The Times is reporting that Ofsted has previously told its inspectors that segregating boys and girls is acceptable in Muslim faith schools and should not be criticised, despite it being amongst the issues (non-faith) schools in the Trojan Horse probe have now been criticised for …
Instructions to inspectors say that girls and boys “may well” be taught or seated separately in schools with an Islamic ethos and that this does not amount to discrimination. The schools regulator also tells inspectors that music and art can be “restricted”, despite being national curriculum requirements.
Girls may be required to wear a headscarf in Muslim schools, which should be seen as expression of their identity and not as a sign of repression, Ofsted says.
The Department for Education this week criticised separate seating of boys and girls in maths lessons in one of the Birmingham schools investigated as part of the “Trojan Horse” inquiry. The DfE ordered Oldknow Academy, a primary school in Small Heath, to “eliminate” inappropriate gender segregation.
Ofsted itself called attention to segregation of girls and boys last year at al-Madinah, a Muslim free school in Derby. It rated pupil safety inadequate, citing among its reasons that older girls and boys sat on opposite sides of the classroom and ate lunch separately.
Ofsted’s guidance sanctioning segregation, updated only three months ago, is in advice for inspectors visiting faith schools. The 21 “Trojan Horse” schools in Birmingham were secular schools. Some governors were accused of trying to turn several of them into ultra- orthodox Islamic schools by stealth.
It is not clear why segregation should be treated differently in faith schools, whose status chiefly allows them to reflect their religious character in admissions, hiring staff, assemblies, RE lessons, governance and ethos.
Michael Gove, who has previously called any form of segregation “absolutely wrong”, has decreed that all schools must promote British values…
More at: Let schools keep boys and girls apart, says watchdog (subscription required)
So this guidance appears to be specifically for faith schools and therefore does not cover those involved in the Trojan Horse investigations, but does it suggest a confused position by Ofsted? If segregation is acceptable in some schools, can it be worthy of criticism in others or does it all rightly hinge on whether we are talking about a faith school or not? Please let us know what you think in the comments or via Twitter…