UK court rules Islamic school's gender segregation is unlawful
Three British judges on Friday ruled that an Islamic faith school in Britain was guilty of sex discrimination for segregating boys and girls in lessons, during breaks and making them walk down separate corridors.
The ruling will likely affect other schools with similar separation policies.
The appeals court ruled that the Al-Hijrah School in Birmingham, central England was discriminating against pupils in violation of the Equality Act, overturning a High Court ruling last year.
Chief Inspector of education watchdog Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, welcomed the ruling, saying it was her organisation's duty to ensure children were properly prepared for the future, adding it was discrimination to keep them apart.
"It places these boys and girls at a disadvantage for life beyond the classroom and the workplace, and fails to prepare them for life in modern Britain," Spielman said in a statement, according to Reuters.
"Educational institutions should never treat pupils less favourably because of their sex, or for any other reason."
The voluntary-aided school, which has around 770 pupils aged between four and 16, believes total separation of the sexes from the age of nine onwards is obligatory.
The school declined to comment on the ruling.
The local authority, Birmingham City Council, said Al-Hijrah School was being held to a different standard to many other schools with similar arrangements across the country.
Spokesman Colin Diamond said the UK Department of Education had not published guidelines on gender separation and the school's policies had not been an issue at five previous inspections at Al-Hijrah.
"If it is national policy that schools practicing gender separation are considered to be discriminating against pupils, then local authorities and the schools themselves clearly need to be told," Diamond said in a statement, according to Reuters.
Around 20 other Islamic, Jewish, and Christian schools in Britain have similar segregation polices.