An Islamic school in Birmingham is still not allowing girls to eat their lunch until boys have finished, an Ofsted boss has told MPs.
The school Al-Hijrah , in Bordseley Green, has been told in strong terms that its continued practice of segregating older boys and girls on faith grounds is against the law.
A letter was sent to the school from Ofsted in October stating that it was operating an “unlawful discriminatory policy” among secondary students.
Luke Tryl, director of corporate strategy at Ofsted, told MPs the school is still enforcing “very strict gender segregation” which is “denying the girls to have their lunch until the boys have had theirs”.
He said: “The Court of Appeal rightly said that schools needed a transition period where they were segregating and yet still we have not just Al-Hijrah but we have countless other schools, mixed schools which are segregating on the basis of sex.
“Similarly other schools who have refused to teach about sexual orientation issues. We have commented on reports but we haven’t seen a change there.
“This is where I talk about the isolation. We go out there. We make these tough decisions and we often take quite a lot of criticism for the stance we take but we don’t always see the enforcement action we would like to see.”
He added: “Our inspectors are going out and having to make some quite tricky judgements where there are those potential clashes [between laws and religious freedoms.
“We perhaps don’t always feel we get the support we need from the rest of Government in pushing that forward.”
Ofsted rated the school as inadequate in 2016.
In the letter, Ofsted said: “We noted that the school continues to operate an unlawful discriminatory policy of strict segregation by sex in the secondary phase. Plans for the school’s future and current practice take some account of the need to address this practice.
“However, having considered all the evidence I am of the opinion that at this time: Leaders and managers are not taking effective action towards the removal of special measures.”
The education watchdog has allowed the school to make new appointments as it consults on its future.
The letter was sent after a monitoring inspection in September 2018, continues: “However, despite this and the segregation by sex in the secondary phase, the school may appoint three newly qualified teachers before the next monitoring inspection. You can appoint these newly qualified teachers to the English, mathematics or science departments.”
The court ruling affected a number of schools across the country, but stated that they must be given time to make the necessary changes.
Boys and girls are taught together in all classes during its primary phase, but are segregated once they reach the secondary years.
A spokesperson for Birmingham City Council said: “The IEB [Interim Executive Board] is proposing that from September 2019 Al-Hijrah will offer mixed gender primary education only, on a new site, converting to an academy following a directive academy order from the Department for Education.
“Secondary provision would close and those pupils integrated into local provision.
“While parents will be able to apply to any school through normal admission arrangements, we understand that most if not all will want their children to attend a school with an Islamic ethos.
“For boys’ provision there a number of secondary schools that meet that criteria, and for girls’ provision a free school with Islamic ethos is proposed for opening in 2019.
“We’re continuing to keep parents updated.”
Department for Education guidance states that education providers should not generally separate pupils along lines such as sex, race or faith while at school.