British schools can now be marked down if inspectors judge the niqab is hindering learning.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of the Office for Standard’s Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted), has written that inspectors could downgrade or rate a school as “inadequate” if they consider wearing an Islamic face veil is a “barrier to learning.”
"I have also made clear to my inspectors that where leaders are condoning the wearing of the face veil by staff members or by pupils, when this is clearly hindering communication and effective teaching, they should give consideration to judging the school as inadequate," Wilshaw said.
Head teachers have spoken out against the new xenophobic procedure measure. Leora Cruddas, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said inspectors should be focusing on a school’s progress — not dress codes.
"Inspectors should focus on what schools achieve rather than what people wear,” Cruddas said.
Others have cited the notion that the niqab hinders learning is not rooted in fact.
"There is no credible evidence base to suggest that wearing a piece of clothing on one's head has an impact on intellectual or academic ability,” Andrew Clapham, a researcher at Nottingham Trent University, said.
Muslim leaders called out the move as discriminatory and noted that only a few students wear the veil.
“The veil doesn’t make pupils intelligent or not. It gives them their identity and some security,” Howjat Ramzy, director of Iqra Institute in Oxford told the Daily Telegraph.
The move follows British Prime Minister David Cameron’s statement that he would support “sensible rules” regarding veils in schools, but denounced an outright ban. The British government is preparing to announce strict measures preventing British Muslims from being radicalized.
While security and counterterrorism efforts remain a priority for the U.K. and across the world, eliminating a religious group’s rights and practices is going too far and causing more of a divide between the West and Islam, a sentiment that only encourages radicalization instead of stopping it.
Banner image credit: Reuters