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UK Islamic school guilty of sex discrimination for segregating boys and girls

Judges heard how the school, in the Bordesley Green area of the city, has complete segregation of boys and girls from nine to 16 for all lessons, breaks, school clubs and trips.

Three Court of Appeal judges have ruled that the mixed-sex Al-Hijrah school in Birmingham's policy of separating pupils by gender is unlawful sex discrimination.

They said there was "a strong argument" for the Education Secretary and Ofsted "to recognise that, given the history of the matter, their failure (despite their expertise and responsibility for these matters) to identify the problem and the fact that they have de facto sanctioned and accepted a state of affairs which is unlawful, the schools affected should be given time to put their houses in order in the light of our conclusion that this is unlawful sex discrimination".

The Court of Appeal rejected the school's argument that separate but equal treatment by reason of gender can not be unlawful discrimination - even if it is detrimental, if both sexes suffer the same detriment.

The court ruling could impact some 20 other similarly coeducational "voluntary-aided" public schools that are religious in character, The Guardian said, but the judges' ruling gives school administrators a little while to re-work their institutions to conform to the court's interpretation of the Equalities Act.

Ofsted's lawyers argued the segregation left girls "unprepared for life in modern Britain".

Concerns were raised that the segregation limited the social development of the pupils and the effect this may have on their ability to interact with the opposite sex after they leave school.

The Al-Hijrah School teaches pupils between the ages of four and 16, separating pupils according to their gender from year 5 onwards. "It places these boys and girls at a disadvantage for life beyond the classroom and the workplace, and fails to prepare them for life in modern Britain".

Ms Spielman said Ofsted will be "considering the ruling carefully to understand how this will affect future inspections".

"Educational institutions should never treat pupils less favourably due to their sex, or for any other reason".

Speaking after the Court of Appeal, Ofsted Head, the policy was "discrimination and is wrong".

Shadow Cabinet Member for Education in Birmingham, Matt Bennett, said: "It is now clear that practices breaching the Equality Act 2010 have been allowed to continue at this school, and others across the country, Action is now required at a local and national level".



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