Another sex segregating school openly flouting the law

January 9, 2020

An independent faith school has been found to routinely segregate and afford different opportunities to its pupils on the grounds of sex. This is despite a 2017 Court of Appeal ruling that found such practices constitute direct and unlawful discrimination on the grounds of sex under the 2010 Equality Act.

The disclosure, about the Redstone Educational Academy in Birmingham, has been made this week through publication by Ofsted of an inspection report into the school that took place in November. The damming report finds that the school segregated pupils by sex for all activities, except weekly assemblies, and that boys were treated more favourably.

For example, boys were able to access a wider range of extra curricula activities, including sport, while girls were required to wear their school uniform on school trips, whereas boys were not. The difference in treatment also extended to the aspirations that were set for pupils.

Boys were found to have applied for work experience places first, while a group of girls told inspectors that a former member of staff had told them ‘university is not for females’. Some of the girls told inspectors that they did not like the different treatment and felt disadvantaged because of their sex.

The report found that the school was aware that routinely segregating pupils by sex is unlawful and that it was in breach of the Equality Act. It notes that the school had recently applied to open a separate girls’ school on the same premises, but was unsuccessful, and that it had no new plans to address the segregation issue.

The report follows another Ofsted published in November into Markazul Uloom, an independent faith school in Blackburn. It was found to segregate pupils by sex for all its activities and offer diminished opportunities to pupils on these grounds. For example, only boys were able to study history and girls textiles and geography at Key Stage 4.

Ofsted’s report into the Redstone Educational Academy also found the school to be ‘inadequate’ across all of the inspectorate’s key judgment areas, the lowest grading available. Other failings identified by Ofsted include:

  • staff were uncertain about whether any pupils had special educational needs or/and disabilities, and there were no policies or plans in place to identify or meet the needs of pupils with special educational needs
  • the school failed to keep adequate records in relation to safeguarding, with some pupils with serious medical issues not having access to the medicine they would need in an emergency
  • some pupils were taught in a classroom that had no means of escape in the event of a fire
  • pupils were discouraged from taking certain GCSEs to boost the school’s exam results
  • the school did not provide pupils with enough opportunities to learn about other faiths and cultures

Chair of the Accord Coalition, the Reverend Stephen Terry, said ‘Redstone Educational Academy is another school that has allowed its faith ethos to override its responsibility to operate as a non-sex segregating school. This is especially worrying when the Courts have ruled that to routinely segregate pupils by sex is direct discrimination and illegal. It is therefore all the more important that bodies like Ofsted should continue to expose such practices, so discriminatory schools may be pressured into adhering to the law and the Department for Education alerted to the need to take action.’

The extent to which this school is failing and the multiple Independent School Standards regulations with which it is non-compliant is also a matter of concern. It serves as a timely reminder of the need for Ofsted to have greater powers in relation to inspecting unregistered schools.’

‘Proper scrutiny of independent schools must not be allowed to sustain the perverse incentive whereby schools instead try to exploit loopholes or ambiguities in the law and operate under the radar as an illegally unregistered school. Accord urges the Government to follow through on its commitment expressed in its 2018 integration Green Paper to review Ofsted’s powers in relation to this area.’

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