Girls could be told to play rugby alongside boys following segregation case

CREDIT: This story was first seen in The Telegraph

Girls could be told to play rugby alongside boys in the wake of a landmark school segregation ruling, the head of the Independent Schools Association has warned.

The Telegraph reports that Neil Roskilly, chief executive officer of the ISA, has said that co-educational schools where boys and girls are separated for lessons, sports clubs or other activities could come under scrutiny following last week’s Court of Appeal decision that an Islamic faith school in Birmingham was being discriminatory by entirely separating boys and girls.

He said: “It seems to come down to registration. If there are boys’ and girls’ grammar schools on either side of a main road, which are registered separately, that seems to be fine.

“But if they are in the same school and happen to be under the same DfE registration number, that’s where it is a problem.

“The question is going to be asked as to where this might go.

“In an afternoon club, where the children are separated out and the girls go off any play hockey and boys go off and play rugby, there is a concern that that could be seen as discriminatory.”

Last week Amanda Spielman, chief inspector of education at Ofsted, said there were around 20 faith schools in similar situations to Al-Hijrah, the school which judges ruled on last week.

But in a letter published in the Times on Monday, Mr Roskilly said he was concerned that schools which use a  “diamond” model, where pupils are separated by gender in different classes at different ages, could be particularly affected.

The letter said: “As well as faith schools that educate boys and girls separately, many state and private schools follow “diamond” models, where separation occurs at particular key stages, often to avoid the “distraction” of the opposite sex.

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“Inspectorates will be checking to see if these arrangements are discriminatory, by not allowing equal access to the curriculum and the wider education provided.”

One group of independent schools, The Stephen Perse Foundation, teaches children together until year 5, when they are separated for core subjects such as maths, English and science.

During years 7 and 8, all teaching classes become single-sex, before co-educational classes are introduced for some subjects in years 9 to 10.

While there are less than 20 such “diamond schools” in the UK, Mr Roskilly estimated that hundreds of schools separate children by gender for at least some lessons, such as sports.

A spokesman for Ofsted said: “We need to consider the judgment in detail and discuss its implications with the Department for Education.

“However, nothing in this judgement referred to diamond schools, which often integrate pupils for extracurricular activities.

“It’s also important to understand that this particular school operates in very specific circumstances – one site, with total segregation.”

The Independent Schools Inspectorate did not respond to a request for comment.

Single-sex schools have an exemption in law which allows them to take children of one gender and not the other.

Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the Independent Schools Council, said: “It is our understanding that the Court of Appeal’s judgment is concerned with schools which have complete segregation of male and female pupils.

“Diamond schools within membership of ISC generally have mixed break times, lunch times, assemblies, school events etc.

“We would not therefore consider they would be affected by this judgment; however we await guidance from the Department for Education on any implications for the school sector.”

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