London: An Islamic school here in the UK is under investigation for suspending a teenager for conversing with a member of opposite sex on its premises.
The pupil, whose identity and gender are not being disclosed for legal reasons, studied at Al-Khair secondary school in Croydon, south London.
The parent of the pupil has attacked the policy of the private Islamic school as nonsense, saying it meant students were not being prepared for life in British society.
How are these kids going to integrate in the wider shape of society when they have to work in the same places that [people of the opposite sex] are working? This is totally nonsense, the parent stated.
The UK Department for Education (DFE) launched an investigation into the incident amid concerns that the school’s policy may be in breach of the Equality Act or the independent schools standards that operate in fee-paying schools.
These require schools to teach pupils to live by British values, including respect for the law, democracy and the right of women to be treated on a par with men.
The behaviour policy at Al-Khair secondary, which charges annual fees of 4,900 pounds per student, prohibits interaction through any medium [eg: verbal, email, messaging, etc] between male and female students who are considered non-mahrams (not close relatives).
While male and female students at the school are based in the same building, they are taught in separate classes.
Under a section of the policy outlining high-level offenses that could lead to an exclusion, free-mixing is listed alongside drug dealing, stealing, extortion, racism and arson. While schools inspectorate Ofsted reviewed the school’s behaviour policy during a snap inspection last September, the regulator failed to address the issue that relates to free-mixing, or interaction between male and female pupils.
A spokesperson for the DFE said: “We are clear that gender segregation of this type has no place in our schools and that boys and girls must be allowed to communicate”.
The secretary of state has asked Ofsted to urgently investigate this incident. If the school has breached its duties under the Equality Act or the independent school standards, we will not hesitate to take immediate action.