'Boys eat lunch first' at Al-Hijrah School in Birmingham

image source, Google
image captionA recent Ofsted report found Al-Hijrah School was unlawfully segregating boys and girls

Girls at an Islamic faith school have to wait for boys to finish their lunch until they can have theirs, a Parliamentary committee has heard.

The committee was hearing about practices at Birmingham's Al-Hijrah school, which was found to be unlawfully segregating its students in 2017.

A recent inspection found the school was still separating pupils.

The city council said schools must be given time to make required changes.

Luke Tryl, Ofsted's director of corporate strategy, told the Women and Equalities Parliamentary Committee on Wednesday that the school in Bordesley Green enforced "very strict gender segregation ... denying girls the opportunity to have their lunch until the boys had had theirs".

Ofsted rated Al-Hijrah "inadequate" in 2016 and, the following year, Court of Appeal judges said the segregation was unlawful sex discrimination.

The latest inspection by the education watchdog in October found the school "continues to operate an unlawful discriminatory policy of strict segregation by sex".

Pupils are mixed at primary level, but in the secondary phase boys and girls are taught separately and "not allowed to mix at break times, lunchtimes or during lesson changeovers," the report said.

Mr Tryl told the parliamentary group that Ofsted needs more government support after making recommendations.

Birmingham City Council said the Interim Executive Board (IEB), which is currently in charge of the school, is proposing to close the secondary phase from September, meaning Al-Hijrah will only offer mixed primary education.

Secondary pupils will be integrated into other local facilities, the council said, and proposals have been made for a new free girls' school with an Islamic ethos.

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