Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw has told inspectors to mark down schools if they think the wearing of face veils is “acting as a barrier” to learning. The ruling applies to both pupils and staff.
How do you determine what is a “barrier to learning”? I feel there are some cases where it is important to see a person’s face – eg when teaching phonics and one wants a child to look at your mouth so they know how to form a sound correctly.
However, in other circumstances it is not always so clear cut– it is harder to pick up non-verbal cues if you can only see a person’s eyes. However, it isn’t impossible. I once worked with a lovely PhD research student from Pakistan who wore a veil so I could only see her eyes. However, her eyes were so expressive, I never felt I was missing non-verbal cues by not seeing the rest of her face.
My concern is that – if you come down too hard on Islamic female students, banning them from wearing the veil – are you going to drive them away from school?
If it comes down to a choice between allowing a student to wear a veil, thus keeping her in school, enabling her to get an education, or making her (and her parents) feel that she has no choice as the school has a strict no veil policy, so she drops out of school – I know which I would prefer.
Surely it is better for her, and for society as a whole, if she stays in school and get an education – even if the veil does cause some barriers to learning?
Here’s a link to a BBC article on this subject: