Islamic school's sex segregation unlawful: United Kingdom court

Children from nine to 16 are separated for all lessons, breaks, clubs and school trips. Pupils are also forbidden from walking down the same corridor.

Three appeal judges ruled the Al-Hijrah School in Birmingham in central England was discriminating against pupils contrary to the Equality Act, overturning a High Court ruling a year ago, but added that girl students were not more disadvantaged than boys.

But a High Court ruling past year found inspectors were wrong to penalise on the basis of an "erroneous" view that segregation amounted to unlawful discrimination.

"Educational institutions should never treat pupils less favourably due to their sex, or for any other reason", said Amanda Spielman, the Ofsted chair who had launched the appeal against the school.

Ofsted's Amanda Spielman Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools, said the policy failed to prepare pupils for life in modern Britain.

Rebecca Hilsenrath, head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: "Socialisation is a core part of a good quality education, just as much as formal learning, and without it we're harming children's life chances from the start".

Last year, Justice Robert Jay ruled that the Ofsted inspectors were wrong to penalize the mixed-sex school, which orders complete segregation of pupils from year five.

But a report in June 2016 found that the policy "limited the pupils' social development and the extent to which they were prepared for interaction with the opposite sex when they left school".

The local authority, Birmingham City Council, said Al-Hijrah School was being held to a different standard to many other schools with similar arrangements across the country.

Judges ruled on Friday that the separation of boys from girls constituted sex discrimination.

Ofsted had made it clear, they said, that if this appeal succeeded, "it will apply a consistent approach to all similarly organised schools".

"This is discrimination and is wrong".

She added: "This case involves issues of real public interest, and has significant implications for gender equality, Ofsted, government, and the wider education sector".

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

During the appeal hearing, Al-Hijrahs interim executive board had claimed that boys and girls at the school were treated entirely equally despite the segregation, which was attributed to religious reasons.

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