Islamic dress is causing classroom clashes across the UK as the government is too afraid of conflict to make a final ruling on the banning of the hijab, the former chief of school watchdog Ofsted has said.
Sir Michael Wilshaw has urged Downing Street to introduce formal policy and stop being so afraid of political correctness.
Teachers are often left vulnerable to repercussions from their choices to ban children from wearing the religious garb, while in other schools, headwear for female Muslims is compulsory, Wilshaw noted, speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live on Wednesday.
Wilshaw said: “There’s something like 150 schools… which in short make it compulsory for youngsters to wear a hijab – so what’s happening about those schools?
“The country has enormously changed. When heads want to change things, they have now to take into account deep-seated and sincere feeling of communities, some of whom who have conservative views.
“The Government needs to step in. It can no longer say it’s up to the headteachers. That head might be faced with an opposition which says, well hang on, you made this decision, but there’s a school half a mile away which does allow [wearing hijabs for primary aged children].”
Concerns have been raised repeatedly over religious schools in the UK, with the Trojan Horse scandal exploding over the last two years.
Every school is entitled to have its own policy on uniforms and what pupils may and may not wear inside the classroom, but this could reportedly be about to change.
The current chief inspector for schools, Amanda Spielman, will soon be questioned by the education select committee on the possibility of the introduction of formal national guidelines.
Spielman backed proposals by a school in Newham, east London to ban the hijab and is expected to be steadfast on the choice offered to schools.
Previously, she accused some religious communities of attempting to “pervert the purpose of education.”
Speaking at a Church of England conference, Spielman said: “Schools must have the right to set school uniform policies as they see fit in order to promote cohesion. It is a matter of deep regret that this outstanding school has been subject to a campaign of abuse by those who want to undermine the school’s position.”
Other Government officials have spoken of the abuse leveled at teachers and schools for attempting to take control of the policy.
Lord Agnew, minister for schools, said: “As the minister responsible for faith and counter-extremism in the Department for Education, I wanted to send out a clear message: bullying or intimidation of school staff is completely unacceptable.
“Our teachers… are completely within their right to make decisions on how to run their schools in the best interests of their pupils – in line with the law and in discussion with parents, of course – and we back their right to do so.”
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