Education & Family

Muslim female governor 'chose to sit apart from men'

Sir Michael Wilshaw
Image caption Sir Michael Wilshaw has warned of schools failing to promote "tolerance" for other views

The female governor at a private Muslim school in Birmingham - at the centre of criticism from Ofsted - chose to sit separately from men, says the school.

Inspectors criticised Darul Uloom school when they saw a "female governor sat out of sight of the male governors in an adjacent room".

But a statement from the school says the school did not segregate, but was respecting the governor's choice.

A wave of Ofsted inspections found nine private faith schools "inadequate".

Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw had written on Tuesday to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan with the findings of inspections of 22 private faith schools, in cities including Manchester, Coventry, Birmingham and Leicester.

These had formerly been inspected by an independent group - the Bridge Schools Inspectorate - but from this autumn Ofsted has taken over responsibility for carrying out checks.

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'Mutual respect'

Inspectors raised concerns including that some of these private faith schools were not "promoting fundamental British values" and were not encouraging "mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs".

They highlighted particular concern about Darul Uloom Islamic High School in Birmingham, where inspectors observed that "the only female governor sat out of sight of the male governors in an adjacent room to the main meeting.

"As a result, she could only contribute to the meeting through a doorway. Governors told inspectors this was their usual arrangement.

"A senior HMI has pointed out to the school that this practice is unacceptable as it fails to show proper respect for women."

In response, a statement from the school says that visitors, parents and governors can "sit where and how they wish as they feel comfortable, and we never assert any restrictions on this".

The private boys' schools says it has an "open door policy" and has hosted meetings including for a local faith forum and for the West Midlands police.

The school issued a statement from the unnamed governor saying that "my request to sit as I please" was a way of "demonstrating the school's strong promotion of both Islamic and British values".

"The right for a person to choose is a universal value," she said. But she claimed that the "British values" requirement was opposed to this.

Darul Uloom, now rated as inadequate, had been inspected by Ofsted inspectors since 2011. In October 2013, Ofsted rated it as good and described the head teacher as "forward thinking".

Ofsted says that although its own inspectors carried out a number of inspections in recent years, the school was considered to have been part of the BSI inspection system.

Among the 22 schools inspected 15 were Muslim and seven Christian.

They had been part of a group of about 50 private schools which had been assessed by the Bridge Schools Inspectorate, which now is no longer approved to inspect schools.

Among the 22 schools inspected by Ofsted, one was "outstanding", four were rated "good", eight were rated as "requires improvement" and nine were "inadequate".

Sir Michael's letter to the education secretary says it should be a priority to inspect other former Bridge Schools Inspectorate schools.

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