Common sense and respect for children in hijabs, please

Would it really affect anyone else in school if a child wears a hijab matching the uniform?

Share
Related Topics

School uniform rules have a lot to answer for when it comes to the breakdown of good relationships between school staff, students and parents - as I have commented before.

The latest example is a school in South London which has told a Muslim family that their unnamed nine year old daughter may not wear a hijab – the traditional Muslim headscarf – in class. This has been widely reported because the parents have announced their intention of suing the school.

What a storm in a playtime beaker. The solution is obvious to anyone with an iota of common sense. But the trouble with common sense is, of course, that it isn’t actually very common.

I don’t know what the school uniform colour is at St Cyprian’s
Greek Orthodox Primary School, but the child should be allowed to wear a hijab provided it matches the uniform - navy, brown, maroon or whatever it is that the rest of the children are wearing. Compromise is supposed to be a British strength. So where is it in this case?  Entrenched attitudes and confrontation are rarely an effective way to solve problems.

A few years ago I drove past a school in Malaysia at the end of the day when the children were flooding out of the gates and strolling off home or being met by parents. It was clearly a very mixed community in terms of religion and ethnicity and there were at least five versions of the school uniform – some girls in gymslips in different lengths, some in shalwar kameez, some with hijabs, some boys in western blazers, some in Muslim tunics and so on. But they were all in, or partly in, the same shade of a rather pretty pale turquoise – so the gymslips, hijabs, ties, blazer badges and other items all matched. They looked, as a school, very striking and smart.

Few schools in Britain would need to go quite as far as that, but it was a memorably enlightened example of how you get round – or even celebrate – differences with wisdom while keeping everyone distinctively uniform so that they have their own identity to distinguish them from the school up the road which is what apologists for school uniform usually want.

St Cyprian’s is a voluntary-aided school. That means that it is part of Croydon local authority. It is a state school with a faith affiliation - exactly like the thousands of village schools across the country which are linked to the Church of England. State Catholic schools operate in the same way. It is simply that the Greek Orthodox link is more unusual and the school is very small with only 60 pupils.

As a maintained sector school St Cyprian’s is subject to government guidance which recommends that schools should ‘act reasonably’ in accommodating beliefs relating to hair, clothes and religious artefacts. Yes, I know it’s hard for those of us who didn’t grow up in strict Muslim families to understand why it’s a sin for a child of nine to be bare headed in front of male teachers, but would a uniform coloured headscarf really affect teaching and learning in the classrooms at St Cyprians? Wouldn’t some jaw-jaw be preferable to war-war in the High Court which is where the parents hope this matter will be heard?

Meanwhile, the most worrying thing about this case is the plight of the child at the heart of it. She has been withdrawn from school. She must surely know why. Children always suffer when the adults around them disagree vehemently and fail to provide a secure, united front.  You can also be absolutely sure that this issue, now in the public domain, is being discussed by the other children at the school and their parents and there will be a range of opinions. None of that will help the school or the teaching and learning there. I once taught in a school in which the head, very unwisely, locked herself and the school in a long running confrontation about one girl and a single ear stud. No one won. No one benefited and a great deal of damage was done both to the reputation of the school and to staff-student-parent relationships.

Multiculturalism is a wonderful thing. I welcome and love the diversity and richness of communities which have such a wide range of backgrounds and I am, for example, delighted that the town I live in is much more mixed than it was when I first came to live here. But it won’t work without give and take, mutual tolerance – and sometimes a sensitive, sensible compromise.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The campaigning is over. So now we wait...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
In this handout provided by NASA from the the Earth-orbiting International Space Station, weather system Arthur travels up the east coast of the United States in the Atlantic Ocean near Florida in space. The robotic arm of the Space Station Remote Manipulator System or Canadarm2 is seen at upper right. According to reports, Arthur has begun moving steadily northward at around 5 kt. and the tropical storm is expected to strike the North Carolina Outer Banks  

Thanks to government investment, commercial space travel is becoming a reality

Richard Branson
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week