Thursday, October 19, 2017

Court Strikes Down Gender Segregation in UK Schools

 Barrister Claire McCann writes in the Oxford Human Rights Hub about a recent United Kingdom Court of Appeal case concluding that sex segregation in education is discriminatory.  According to McCann, "[i]n HM Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills v Al-Hijrah School, the UK Court of Appeal has concluded that sex segregation in education is discriminatory. Al-Hijrah school is a voluntary aided co-educational Islamic faith school in Birmingham which teaches children aged 4 to 16.  From the age of 9, boys and girls are separated on arrival and are taught and go about their school lives entirely separately; eating, undertaking sporting and other school activities and even walking along the corridors separately, with no opportunities to mix or socialise with each other.  Sex segregation in mixed schools is highly unusual but not unprecedented:  approximately 25 such schools exist in the UK (all faith schools, but Jewish and Christian as well as Islamic).  Last year, Ofsted [the Office for Standards in Education] concluded that the gender segregation at Al-Hijrah School was discriminatory even though both sexes had almost identical access to the full curriculum. The High Court supported the school’s right (in accordance with parental wishes) to segregate its pupils.  However, on October 13, the Court of Appeal decided that the school was in breach of the Equality Act 2010 by reason of direct sex discrimination.  It is understood that the school will not be seeking to appeal to the Supreme Court."  For more of McCann's analysis, click here.

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