'Politically correct' DfE fails to take action against illegal schools - Wilshaw

Former chief inspector speaks out after Ofsted wins gender segregation case at High Court

News article image

Political correctness is stopping the Department for Education from intervening in schools that discriminate against pupils or are illegal, Sir Michael Wilshaw has said.

The former Ofsted chief inspector’s claims come after Ofsted won a High Court case that supported its view that segregating boys and girls at mixed-sex schools amounts to unlawful discrimination.

On Friday, Ofsted published its inspection report about the Al Hijrah school in Birmingham, which was at the centre of the case.

It said that pupils had “easy access” to books in the school library containing “derogatory views about, and incited violence towards, women.”

The inspectors said that those responsible for running the school “have failed to keep pupils safe from extreme views that undermine fundamental British values” and “failed to have due regard to the need to achieve equality of opportunity”.

Sir Michael told the Sunday Times: “My concern is that the DfE should not have allowed all this to happen. It has become a politically correct department although Ofsted has raised so many concerns, including about the proliferation of illegal schools.

“We were telling the DfE they had to be prosecuted. I think the DfE is at fault here.

“They have become politically correct in not wanting to confront these schools. In one inspection report we wrote that male and female governors were separated from each other by a Perspex screen. The DfE has to tackle these places.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We always support Ofsted, local authorities and the police in tackling unregistered schools, which are illegal and unsafe.”

He said it has set up a joint team with Ofsted, and given them extra resources to step up investigations into such schools, and work with them to take action including closing the schools or working with police.

He added: “There are already clear powers in place for local authorities and the police to intervene where children are being put at risk or not receiving a suitable education. We expect them to use them and will support them to do so.”

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you