Muslim students at a UK Islamic faith school have told inspectors that they do not want to participate in single-sex lessons because doing so would not prepare them for modern life.
The students told a school inspector that such segregation within the school system was having a “negative effect” as it did not reflect how life operates outside the classroom.
A High Court legal battle caused the comments to come out, occurring over an Ofsted report concerning an unidentified school. The school cannot be named for legal reasons, as a judge at an earlier hearing noted that doing so could “generate a media storm and tensions and fears for parents and the local community.”
The challenge was brought by the school’s interim executive board concerning findings within the Ofsted report that called the school “inadequate” and stated that special measures were necessary.
The board has disputed the findings of the report and is seeking a judicial review. One of the issues with the report is the segregation of girls and boys that occurs within the school.
Barristers who represent the school presented documents showing that Ofsted inspectors had already decided that segregation of students is illegal, before even entering the building. They went on to discuss what they called “pre-determined bias” against the school by the inspectors.
If the legal challenge fails, the interim order will be lifted and the report published, writes Steph Cockroft for The Daily Mail.
The Islamic voluntary-aided school enrolls children between the ages of four and sixteen. Boys and girls are fully segregated from year five on, including all lessons, breaks, and lunchtimes, in addition to school clubs and field trips.
Justice Jay was told by the inspector that one female student called the single-sex lessons “dumb.” He also said that while a number of boys noted the negative effect that such lessons had as they do not prepare them for life outside the classroom, he added that not all students held the same viewpoint.
Ofsted noted that to date there have been four attempts for injunction or judicial review of one of their reports. Two of these have been turned down. While one saw the injunction fail and the report published, the school is looking to have the findings overturned through a judicial review.
The fourth attempt is from a school currently at the High Court. If the judge decides the inspection report cannot be published, it could make it easier for other schools to block reports by inspectors.
In a separate Ofsted report, inspectors labeled Rushden Academy as “inadequate” in four out of five areas, including effectiveness of leadership and management, quality of teaching, learning and assessment, personal development, behavior and welfare, and outcomes for students.
The report notes that many students at the school have underachieved, with leadership and staff changes causing negative effects. This has all caused student outcomes to remain below the national average.
Strengths were also mentioned, however, such as how the principal brought about stability and has been determined to increase standards, with the changes made so far bringing with it some improvement. In addition, routines have been improved and staff supervision has led to better student behavior during break and lunchtime.