One in four parents believes girls should be banned from wearing religious headscarves in schools, despite fears the move would raise tensions in Muslim communities.
A TES poll of 736 parents in England and Wales found that a clear majority (70 per cent) favoured letting pupils continue to wear head coverings such as the hijab. However, 25 per cent said they would like to ban the wearing of religious headscarves in lessons.
Opposition was highest among fathers, northern parents and high- income families. Nearly a third of these groups favoured a ban.
The poll follows an outcry over bans in France and planned for some areas of Germany. The minority support for a UK ban prompted concern from the Muslim Teachers Association and the Runnymede Trust, a race relations think-tank. Rob Berkeley, the trust's senior policy analyst, said opposition to hijabs was likely to be greater where racial tensions were high and could be linked to rising levels of Islamaphobia.
Last month, governors at Icknield High School in Luton decided to lift a ban on Muslim girls wearing the hijab after being warned by local authority advisers that the move could break the Race Relations Act.
The Government said schools risked breaching race relations and human rights law by banning headscarves.
The poll also revealed that parents want state-funded faith schools to end their practice of selecting pupils according to their religions.
The TES poll, conducted by FDS International, was based on telephone interviews with a representative sample of 736 parents of school-aged children