The Association of Muslim Schools (AMS) is deeply concerned about HM Chief Inspector’s plans to encourage inspectors to question Muslim girls in primary schools who wear a hijab.

Schools are permitted to adopt a school uniform policy. In its guidance the DfE “strongly encourages schools to have a uniform as it can play a valuable role in contributing to the ethos of a school and setting an appropriate tone.”

Most Muslim schools will have consulted its parents and carers as well as religious leaders on the policy in order to make sure the policy reflects the expectations of its community. Once a policy has been adopted, schools will expect their pupils to adhere to it.

Ofsted’s advice encouraging its inspectors to interrogate individual pupils on that policy and any social and religious implications is likely to be damaging to all parties, not least the individual child concerned.

It is not uncommon for faiths to adopt various dress codes at an early age; for example, the Sikh Joora (topknot) and the Jewish kippah (skullcap). Whether children choose to wear these when they are older is their own choice, but to deny children, especially young girls, the right to express their faith is profoundly wrong and for Ofsted to single out an aspect of Muslim dress is worrying and potentially discriminatory. Furthermore, to deny young children the chance to adopt the dress of their religious role-models could have a damaging impact on their spirituality, bringing into question a practice which is entirely lawful in any other context (and opening up the possibility of further attacks on other forms of religious dress by association).

AMS welcomes constructive dialogue but feels that the continued attack by Ofsted on Muslim schools must be questioned. Ms Spielman’s ill-judged comments are likely to fuel increasing intolerance and Islamophobia.”