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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

UK court challenge to Islamic school's same sex classes 

Girls left unprepared for life in modern Britain, lawyer says

UK officials claim that segregated classes at an Islamic school discriminates against girls
UK officials claim that segregated classes at an Islamic school discriminates against girls

An Islamic faith school has adopted an unlawful policy of segregating boys from girls who are consequently left unprepared for life in modern Britain, UK officials have claimed.

A judge ruled last year that the Al-Hijrah school’s rule on segregating children from the age of about ten did not amount to sexual discrimination.

But education officials - supported by the government - challenged the ruling Tuesday saying that a policy of segregation between the sexes at the school was a “kind of apartheid”.

The legal dispute is the latest controversy over Islamic education in Birmingham, the UK’s second largest city.

A series of investigations were carried out from 2014 after an anonymous letter suggested that conservative Muslims were trying to infiltrate school governing bodies. A Government-ordered inquiry found no evidence of extremism.

The school involved in the current legal dispute, which has 780 pupils from the age of four to 16, separates boys and girls for all lessons, trips and school clubs when they reach the age of about ten.

Inspectors had identified the policy as discriminatory in June 2016, but that ruling later overruled by a judge following complaints by the school.

Lawyers for education inspectors told the UK’s High Court at the start of a two-day hearing on Tuesday that the policy did not prepare children to work and socialise in mixed-sex environments. "The practical consequences of segregation for girls are more harmful than for boys,” said barrister Helen Mountfield QC.

The school’s executive, which has opposed the legal challenge, said that boys and girls were “treated entirely equally”. The hearing continues on Wednesday.

The school, which failed its last inspection in June last year, has been ordered to appoint new management.