Islamic girls’ school with forced hijab policy plans to expand

Posted: Fri, 27 Sep 2019

Girl in hijab

A Muslim girls' school which requires all its pupils to conform to a 'modesty code' and is allowed significant leeway to promote religion is planning to expand.

The trust which runs Bolton Muslim Girls' School in Greater Manchester, where girls are required to wear headscarves, has proposed to take in an extra 150 children over five years.

The school's most recent uniform policy says it "conforms to the Islamic tradition of modesty for young women". It offers two options, both of which include a navy blue headscarf.

One of the options also includes a "navy blue jubba", which covers the whole body other than the face.

The school claims the uniform options are "in keeping with our inclusive ethos".

The school is also a voluntary aided (VA) converter academy. Religious bodies pay little or nothing towards the building and running of VA converter academies, which are allowed to enforce a strict religious ethos in several ways.

VA faith schools (including those which have converted to academies) are legally entitled to:

  • Discriminate on a religious basis in up to 100% of their admissions if they are oversubscribed
  • Discriminate against staff on a religious basis
  • Teach religious education and sex and relationships education through a religious lens.

The trust has asked the local council to approve a planning application which would allow it to expand.

No More Faith Schools campaigner Alastair Lichten said the council should "prioritise the creation of inclusive, secular school places".

"Local authorities must ensure sufficient and suitable school places for their entire community. Schools which only attract or accept pupils from specific backgrounds cannot be an effective way to do this.

"The public should own the schools they overwhelmingly pay for, and any new funding should be leveraged to bring them into line with mainstream school standards.

"And state-funded schools shouldn't tell girls to conform to 'modesty codes' or push religious worldviews – particularly regressive, sexist religious worldviews – on children. If we want to promote gender equality, we should roll back faith based education."

In 2017 research from the National Secular Society found that eight state-funded Islamic schools in England were requiring girls to wear headscarves.

How VA faith schools are funded

  • The local authority funds all of the school's running costs and 90% of the capital costs, which fund the building of the school.
  • Religious bodies pay up to 10% of the capital costs and then usually own the buildings and land even if they are gifted by the state.
  • In the case of VA converter academies, up to 100% of capital and running costs are funded by the Department for Education.

Tags: Faith school expansion