NUT condemns Amanda Spielman
Categories: Latest News
Wednesday April 04 2018
Delegates at the National Union of Teachers (NUT) – a section of the National Education Unit – conference have condemned Ms Amanda Spielman, Ofsted Chief Inspector, for pursuing a “draconian” and “Islamophobic” agenda against British Muslim children which may lead to ramifications across the wider society.
The criticism follows a number of actions taken by Ms Spielman that have aimed to limit the wearing of the hijab in schools.
In November 2017, Ofsted said that they would question all primary school Muslim children if they wore the hijab. Ms Spielman at the time said: “creating an environment where primary school children are expected to wear the hijab could be interpreted as sexualisation of young girls”.
Ms Spielman also publicly supported the banning of the hijab for girls younger than eight that was briefly introduced by St Stephen’s School in Newham. Ms Spielman stated: “Under the pretext of religious belief, they use education institutions…to isolate and segregate, and…to indoctrinate impressionable minds with extremist ideology”. The head of the school later apologised for the ban and criticised the media, and individuals, for exploiting the incident for their political motives against the hijab and British Muslim children.
A motion passed at the NUT conference warns that Ms Spielman’s comments “have ramifications beyond the school gates and must be seen in the context of increased attacks on the Muslim community and particular stereotypes about Muslim girls and Muslim women”.
The motion also states: “These statements could have a negative impact on local communities and lead to further marginalisation of, and increased physical and verbal attacks on, Muslim women and girls”.
Ms Jess Edwards, NUT executive member for inner London, said: “The portrayal of the hijab as a problem will feed into an already horribly Islamophobic climate for Muslims inside of British society”.
Ms Edwards added: “Ms Spielman has betrayed the parents who have rolled back the hijab ban in that Newham school and portrayed them as being radicalised extremists”.
Ms Mehreen Begg, a teacher from Croydon, said: “it is wholly inappropriate for Ofsted inspectors to question primary-age Muslim girls on their choice of dress…this is an act of intimidation by a powerful adult on a young child and has no place in our education inspection system”.
Ms Kausar Jan, a delegate from Leeds, accused Ms Spielman of “wading in and telling our girls, saying that “no, you’re going to be questioned about why you are wearing that? Who has actually oppressed you?”…Well let me tell you Amanda Spielman, we’re not going to take it. I am so proud to be in a union that is challenging this, I am so proud that we stand shoulder to shoulder”.
Ms Jan added: “Whatever your ideas about the hijab, I’m so proud of our general secretary who has stood shoulder to shoulder and head to head with Amanda Spielman telling her our union is not going to accept her Islamaphobic policies…We have taken regressive steps, where our children are now being told, or made to feel, they must leave their cultural, and linguistic, and religious identity at the door…I know Muslim girls and men who have shaved off their beards, taken off their hijabs so they can Anglicise themselves to fit in, so they are not viewed as part of the problem”.
A spokesperson from Ofsted in response to the motion said: “There’s nothing political about ensuring that schools and parent aren’t being subject to undue pressure by national or community campaign group”.
The spokesperson added: “Headteachers need to be able to take uniform decisions on the basis of safeguarding or community cohesion concerns, and Ofsted will always support them in doing that”.
MEND unequivocally supports the right for children to wear the hijab in schools as a manifestation of their religious and cultural identity and commends the motion passed by the teachers union.