Ofsted And Parents' Rights

The Sunday Times published an article on their front page (Inspectors to quiz girls in hijabs-19th November 2017) which stated that Ofsted inspectors will talk to primary school girls who wear hijabs over concerns that it could be interpreted as “sexualisation of young girls”. This is as a result of a meeting with unnamed Muslim women and secular campaigners. How is it possible that an unknown group of women and campaigners are influencing decisions about the wellbeing of children, and undermining the rights of parents in the UK?

Although the hijab has been brought under the spotlight again there is a much bigger issue here that needs to be addressed, which is at what point, if any, does the state have the right to interfere with the way parents choose to bring up their children?

Being a parent isn’t easy at the best of times. However the one thing that is for certain is that a parent has the right to make decisions for their child and this is protected under Article 8 of the European Court of Human Rights as a fundamental right to private and family life. In our multi-faith, diverse society all parents, whether Jewish, Muslim and others, or of no faith, have the right to raise their children in their chosen religion (or none). In British schools Jewish boys should be allowed to wear the skull cap, Sikh boys the turban and Muslim girls the hijab. This isn’t coercion but a right of parents to freedom of religion and family life. So why are Ofsted interfering in fundamental rights and inspectors feel they can question our children without parental consent?

But consent is not the only not issue. What is being proposed is an interference with the right of parents to raise their children in their chosen religion. The practice is not unique to Muslims, although research from Cardiff University suggests religious nurture is strongest among Muslim families.

How can we teach British values - including respect for religion or belief - in school yet at the same time single out one faith community? The early years of a child’s development are key to their learning a positive sense of identity and culture and understanding that we live in a multi-faith and multicultural society is pivotal to this. And what actual evidence is being used to conclude “the hijab causes the sexualisation of young girls”? Is the evidence, as appears to be the case, the subjective (and secretive) viewpoint of a few with a much broader agenda to bully the many using the power of statutory agencies? You have to laugh at the incoherence of their train of thought which seeks to ‘liberate’ young girls by restricting the freedoms of their parents!

Perhaps a better area to focus on would be the fact that in a recent Panorama documentary there were almost 30,000 reports of child–on-child sexual abuse since 2013, of which a staggering 2,625 took place on school premises. Or the fact that there have been 4000 cases since 2013 of children taking explicit pictures of themselves and sending them to others, and nearly 400 children under the age of 12 having been spoken to by the police in the last three years. Why is Ofsted concerned with a piece of cloth when actual harmful practices are on the increase?

So please stop telling parents what their children need, discriminating against a minority within a minority and focus on the real issues facing children today.