A Birmingham MP has hit out at an Islamic school in the city which is still NOT allowing girls to eat their lunch until boys have finished.

Khalid Mahmood said he was "astonished" during a segment on talkRADIO's breakfast show on Friday.

Al-Hijrah in Bordseley Green has been told in strong terms that its continued practice of segregating older boys and girls on faith grounds is against the law.

The school received a letter from Ofsted in October stating that it was operating an "unlawful discriminatory policy” among secondary students.

It was ordered to stop the unlawful practice by the Court of Appeal in 2017.

"They're supposed to be providing a good, sound education for young people, not restrict their horizons," Mr Mahmood said.

Young women should "not be oppressed", Mr Mahmood added, before suggesting the school was taking children "backwards".

Perry Barr MP Khalid Mahmood

talkRADIO presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer she said that if the scenario was replaced with black children and white children, it would have been "dealt with three minutes after it happened".

"If they were segregating and they were saying all the black children have to wait until the white children have eaten, that would be dealt with thr minutes after it happened," she said. 

"That would be going to court, people would be prosecuted, people would be out of their jobs. Why are we so slow to act when it involves girls? Is it because we give a free pass to religion?".

Mr Mahmood replied: "I think we do, and this is a big issue."

"There are far too many of these schools given licenses to operate and I think we have to get much more stringent about looking at the curriculums they provide and the way that they do it."

Luke Tryl, director of corporate strategy at Ofsted,  told MPs the school was still enforcing "very strict gender segregation" which is "denying the girls to have their lunch until the boys have had theirs".

He said: "The Court of Appeal rightly said that schools needed a transition period where they were segregating and yet still we have not just Al-Hijrah but we have countless other schools, mixed schools which are segregating on the basis of sex.

"Similarly other schools who have refused to teach about sexual orientation issues.

"We have commented on reports but we haven't seen a change there.

"This is where I talk about the isolation.

"We go out there.

"We make these tough decisions and we often take quite a lot of criticism for the stance we take but we don't always see the enforcement action we would like to see."

 

He added:  "Our inspectors are going out and having to make some quite tricky judgements where there are those potential clashes [between laws and religious freedoms.

"We perhaps don’t always feel we get the support we need from the rest of Government in pushing that forward."

Ofsted rated the school as inadequate in 2016.

Court of Appeal judges ruled a year ago that city council-funded  Al-Hijrah , which is in special measures, was discriminating against its pupils contrary to the Equality Act 2010.

In the letter, sent on October 3, Ofsted said: "We noted that the school continues to operate an unlawful discriminatory policy of strict segregation by sex in the secondary phase. Plans for the school’s future and current practice take some account of the need to address this practice.

"However, having considered all the evidence I am of the opinion that at this time: Leaders and managers are not taking effective action towards the removal of special measures.”

The education watchdog has allowed the school to make new appointments as it consults on its future.

The letter, which followed a monitoring inspection in September 2018, continues: “However, despite this and the segregation by sex in the secondary phase, the school may appoint three newly qualified teachers before the next monitoring inspection.

"You can appoint these newly qualified teachers to the English, mathematics or science departments."

The court ruling affected a number of schools across the country, but stated that they must be given time to make the necessary changes.

A consultation is taking place into the proposed changes at Al-Hijrah, which would end provision for Years 7 and above.

Boys and girls are taught together in all classes during its primary phase, but are segregated once they reach the secondary years.

A spokesperson for  Birmingham City Council  said: “The IEB [Interim Executive Board] is proposing that from September 2019 Al-Hijrah will offer mixed gender primary education only, on a new site, converting to an academy following a directive academy order from the Department for Education.

“Secondary provision would close and those pupils integrated into local provision.

“While parents will be able to apply to any school through normal admission arrangements, we understand that most if not all will want their children to attend a school with an Islamic ethos.

“For boys’ provision there a number of secondary schools that meet that criteria, and for girls’ provision a free school with Islamic ethos is proposed for opening in 2019.

“We’re continuing to keep parents updated.”

 

Department for Education guidance states that education providers should not generally separate pupils along lines such as sex, race or faith while at school.

Exceptions include girls or boys suffering a disadvantaging related to their sex or each group's participation in an activity being disproportionately low.

Schools not meeting this guidance have been given time to make changes following the court ruling regarding Al-Hijrah in October 2017, the first case of its kind.