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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: When is a baroness not a baroness? Titles still cause confusion

Guy Keleny
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?