The Independent reports that an Islamic faith school’s policy of segregating boys from girls is unlawful sex discrimination, Court of Appeal judges have said in a landmark ruling. Ofsted placed the mixed-sex Al-Hijrah school in Birmingham into special measures last June after it claimed dividing classes was discriminatory.
But a High Court ruling last year found inspectors were wrong to penalise on the basis of an “erroneous” view that segregation amounted to unlawful discrimination.
Three Court of Appeal judges have now unanimously overturned the previous ruling, finding the complete segregation of classes to be contrary to the 2010 Equality Act.
The judges ruled the segregation caused detriment and less favourable treatment for both male and female pupils by reason of their sex.
For religious reasons, the voluntary-aided school, which has pupils aged between four and 16, believes that separation of the sexes from year five onwards is obligatory. It has complete segregation of boys and girls from nine to 16 for all lessons, breaks, school clubs and trips. Inspectors found the Birmingham school had left pupils “unprepared for life in modern Britain”.
The decision is likely to have far-reaching consequences for any schools that have a segregation policy.
Speaking after the ruling, Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman said the ruling would set a precedent for future inspections.
“I am delighted that we have won this appeal,” she said. “Ofsted’s job is to make sure that all schools properly prepare children for life in modern Britain. Educational institutions should never treat pupils less favourably because of their sex, or for any other reason.
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