Ofsted can downgrade schools for Islamic veils

The BBC is reporting that Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw has told inspectors in England they can fail schools if wearing Islamic face veils are a “barrier to learning”.

Sir Michael says he wants to give his “full backing” to heads wanting to impose a ban on face veils…

The Ofsted chief said he was concerned that some heads were “coming under pressure” to relax a ban on face veils, either for staff or pupils.

“I want to assure these leaders that they can rely on my full backing for the stance they are taking,” said Sir Michael.

He said that inspectors could downgrade schools, or rate them “inadequate”, if they thought wearing a veil was damaging teaching.

“I have also made clear to my inspectors that where leaders are condoning the wearing of the face veil by staff members or by pupils, when this is clearly hindering communication and effective teaching, they should give consideration to judging the school as inadequate.”

The Ofsted chief says he has written to all inspectors with this advice and says schools can be “marked down” if wearing the veil stands in the way of “positive social interaction”. 

Sir Michael said that discrimination “on the grounds of gender, has no place in our classrooms”.

The Muslim Council of Britain called for “accommodation” over wearing the veil.

“It is a shame that the niqab – the full face veil that a minority of Muslim women wear – has become a polarising issue when it need not be.”

Leora Cruddas of ASCL head teachers’ union said Ofsted should not be judging schools on uniform policies. “Inspectors should focus on what schools achieve rather than what people wear…”

More at: Ofsted can downgrade schools for Islamic veils


Is Sir Michael right to get involved here or is this, as Leora Cruddas suggests, a uniform issue that should be left to schools?

Please give us your reactions in the comments or via Twitter…

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  1. The veil, or any other face covering, has no place in schools.  It’s a safety issue.  Staff need to be able to identify who is on their premises.  That applies to pupils as well.  How could staff differentiate between several girls wearing the veil? 
    It would perhaps have been wiser for Sir M to have stressed this rather than suggest the rather blunt instrument of downgrading schools if an inspector thinks it affects learning.  That criteria couldn’t be applied if the school in all other respects was good or outstanding.

  2. While it’s true that a tiny minority of Muslim women wear the veil, other Muslim women could feel pressurised to follow this example if schools allowed veils.

  3. TW

    So it seems that Mike is saying a school may be judged ‘inadequate’ irrespective of its results because some inspector ‘thinks’ (- dubious concept in itself for some of them) veils are damaging teaching.  So Mike.  Would it not be cheaper if all Ofsted inspectors were sacked and Mike annually announced the gradings he had decided upon for schools.

Let us know what you think...