Revealed: Damning Ofsted findings on 'gender segregation' school

Following last week's court victory, Ofsted has published the inspection report that Al Hijrah school tried to suppress

Jonathan Owen

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Pupils at the Al Hijrah school in Birmingham, which segregates girls and boys, have been exposed to extreme views including the incitement of violence towards women, according to an Ofsted report released today.

Inspectors have recommended that the school, rated as being “inadequate”, be placed in special measures “because it is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education.”

In addition, those charged with running the school “are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement in the school", the report says.

The Al Hijrah school had fought a lengthy court battle to prevent the inspection report from being released. But it lost a Court of Appeal judgement last week, in which the school’s policy of segregation was deemed unlawful.

The conclusion of the court case has allowed Ofsted to publish the damning report, from an inspection carried out in June last year.

It had been ordered by the former Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw, owing to concerns he had over the management of the school – particularly “in relation to the near-complete educational and social segregation of boys and girls from Year 5 onward, which he was concerned had not been picked up.”

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

They 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.”

They noted that boys and girls are segregated in all lessons and at social times from Year 5 onwards. “They are taught on separate corridors, have separate breaktimes and are not allowed to mix during the shared lunch hour. When they go on some trips to the same venues they go on different days.”

This segregation “limits the opportunities for pupils’ social development” and “does not foster good relations between boys and girls.”

Inspectors warned that “leaders and governors are failing to keep pupils safe from the risks of extreme and intolerant views” and that some school library books “contain views that are not consistent with a tolerant, respectful and equal society.”

They added that: “Leaders were unaware of the existence of these books and told inspectors that, after an earlier inspection, they had cleared the library of unsuitable texts. The fact that these texts remain available suggests that some staff believe them to be acceptable.”

Last week’s High Court judgement revealed that some of the books referred to in the Ofsted report contained comments such as: “The wife is not allowed to refuse sex to her husband.” Another book said that a wife “cannot go out of her husband’s house without his permission and without a genuine excuse”.

It stated that a man can beat his wife “without causing any mark”. One book, called Islamic Family Guidelines, said that the husband is in “the position of leadership over the family” and that “women have thus been commanded to obey their husbands and fulfil their domestic duties”.

Responding to the concerns, a spokesperson for Birmingham City Council said: "Several external audits have been undertaken within the school library confirming that any form of literary material considered as containing derogatory or intolerant views has been removed from the school site."

They described the Ofsted inspection's findings as "a historical report" and claimed that "matters have been addressed or are being addressed".

The spokesperson added that "safeguarding in every respect including safer recruitment, catering, collaboration with external agencies, child welfare, and medical issues, has been reviewed and revised and made subject to a number of external unannounced audits, ensuring all arrangements are effective and fit for purpose”.

The latest inspection of the school, which took place in March this year, did not address the issues around segregation that were the subject of legal proceedings until last week. The school was rated as inadequate and remains in special measures. Inspectors found that "pupils are not as safe as they should be at Al-Hijrah" and that supervision is "poor".

They also warned that pupils "do not show enough respect for staff or for each other" and that their "behaviour disrupts learning". Inspectors claimed that the headteacher and senior leaders "do not have an accurate understanding of the school's weaknesses".

The controversial school has been repeatedly placed in special measures over the past few years and was criticised over the death of a nine-year-old pupil in March. Mohammed Ismaeel Ashraf died from an anaphylactic reaction after eating fish fingers and chips at the school. His death was partly down to neglect by the school, an inquest jury at Birmingham Coroner’s Court found in August.

The coroner’s court was told that the schoolboy was allergic to foods including some fish, but canteen staff had not read his care plan. The cause of his death was more likely to have been something he ate in the playground because he fell ill nearly two hours after having lunch, but the inquest was told that a delay by school staff giving him a vital injection of adrenaline contributed to his death.

The Department for Education and Al Hijrah School have been approached for comment on the Ofsted inspection report released today.

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