Female teachers at a state funded Muslim school have been ordered to cover their heads with Islamic scarves during school hours even if they are not Muslim, it has been claimed.
Staff at Al-Madinah School, in Derbyshire, say that they have been told to sign new contracts agreeing to wear hijabs and make girls sit at the back of classes.
The Muslim faith school, which caters for 200 students aged four to 16, also forbids the teachers from bringing in non-Halal food or wearing unacceptable jewellery, it is claimed.
Non-Asian staff have been seen removing the headgear immediately when leaving the building, but refused to reveal the extent of the school’s demands.
Nick Raine, regional NUT officer, said: “We are very worried about the school and the education of the 200 children there.
“It’s one thing to have a dress code which we can challenge and quite another to build it into a contract.
“The school is publicly accountable so there needs to be greater transparency.”
The school, which has different sites for its primary and secondary school, was set up in September 2012.
The then head teacher Andrew Cutts-Mckay, who left after less than a year in post, said it was being established so that “the timetable will be flexible with time for Islamic teaching but pupils will be able to opt out of this and there will be a chance to learn about other faiths”.
He said they would “honour all faiths” and that he envisaged a school where 50 per cent of pupils were Islamic and the other half were not.
Sue Arguile, branch secretary of Derby National Union of Teachers, said: “There are worries over practices concerning the discrimination between male and female pupils in the school, with the girls being told to sit at the back of the class regardless of whether they can see the board properly.
“This school was first launched as based on Muslim principles and not as a Muslim school.
“If the school is not sticking to the original reasons behind why it was set up, then it does call into question whether public money is being used properly and for its intended purpose.”
The free school will eventually have up to 1,100 pupils, it is planned. Free schools operate in much the same way as private schools, academies outside local authority control but qualifying for government funding.
A Department for Education spokesman said: “Schools and colleges have the freedom to set their own uniform policies.”
The school has yet to receive an inspection by Ofsted, which could reasonably be expected to happen this academic year as it is a new school. It could be brought forward in view of representations from the teaching unions and city council.
An Ofsted spokeswoman said: “As schools are only notified the afternoon before inspections begin, we would not be able to let anyone know when the school is being inspected.”
Despite numerous attempts to contact the school, they have refused to comment on the claims.
There has been a debate raging over whether the veil should be worn in some public places in recent weeks.
Judge Peter Murphy ruled that a Muslim woman should remove her face covering whilst giving evidence in court and Birmingham Metropolitan College was accused of discrimination after it ordered all students, staff and visitors to remove face coverings. The college later u-turned on the decision in the face of protests.
While the Department for Education says they expect schools to act reasonably in accommodating different religious needs, they maintain that any decisions are up to the institution.
MPs have called for a national debate on the issue.
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