Senior Education Official Backs Teacher Accused Of Being Hitler Over Hijab Ban In Primary School

An update on this story.

From The Guardian:
Ofsted’s chief inspector has warned of the danger posed by people who use religion to “actively pervert” education as she made an unusual intervention in a dispute between parents and the headteacher of a primary school over banning the youngest Muslim girls from wearing the hijab.

In a speech to a Church of England schools conference on Thursday, Amanda Spielman is to publicly support the head, Neena Lall, who imposed the ban last month in the face of opposition from parents and community leaders at the predominantly Muslim state school in east London.

Ofsted staff conducted a surprise inspection of St Stephen’s primary school in Newham on Wednesday morning, two weeks after the school’s governors overturned Lall’s decision to ban the hijab worn by pupils under the age of eight.

“School leaders must have the right to set school uniform policies in a way that they see fit, in order to promote cohesion,” Spielman will tell the audience of Anglican clerics and educators.

“It is a matter of deep regret that this outstanding school has been subject to a campaign of abuse by some elements within the community. I want to be absolutely clear, Ofsted will always back heads who take tough decisions in the interests of their pupils.”

In her speech Spielman will also call on school leaders to use “muscular liberalism” to defend decisions they make, rather than fear causing offence.

“Ofsted inspectors are increasingly brought into contact with those who want to actively pervert the purpose of education,” Spielmann will say, according to remarks reported by the Times.

“Under the pretext of religious belief, they use education institutions, legal and illegal, to narrow young people’s horizons, to isolate and segregate, and in the worst cases to indoctrinate impressionable minds with extremist ideology.”

In response, a spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain said: “As Ms Spielman continues to issue a disproportionate number of public statements about Muslims and apparent links to extremism, we hope she will consult before issuing further unjustifiable policies.

“A lack of appropriate engagement will undoubtedly strengthen the negative perception among many Muslim parents about Ofsted’s interventions.”

Lall’s decision to ban the hijab – on the grounds that Islamic teaching did not require girls to wear it until reaching puberty – provoked criticism from local councillors and parents who complained it had been done without consultation.

The school announced that the ban had been overturned a week later, following the resignation of the chair of governors who had supported Lall’s move but later apologised for comments he had made on social media.

Spielman’s tough line on uniform policies follows a meeting between Ofsted and representatives from faith schools in January, which discussed a new policy aimed at penalising schools found to have bowed to pressure over uniforms.

According to the draft discussed at the meeting, schools that failed to consult adequately or allowed themselves to be swayed by a vocal minority of parents would be downgraded by Ofsted by having their leadership and management graded as inadequate.

In her speech Spielman will tell schools they have a responsibility to “tackle those who actively undermine fundamental British values or equalities law”.

School leaders may need to make “uncomfortable decisions” in the interests of their pupils, and not assume that the most conservative sections of a particular faith represent all its members.

“In that regard schools must not, in their entirely correct goal of promoting tolerance, shy away from challenging fundamentalist practice where it appears in their schools or communities,” Spielman will say.

“Similarly schools must not allow pressure from certain elements of school communities to dictate school policy, nor should we allow vocal parental minorities to pressure other parents and children to act or dress against their wishes. Giving way to the loudest voices is the opposite of tolerance.”

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