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‘Let schoolgirls choose to wear hijabs without fear’ Tower Hamlets mayor demands

PUBLISHED: 13:00 30 November 2017 | UPDATED: 18:22 30 November 2017

Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs: 'Let schoolgirls choose to wear hijabs.' Picture: Mike Brooke

Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs: 'Let schoolgirls choose to wear hijabs.' Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Schoolgirls should have the choice to wear hijabs “without fear of unfair targeting or challenging”, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets urged today.

Mayor Biggs responds to Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman saying hijabs could be seen as 'sexualisation'. Pictures: Mike Brooke and (inset) OfstedMayor Biggs responds to Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman saying hijabs could be seen as 'sexualisation'. Pictures: Mike Brooke and (inset) Ofsted

John Biggs was responding to comments by Ofsted’s chief schools inspector Amanda Spielman about plans to talk to primary school pupils who wear hijabs that could be interpreted as “sexualisation of young girls”.

He has instructed notices be sent to schools this week to make it clear that there has been no change to town hall guidelines to schools.

“Young people should have the choice to wear a hijab without fear of unfair targeting or challenge,” the mayor told the East London Advertiser today.

“The comments from Ofsted are clearly deeply concerning. People should be free to choose to wear the hijab when they want to.”

He wants youngsters themselves to be involved in any decisions, adding: “I expect school governors to take account of parents and pupils’ views on their uniform policy.”

Ofsted has not changed its official handbook guidelines, he noted. So no Tower Hamlets schools were amending their policy.

The chief Ofsted inspector’s comments came after she met Muslim women and secular campaigners calling for the hijab to be banned in primary schools, reported in a Sunday newspaper.

Amanda Spielman was quoted saying: “Creating an environment where primary school children are expected to wear the hijab could be interpreted as sexualisation of young girls. Inspectors seeking to address these concerns will talk to girls who wear such garments to find out why they do so in school, in line with our current practice of assessing whether the school promotes equality for their children”.

She called on parents or the public who are concerned about “fundamentalist groups” influencing school policy or breaching equality law to complain to the school, or to Ofsted if schools didn’t act.

Cllr Rabina Khan in hijab winning EU 'community hero' award in 2014... now questions Ofsted's approach to schoolgirls wearing traditional Muslim headgear.Picture: EU Diversity awardsCllr Rabina Khan in hijab winning EU 'community hero' award in 2014... now questions Ofsted's approach to schoolgirls wearing traditional Muslim headgear.Picture: EU Diversity awards

But Tower Hamlets People’s Alliance opposition group leader Rabina Khan set up a petition with 2,000 names in 24 hours asking the mayor to write to Ofsted to “condemn this approach”.

Cllr Khan told the Advertiser today: “Parents and young girls who have brought up this issue following Ofsted’s announcement are concerned that they were being singled out in school and potentially were being exposed to bullying.”

The Ofsted move follows a High Court landmark appeal last month which ruled that an Islamic school’s policy of segregating boys and girls was unlawful.

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