An Islamic faith school’s policy of segregating boys and girls is unlawful sex discrimination, a court has ruled.
The case was heard at the Court of Appeal as Ofsted challenged a High Court ruling clearing the Al-Hijrah school in Birmingham of discrimination.
Ofsted’s lawyers argued the segregation left girls “unprepared for life in modern Britain”.
Appeal judges ruled the school was discriminating against its pupils contrary to the Equality Act.
However, the court did not accept the argument the school’s policy had disadvantaged girls more than boys.
Religious schools must not segregate boys and girls, says Court of Appeal in landmark al-Hijrah ruling
Religious schools that segregate girls and boys have been told they are breaking the law, but have been given time to change their regime, in a landmark court judgement.
Three Court of Appeal judges ruled unanimously that the mixed al-Hijrah school in Birmingham was unlawfully discriminating on the grounds of gender with its rigid policy of gender segregation. Girls and boys have separate classes, are banned from mixing at lunchtime or during any activities and use separate corridors.
Ofsted said that this failed to prepare pupils properly for modern British life and placed the school in special measures last June.
The school challenged Ofsted in the High Court and won. However, the Court of Appeal yesterday ruled that this form of gender segregation in a mixed school caused “detriment and less favourable treatment” for both male and female pupils and was contrary to equalities law.
LucyJ Education Correspondent