Staff are still segregated at private faith schools, Ofsted warns ministers

Installing a screen to split up male and female staff is ‘not in the spirit’ of equalities laws, says Sir Michael Wilshaw (pictured)

The head of Ofsted has written to the education secretary warning that independent faith schools continue to segregate their staff because of their gender.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted’s chief inspector, has urged Nicky Morgan to intervene with such schools to ensure that they conform to independent school standards and equalities legislation.

Sir Michael highlighted the recent inspection of the Rabia Girls’ and Boys’ School, a Muslim private school in Luton, where inspectors “raised concerns” over the use of a “dividing screen” to segregate staff.

“This meeting was not carried out in a religious setting but in a classroom,” the chief inspector writes. “HMI also gathered evidence that male and female staff are segregated during whole-school staff training sessions. Male staff sit in one room and the session is simultaneously broadcast to female staff in another part of the school.”

Inspectors were “so concerned” about the behaviour of the school’s leaders that its “inadequate” rating was maintained.

‘Flouting British values’

“This sort of behaviour manifested by the leaders of this school clearly does not conform to the spirit of the equalities legislation which underpins the spiritual, moral, social and cultural standard,” Sir Michael adds.

The former headteacher added that such practices “clearly flout” the government’s attempt to promote British values, and he warned that such schools were “actively undermining” the new independent school standards.

“I urge you, Secretary of State, to further review the DfE guidance to independent schools on these matters and, if necessary, write to the proprietors of independent faith schools to clarify your expectations and to reaffirm the government’s commitment to the promotion of British values,” Sir Michael adds.

In October last year, prime minister David Cameron announced that he was handing greater powers to the inspectorate to visit religious supplementary schools such as Christian Sunday schools, Jewish yeshivas and the around 2,000 Muslim madrassas.

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