February 12, 2018

AMS UK Response to HMCI Comments Regarding Support for Head of St Stephen’s Primary School

The Association of Muslim Schools UK (AMS UK) expresses its deep concerns about the comments made by Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman as reported widely in the news, regarding her support for the head of St Stephen’s Primary School, London over her attempt to ban girls from wearing hijab to school and taking part in Ramadan fasting during school hours.

It is widely recognised that the wearing of hijab and fasting is not mandatory for children who are not of age and AMS UK is supportive of the investigation of individual cases where it is suspected that a young child is being unfairly pressured to fast or wear the hijab. However, we strongly feel that a general policy preventing those children who wish to express their faith and identity goes against our values as a nation and will alienate children, who desire only to be accepted as British citizens, regardless of their faith or culture.

AMS UK also finds it deeply worrying to see policies being formulated by Ofsted without a clear evidence base nor even, at the very least, providing examples of where undue pressure to enforce religious views has taken place. We also feel that policies which appear to target specific faith groups, regardless of the intention to apply them in a general sense, warrants a frank consultation with representatives of those faith groups so a greater understanding of the issues is reached and entire communities do not feel victimised, discriminated against or labelled as extremists.

Presently, we feel it is hypocritical for Ms Spielman to state that schools must not “allow vocal parental minorities to pressure other parents and children to act or dress against their wishes” or to “dictate school policy” but to go on record to support a headteacher who almost single-handedly implemented a policy with no consultation. This is at odds with Department for Education guidelines to schools on uniform which, in the event of uniform disputes expects “the governing body to consult and work closely with parents to arrive at a mutually acceptable outcome”. AMS UK applauds the eventual decision of St Stephen’s Primary School to not implement the ban after carrying out that consultation.

AMS UK would be ready to be part of any consultations with Ofsted on any of the issues mentioned above to ensure balanced and nuanced views are considered