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Face-covering veils are hampering learning, UK schools get tough on Burqa


London: Britain’s top schools monitoring authority has instructed officials to mark down institutions as “inadequate” where face-covering veils are hampering learning, days after Prime Minister David Cameron advocated removal of face coverings at educational institutions.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) said he has written to all inspectors instructing them to mark down institutions if they judge the wearing of the veil is “acting as a barrier to learning and to positive social interaction”.

“We want our schools, whether faith schools or non-faith schools, to prepare their pupils equally for life in 21st century Britain. We need to be confident our children’s education and future prospects are not being harmed in any way,” he said.

“It is clearly right that if the wearing of the veil is interfering with education in schools that should trigger action from Ofsted,” an Ofsted spokesperson said.

This will apply to both pupils and teachers.

The move comes a week after Prime Minister Cameron and UK education secretary Nicky Morgan said that individual public organisations should be free to put in place their own rules on uniforms and the issue of veils.

“When you’re coming into contact with an institution, or you’re in court, or if you need to be able to see someone’s face at the border, then I will always back the authority and institution that have put in place proper and sensible rules,” Cameron had said.

In a statement, Michael said, “The Prime Minister and Secretary of State are right to give their backing to schools and other institutions which insist on removing face coverings when it makes sense to do so.”

The Ofsted chief said he was concerned that some heads and principals who are trying to restrict the wearing of the full veil in certain circumstances are coming under pressure to relax their policy.

The discrimination “on the grounds of gender, has no place in our classrooms,” he said.

“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,” he said.

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