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…”
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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