Inspectors to question primary school girls who wear hijab

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh (Peace, Blessings & Mercy of Allah be upon You).

This statement is being issued on the 20th of November 2017 and supersedes all previous statements on the subject.

On the 19th of November 2017, several reputable newspapers reported that School inspectors in England have been told to question Muslim primary school girls if they are wearing a hijab or similar headscarf. This announcement was confirmed by Amanda Spielman, the head of Ofsted and chief inspector of schools.

To begin with, we question the suitability of Amanda Spielman to be the head of Ofsted.

Commons Education Select Committee had rejected Ms Spielman and sighted 5 reasons in their report:

  1. She lacked passion: The committee said Ms Spielman did not demonstrate the “passion for the role that we would have hoped for”. It said MPs were concerned that, when asked why she wanted the job, she did not refer to the chief inspector’s role in raising standards and improving the lives of children and young people.
  2. She lacked broader experience : While Ms Spielman has gained experience of secondary education through her work at academy chain Ark and exam regulator Ofqual, she did not convince the committee that she had a clear understanding of the other aspects of the “complex role” of HMCI.
  3. Concerns over building bridges: The committee said it felt that Ms Spielman did not appear to recognise the importance of building bridges with the professions inspected by Ofsted.
  4. The buck stops with Ofsted: When it came to children’s services, the committee said it expected Ms Spielman to acknowledge that Ofsted would be held to account if it failed to spot “systemic failure”.
  5. No clarity: The committee said it did not leave the session with a “clear sense” of how Ms Spielman would go beyond Ofsted’s mission statement to translate it into practice or of the “direction she saw Ofsted taking under her leadership”.

Ms Spielman has never been a teacher. In 2016 after her rejection, Kevin Courtney, acting general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, had said:

To have as the new chief inspector of Ofsted a person who has no teaching experience and who is heavily implicated in the academy programme, certainly does call into question both their suitability and impartiality for the job.

Road safety is important and we need to teach our children to be safe and being visible is an integral component of being safe on the roads. Ms Spielman said children in hi-vis jackets on school trips looked like “tiny construction workers” – giving out a message to the public that she said makes her feel “uncomfortable and more than a little sad”.  Since Ms Spielman never taught, it is obvious that she has never tried taking a large group of children on a school trip, taking them across roads, keeping them safe while letting them enjoy the experience.

A large number of teachers did and continue to question the suitability of Ms Spielman as the head of Ofsted.

Let us return to the issue at hand.

There has been a campaign to target Muslim girls, and Ms Spielman has taken ownership of it without scrutiny or consulting a greater cross-section of the Muslim community. The NSS investigation, it’s farfetched fearmongering and the contents of the letter are alarming:

…We are soon to meet Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools, to discuss the unacceptable rise of the hijab in state-funded primary schools (“5-year-olds wear hijab as school uniform”, News, last week). Veiling is highly controversial because it is about modesty, curbing sexuality and sexual curiosity. Women’s rights are the first to fall when religious extremists gain power. The image of brave Yazidi women burning their burqas should be a warning to us all. This is about power, control, status and regressive honour codes. We duck from challenging so-called sensitive issues such as female genital mutilation, child sexual exploitation and forced marriages…

This is an alarming and worrying development for the British Muslims.

Religious freedom is a fundamental British value. Britain and its people have stood by this unalienable right, protected it and even went to war over it. It is disturbing to note that we are turning our backs on it and depriving our own citizens the right to practise their religion.

Our children are vulnerable to over sexualisation (both in language and behaviour) and teachers across the nation are worried. Ofsted should be listening to teachers, protecting our children and confronting a real and a tangible issue.

It is disappointing to note that Ofsted has enacted a policy and issued guidance without canvassing the opinions of a diverse set of Muslims on this issue.

Modesty is an integral part of the Islāmic fāith. Muslims (both men and women) are instructed to be modest and abide by the rules and regulations of Hijāb. An outward manifestation of Hijāb for women is the scarf which is being targeted by Ofsted. It is not merely a piece of cloth but an act of worship. Ofsted has decided to impede an act of worship, granted that it may not be an obligation or a duty upon small girls. Parents have the unalienable right to teach, set an example and nurture good values in their children. How can anyone see a little girl with a scarf on her head as “sexualisation”? Equating (an act of worship) with “sexualisation” is plainly absurd! Ms Spielman previously saw children in hi-vis jackets as “tiny construction workers”  and now she sees little girls with scarves on their heads as “sexualised”? 

We believe that the move to target Muslim girls (and their families by extension) is counterproductive and should be reversed. The choice to wear the scarf is personal and to question primary school children will alienate large sections of the Muslim population. Perhaps Ms Spielman should see children as children, like the rest of us!

Thank you