Muslim school labels claims pupil suspended for speaking to member of opposite sex 'utterly misleading and inaccurate'

The Al-Khair School said the pupil was suspended over a 'serious and sensitive matter,' not just for speaking to a pupil of the opposite sex

A Muslim school has labelled claims that one of their pupils was suspended for speaking to a member of the opposite sex as "utterly misleading and inaccurate."

The claim was made in a Sunday Times article, which alleged the Al-Khair School in Croydon had suspended a pupil for breaking its behaviour policy which forbids "all forms of communication between boys and girls."

The paper did not name the pupil involved or identify their gender, but said the Department for Education (DfE) had opened an investigation into the incident, over concerns that the policy could be in breach of the Equality Act or the standards that cover independent fee-paying schools.

It also said that schools regulator Ofsted were aware of the policy following a surprise inspection in September, but had failed to address the alleged ban on "free-mixing" between genders.

In a copy of the behaviour policy seen by the paper, it reportedly said that communication "through any medium" between pupils of different genders who are not close relatives was forbidden. 

"Free-mixing" was reportedly mentioned alongside "drug dealing, stealing, extortion, racism and arson,” in a list of high-level offences which could lead to exclusion.

Now, the school has responded to the claims, calling the article "deliberately simplistic and misleading" in a statement on its website.

The statement says the paper was "clearly informed" that the pupil's suspension was not for "innocent communication" as has been alleged, but for a "considerably more serious and sensitive matter which caused considerable distress to another pupil."

The school also alleged that the paper "ignored" offers of a meeting "to get the full facts" before publication.

Referring to the Ofsted report mentioned in the Sunday Times article, the statement said that inspectors "were informed of this incident during the Ofsted inspection and felt assured that the matter has been dealt with appropriately."

The school also said it was now making a formal complaint to the press regulator over the story, and added "other action may be follow when we have taken appropriate advice."

Speaking to the paper, Mark Thomas, the school's media representative, said: "The school's policy is clearly published and parents send their children [to the school] in the full knowledge of the code, which only prohibits communication not conducive to the educational environment we promote."

He added the recent Ofsted report graded the school as 'Good' overall and 'Outstanding' for the personal development, behaviour and welfare of pupils.

In 2013, the Al-Madinah school in Derby, one of the Government's flagship free schools, was forced to close for several days after the first day of an Ofsted inspection, over accusations that female staff had been made to wear head scarves or hijabs, and girls had been forced to sit at the back of the room during classes. The school has since re-opened as a primary school.

Under Ofsted rules that were introduced by the coalition government, all British schools, whether they are independent or state-funded, have a duty to "actively promote" fundamental British values and prepare their pupils for life in modern Britain.

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