Ban on Muslim students wearing religious veils scrapped by B Sept 13, 2013 18:44:57 GMT
Post by Focus on Sept 13, 2013 18:44:57 GMT
A college which tried to ban pupils wearing the full facial veil for security reasons has abandoned the rule after a public outcry.
All students, staff and visitors to Birmingham Metropolitan College were told they must have their faces visible at all times so they are ‘easily identifiable’.
But the move was heavily criticized by some students, one describing the policy as disgusting. Nick Clegg said he was 'uneasy' about the idea.
Controversial policy : Staff at Birmingham Metropolitan College, pictured, have said the guidelines are in place for 'security reasons'
More than 800 people claimed they planned to attend a protest against the policy today to stand up to what they said was an ‘Islamophobic’ decision.
David Cameron’s spokesman said the Prime Minister defended the right of educational institutions to be able to ‘set and enforce their own school uniform policies’.
Downing Street said the PM would support the a ban on Muslim veils at his children’s schools.
His spokesman said today: 'We support schools in setting their own uniform guidelines. These are decisions that are around uniform are rightly for schools' to take.'
But Deputy Prime Minister Mr Clegg yesterday said he felt ‘uneasy’ about a veil ban in a schools, although he could understand why it was needed to identify people at airport checkouts.
The college which has 44,000 students and is the third largest in the UK, said headwear poses a security risk and their policy ‘includes the removal of hoodies, hats, caps and veils so that faces are visible’.
This would stop female Muslim pupils from wearing the niqab, the full facial veil where only the woman’s eyes are visible, or the burqa where the eye area is covered in mesh.
But the college has now issued a statement saying it has decided to modify its stance to allow individuals to wear 'specific items of personal clothing to reflect their cultural values'.
More than 9,000 people signed an online petition set up by NUS Black Students' Campaign calling on the college's principal Dr Christine Braddock to remove the ban.
Two Muslim students at the Birmingham Metropolitan College campus in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands. The college have banned Muslim girls from wearing a veil. Eyes, nose and mouth all have to be visible
Aaron Kiely, NUS Black Students' officer, said: 'The NUS Black Students' Campaign completely condemns the decision by Birmingham Metropolitan College to ban Muslim students from wearing veils on campus.
'This ban is a complete infringement on the rights to religious freedom and cultural expression and is a clear violation of a woman's right to choose.'
A statement posted on the college's Facebook page last night said: 'Birmingham Metropolitan College is committed to high quality education for all of our learners.
'We are concerned that recent media attention is detracting from our core mission of providing high quality learning.
'As a consequence, we will modify our policies to allow individuals to wear specific items of personal clothing to reflect their cultural values.
'The college will still need to be able to confirm an individual's identity in order to maintain safeguarding and security.
'The necessity to comply with national regulations, examination board requirements and applicable legislation will remain an overriding priority in all circumstances, as will the need to ensure that effective teaching and learning methodologies are applied.
'We have listened to the views of our students and we are confident that this modification to our policies will meet the needs of all of our learners and stakeholders.
'We remain committed to ensuring that students are provided with a safe and welcoming environment and the best education and training opportunities available.'
Split : David Cameron, above, backed schools and colleges to enforce uniform rules but Nick Clegg, below, said he felt 'uneasy' about telling people what they should wear
Birmingham Ladywood Labour MP Shabana Mahmood welcomed the college's change in policy.
She said: 'This change in policy is enormously welcome'.
The college has made a wise decision to rethink its policy on banning veils for a group of women who would have potentially been excluded from education and skills training at the college had the ban been enforced.
'My thanks go out to all those who backed the campaign.'
WHY SCHOOLS ARE ALLOWED TO BAN MUSLIM HEADWEAR :
Headteachers have the power to order students to remove veils after a series of high profile legal cases.
In a key 2007 case, a High Court judge rejected a bid by a pupil to be allowed to wear the niqab in class.
Although the 12-year-old’s three older sisters had worn the headwear at the same school in Buckinghamshire, teachers said it impeded their ability to communicate with her.
They said they needed to be able to tell if a pupil was paying attention, engaged with her work or distressed.
Case by case : Schools can outlaw veils but only after a consultation
After the case, the Government issued guidance that enabled headteachers to ban full-face veils on grounds of security, safety or learning.
It said teachers were justified in enforcing uniform rules which mean they can see and make eye contact with pupils.
Schools need to be able to identify pupils to maintain order in classrooms and to spot any intruders, it added.
But rather than a French-style blanket ban on face coverings in all public spaces, the Department of Education said institutions could outlaw the coverings as long as they carried out a proper consultation.
Updated Government guidance released last year clearly continues to back heads who choose to ban face-coverings.
It says it is ‘still lawful’ to restrict the freedom of pupils to express their religion on the grounds of ‘health, safety and the protection of the rights and freedoms of others’.
And religious freedoms do not mean pupils can practice their beliefs ‘at any time, in any place, or in any particular manner,’ the guidance adds.
Yet again appeasement is the game - why am I not surprised? - Fx