This is a guest post by Henry Jacob
According to the Sunday Times, the Tauheedul Islam Girls High School in Blackburn has made a remarkable turnaround over the past 12 months and is now seen as model for other faith schools by the DfE. Here is the full Sunday Times article:
Muslim school drops strict dress code
A state-funded Muslim school exposed by The Sunday Times for forcing its students to wear Islamic headdress both in and out of class has become a model for improvement after it tore up its dress code and became more welcoming to other faiths.
Officials from the Department for Education (DfE), who are understood to have been impressed by the transformation at the Tauheedul Islam Girls’ High School in Blackburn, are now using it as a benchmark for other faith schools and have approved it to set up three more schools around the country.
The 750 students at the school were formerly required to wear the hijab, or Islamic headscarf, both in class and “outside the school and home”. The rule no longer features on Tauheedul’s dress code and its new uniform policy states that, while the hijab is part of the school dress code, “any student who does not wish to wear the headscarf due to individual values or cultural or faith sensitivities will not be required to do so”.
Visiting speakers are now properly vetted after the school faced criticism for inviting Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, a controversial Saudi cleric, to speak. Tauheedul, which is the flagship school of the Tauheedul Education Trust, has recently invited a range of speakers, including vicars, rabbis and business leaders.
The trust runs two primary and two secondary schools and has been approved by the DfE to open in two more girls’ secondary schools in Coventry and Waltham Forest, east London, as well as a high school for boys in Bolton.
“Tauheedul has made a remarkable turnaround in the last year by becoming more inclusive of other faiths and dropping policies to which it once subscribed, including imposing Islamic headdress on its students,” a senior Whitehall official said. “It really has become a model by which we’re now measuring other faith schools.”
Last year The Sunday Times revealed that Tauheedul had banned its students from bringing stationery to school that contained “un-Islamic images”, such as pictures of pop stars, or accessing material on the internet that was deemed “un-Islamic in nature”.
The rules have been relaxed, with students now required only to ensure their stationery does not contain “inappropriate or offensive images” and any material accessed via the internet is not “inappropriate or offensive in nature”.
Tauheedul was rated “outstanding” by Ofsted in March. The education watchdog carried out a separate inspection last month after concerns about leadership and management issues but the school was cleared of any wrongdoing.
This is significant progress and it would be great if other faith free schools followed Tauheedul’s example and became more inclusive of all lifestyles. We’ll be keeping an eye on any such developments!