Ofsted chief to be questioned by MPs over support for hijab ban

Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman

MPs are to question Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools in England, about her backing for a ban on girls wearing hijab.

Parliament’s education select committee will question Spielman, the head of Ofsted, next month over her vocal support for a primary school in east London that barred girls under eight from wearing the headscarf – a move the school’s headteacher reversed after complaints from parents.

It has emerged that the head who introduced the ban, Neena Lall, of St Stephen’s primary school in Newham, has publicly apologised to parents at the school, calling the decision a “huge error in judgment”.

Lall blamed the media for inflammatory reporting of the hijab ban last month.

Lall told parents that she had come under pressure to discuss the wearing of the hijab by journalists from the Sunday Times, which last year picked out St Stephen’s as among the best-performing primary schools in England.

Last week Spielman said in a speech that religious fundamentalists wanted to “actively pervert the purpose of education … and in the worst cases to indoctrinate impressionable minds with extremist ideology”.

“I want to put on the record my full support for Neena Lall, the headteacher of St Stephen’s school in Newham, and her leadership team,” Spielman told a conference of Church of England school leaders.

“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.”

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