Publisher: The National Union of Teachers
Release Date: March 2006
Source: No longer available on the website
The guidelines from the NUT provide advice for drawing up a school uniform policy, noting that “pupils have a right to dress in accordance with the requirements of their religious beliefs. It should be recognized that for Muslims in particular, the concepts of modesty and dignity in dress carry the status of a religious obligation”. A school uniform policy “should be drawn up in consultation with parents, pupils, teachers and the wider community” and that if the school is unsure whether a particular choice of dress has religious or cultural significance, bodies consulted should include local religious groups.
The guidelines suggest that “in most lessons, the wearing of the hijab or jilbab would not present a health or safety hazard to either the wearer of the garment or other pupils”. For PE and games, it advises schools to consider loose fitting clothing, including longer-sleeved shirts, leggings and tracksuits; smaller headscarves that can be fastened with studs or poppers; separate girls and boys groupings within PE, or if possible, separate PE lessons for girls and boys only; single sex swimming pools and separate changing facilities for boys and girls. Health and safety issues in science and technology lessons could also be addressed by wearing lab-coats or smaller headscarves.
The NUT is to be commended for taking practical steps in times when there is an urgency to clear the air and restore a sense of self-esteem and dignity across all sections of society and communities. A school’s leadership should demonstrate there is room for Muslim culture and norms. It is only through nurturing Britain’s diversity today that the nation’s future talent can flower tomorrow.
The NUT now joins the NATFHE (the university and college lecturers union) in preparing guidelines so that its members are better informed and equipped to deal with discrimination and situations that ostracise Muslims.