Ofsted chief backs niqab crackdown in schools

Sir Michael Wilshaw

Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, has given his “full support” to school and college leaders who decide to take a stand against “the inappropriate wearing of the veil.”

In a statement published today Wilshaw said has had instructed his inspectors to mark down institutions if they judge the wearing of the veil is acting as a barrier to learning and to positive social interaction.

His intervention follows comments by the Prime Minister and the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, last week, when they said individual public organisations should be free to put in place sensible rules on the issue of face coverings.

Wilshaw said: “The Prime Minister and Secretary of State are right to give their backing to schools and other institutions which insist on removing face coverings when it makes sense to do so.

“I am concerned that some heads and principals who are trying to restrict the wearing of the full veil in certain circumstances are coming under pressure from others to relax their policy. I want to assure these leaders that they can rely on my full backing for the stance they are taking.

“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.

“I am determined to ensure that discrimination, including on the grounds of gender, has no place in our classrooms. We want our schools, whether faith schools or non-faith schools, to prepare their pupils equally for life in 21st century Britain. We need to be confident our children’s education and future prospects are not being harmed in any way.”

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The Muslim community is likely to see Wilshaw’s statement as yet another attack on them, coming so soon after the recent comments by the Prime Minister on Muslim women failing to learn English and the general counter terrorism rhetoric which has the community in its crosshairs.

Ofsted, in particular, is perceived by many in the community as launching an Islamophobic witch-hunt against Muslims, especially after the controversial Trojan Horse affair in Birmingham.

Earlier today Sir Michael Wilshaw was nominated for an Islamophobia award by the Islamic Human Rights Commission.

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