hijab could be interpreted as sexualisation of young girls,” Spielman said.
“We would urge any parent or member of the public who has a concern about fundamentalist groups influencing school policy, or breaching equality law to make a complaint to the school. If schools do not act on these complaints they can be made to Ofsted directly.”
The Muslim Council of Britain secretary-general, Harun Khan, responded to the move saying: “It is deeply worrying that Ofsted has announced it will be specifically targeting and quizzing young Muslim girls who choose to wear the headscarf.
“The many British Muslims who choose to wear the headscarf have done extremely well in education and are breaking glass ceilings. It is disappointing that this is becoming policy without even engaging with a diverse set of mainstream Muslim voices on the topic,” he added.
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