Ofsted inspectors to question primary school girls on hijab


Ofsted inspectors will be questioning primary school girls who wear the hijab as to why they cover their hair. The decision is a result of concerns that the garment could be interpreted as sexualizing young girls and that primary school girls as young as four are being forced by their families to wear the hijab to school.

Chief inspector Amanda Spielman reasoned that schools may be in violation of equality laws if girls were required to wear a religious piece of clothing and boys were not. After meeting with progressive Muslim and secular campaigning groups, Spielman has also urged parents and the public to voice any concerns they may have about gender discrimination to school authorities. If any complains are not taken serious, Spielman says that they can be filed with Ofsted.

Young primary school girls wearing the hijab “often leads to girls being pulled out of swimming lessons, dance lessons, or other creative lessons” said former Labour party parliamentary candidate Amina Lone. According to the Sunday Times, 18 per cent of state primary schools in 11 regions of England mention the hijab in the uniform policy section of the student handbook, with most mentions stating that the garment is an acceptable, optional item for students to wear. Some English primary schools, however, have banned the hijab outright. Top state primary school St. Stephen’s School of east London banned wearing of the hijab for girls under eight in 2016, and will be broadening the ban to girls under 11 starting in September of next year. Neena Lall, headteacher of St. Stephen’s – a school with a large Muslim population – said:

There is no requirement for girls to wear the hijab until puberty. It is not appropriate in a primary school.”

Ofsted is still fresh off of a landmark win last month – a High Court appeal that ruled that an Islamic school’s segregation of boys and girls in the classroom was unlawful. Young girls wearing the hijab, like gender segregation, is being seen as an indication of “Islamic conservatism” taking hold in the United Kingdom. To what extent are parents allowed to bring up their children in accordance to cultural norms while living in British society? There are no easy answers to this question, but it appears that – to Ofsted – a young girl wearing the hijab is toeing a line.

Ayan Goran