Faith school segregating pupils and staff by sex, Ofsted finds

Posted: Fri, 24th May 2024

Treatment of pupils differs by sex at school where girls help look after young pupils while boys play sport.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

An independent Islamic school is segregating both pupils and staff on the basis of sex, Ofsted has said.

Islamic Tarbiyyah Preparatory School in Bradford was rated 'inadequate' in a recently published report, after inspectors found pupils are sex-segregated at certain points of the school day. Girls in Year 6 are unable to access shared spaces at lunchtime and during afternoon breaks, Ofsted said.

Ofsted evaluated whether this practice constituted a breach under the Equality Act 2010, but concluded that at the time of the inspection, there was "insufficient evidence" to show a detriment to pupils.

Pupils also told inspectors boys and girls "do not have the same options available to them in school". This includes girls helping female staff supervise and care for younger pupils while boys play sports.

Ofsted also noted that boys "dominate the limited space available in the playground", with "often boisterous" behaviour.

Regarding behaviour, pupils were also said to be "uncomfortable" discussing any incidents and "apprehensive" about voicing concerns.

Stereotypes linked to girls being "emotionally weaker" than boys are also left unchallenged, whilst the idea of equality is taught entirely through the lens of "Islamic values".

Ofsted said the school does not "support pupils understanding that aspirations and interests are not limited by gender".

Ofsted also found the school's segregation of staff "according to gender" harms pupils' learning. This includes male and female members of staff teaching different year groups, some of which are separated in different buildings.

Wider opportunities to learn about tolerance and respect for different relationships, faiths or cultures "beyond the teaching of Islam" are not available to pupils, Ofsted said, with insufficient planning for important teaching about "relationships, British values and equality".

This leads to limitations on pupils' understanding of what differences in faiths and cultures may look like in wider society, Ofsted said.

School inspectors were also told by school leaders not to ask pupils questions relating to LGBT issues due to "Islamic faith teaching".

The school is still failing to meet a number of school standards identified in its 2017 inspection, and has not "successfully acted upon" the areas for improvement that were noted in its 2019 inspection, Ofsted said.

NSS: 'Schools no place for religious dogma on gender'

National Secular Society spokesperson Jack Rivington said: "Education should expand opportunities for children, not inculcate gender roles based on religious dogma.

"All schools should put the best interests of children first – and that includes treating boys and girls equally. Religion is never an excuse for sexism."

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Tags: Faith schools, Women