Ofsted’s recommendation for inspectors to question Muslim primary school girls if they are wearing a hijab has been condemned as “kneejerk, discriminatory and institutionally racist” by more than 1,000 teachers, academics and faith leaders.
Amanda Spielman, the head of Ofsted and chief inspector of schools, said the move was to tackle situations in which wearing a hijab “could be interpreted as sexualisation” of girls as young as four or five, when most Islamic teaching requires headdress for girls only at the onset of puberty.
“While respecting parents’ choice to bring up their children according to their cultural norms, creating an environment where primary school children are expected to wear the hijab could be interpreted as sexualisation of young girls,” Spielman said.
The Muslim Council of Britain secretary-general, Harun Khan, responded to the move saying: “It is deeply worrying that Ofsted has announced it will be specifically targeting and quizzing young Muslim girls who choose to wear the headscarf.
“It sends a clear message to all British women who adopt this that they are second-class citizens, that while they are free to wear the headscarf, the establishment would prefer that they do not,” he said.
“The many British Muslims who choose to wear the headscarf have done extremely well in education and are breaking glass ceilings. It is disappointing that this is becoming policy without even engaging with a diverse set of mainstream Muslim voices on the topic,” he added.