Parents at a segregated-sex school in London have been angered by the news that genders will now mix. The school is about 90 per cent Muslim, but the principle says he will not have his reforms stopped by a “quite militant, quite vociferous minority of parents with particularly strong views on religion.”
Crest Academy in Brent, London, is the last segregated, “non-religious” school in the area. The boys’ and girls’ schools merged in 2009 to become an academy, and were placed under special measures by Ofsted in 2013, and again this year.
One of the primary recommendations of the inspectorate was removing gender segregation. Principle Mohsen Ojja has vowed to remove the “wall of segregation” that divides his campus.
An unnamed parent from the “Save Crest” campaign told the Brent and Kilburn Times, that, “Lots of parents chose this school not due to its performance but due to preference of single gender education.”
Hundreds have signed an online petition, saying they “are highly concerned and are openly seeking to resist this draconian measure in the school’s delivery of learning and teaching.”
— Crest Sixth (@CrestSixthForm) August 13, 2015
Ojja wrote in the Times Education Supplement:
“For me, the status quo was simply not sustainable. Running two schools in parallel, split by gender, was tantamount to unhealthy segregation… Moreover, I am the principal of a secular, non-denominational school that has a large majority of Muslim students. This does not make the school a Muslim school where segregation of gender should be pursued.”
To reassure Muslim parents, however, he wrote in a newsletter: “Lots of parents have asked me whether the merger means the end of single-sex education at Crest. I want to be very clear with everyone within the Crest family: no, it does not.”
Speaking to the Independent, he said: “The challenge has been to persuade parents that just because we have a Muslim majority now of over 90 per cent, we don’t have to be a Muslim school.”
Adding: “It is not about Islam, or about whether we cater for Muslims. We have a large number of Muslim kids, but they are in the British education system, and we have a duty to cater to them as best we can.
“The only way to do that is to streamline our efforts and get the best teachers working with all pupils. We had a wall of segregation, and children told me they were worried about what might happen to them if they crossed it. We don’t have that anymore.”
— Elroy Cahill (@flelroy) July 8, 2015
He was confident that his reforms would not be blocked by a “quite militant, quite vociferous minority of parents with particularly strong views on religion,” and stressed that the decision to introduce mixed lessons was for the governors alone.
He said: “In the current climate it is a bit sensitive to address the Muslim issue – because some parents may feel their needs are not being met or they aren’t being supported.
“But for me it is straightforward – we have no religious denomination. If they wish to exercise their parental choice and go with a segregated model, then there are private Islamic schools in the area.”