Britain’s largest teaching union has warned the rise in physical attacks on Muslim women and girls after Ofsted chief inspector commented about pupils wearing hijab in primary schools.
The warning came from a leader of the National Education Union who also warned that schools could possibly ban pupils wearing hijab following the “very political” statements given by schools watchdog, reported the Independent.
Office for Standards in Education, Children s Services and Skills (Ofsted) chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, last year stated that, “In seeking to address these concerns, inspectors will talk to girls who wear such garments to ascertain why they do so in the school.”
Spielman in the past has also publicly supported the head teacher of a London primary school who banned hijab for pupils under the age of eight.
The ban was later removed after receiving complaints from the local community.
National Education Union (NEU) has given a priority motion where the members are set to condemn the Ofsted boss’s comments on the hijab.
It says the remarks “go beyond the remit of Ofsted” and could “have ramifications beyond the school gates”.
The motion further states that, “These statements could have a negative impact on local communities and lead to further marginalisation of, and increased physical and verbal attacks on, Muslim girls and Muslim women.”
According to Independent, one in three Muslim students are living in fear of Islamophobic attacks or abuse on campus – as most Muslim women wear traditional garments and fear for their safety.
A third of Muslim students have stated that they have been victims of crime and abuse at their college or university.
The NEU’s motion calls for reissuing of school dress code policies. Teacher union members will debate the motion over the Easter weekend.
Joint general secretary of NEU, Kevin Courtney, has accused Spielman of being out of touch with the Muslim community and criticised that it was “bizarre” to impose hijab ban on schools.
“People feel so much pressure by Ofsted, our worry is that instead of consultation we will find schools saying, ‘We are going to ban the hijab’. And we think that would be very damaging to community relations.”
“It’s not a sensible place to go, so our guidance will be about how you have dialogue, respectful dialogue, and dialogue based on love for one another,” said Courtney.
Furthermore, Courtney said that Muslim teachers due to the fears of being attacked have stopped wearing hijab even though they have “worn it their whole lives”.
Ofsted’s spokesperson in a statement said that, “The NEU’s comments are disappointing. There’s nothing political about ensuring that schools and parents aren’t being subject to undue pressure by national or community campaign groups.
“Head teachers need to be able to take uniform decisions on the basis of safeguarding community cohesion concerns, and Ofsted will always support them in doing that.”