Fears of another “Trojan Horse” scandal have been reignited in Birmingham after an Islamic private school was found to have placed an advert for a male-only science teacher.
The advert which risks being in breach of the Equalities Act, has since been retracted - but the headmaster claims that the role must be occupied by a male teacher because of “religious observance reasons”.
The decision has prompted calls for the Salafi Independent School, located in Small Heath, to be investigated, amid fears its stance promotes “gender-based discrimination” and threatens to undermine “British values”.
Whilst the Department for Education said it could not comment on individual cases, a spokesperson said that it could not see realistic grounds on which a school would be legally able to advertise for a teacher from a specific gender.
A spokesman for the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: “An advert that indicates that only people of one sex are eligible for selection is discriminatory and unlawful, unless an occupational requirement applies.”
It comes just weeks after the Government’s integration tsar Dame Louise Casey condemned the actions of Birmingham City Council’s equalities chief, Waseem Zaffar, who attempted to overturn a school’s decision to ban a four-year-old girl from wearing an Islamic veil.
Writing to the Labour-run council, Dame Louise questioned whether “sufficient lessons” had been learnt from the Trojan Horse scandal, which saw Islamist plotters attempt to infiltrate a number of schools in the city.
Although Mr Zaffar has since resigned from his post, the council remains the only local authority in England to be subject to constant Government monitoring, with several leaders fearing that the scandal exposed in 2014 could be repeated.
The latest incident, which emerged after the school posted an advert for a “part-time male science & Islamic Studies teacher” on Twitter, has provoked criticism from the British Human Association, which said concerns over segregation and discrimination remain unresolved in the city.
“Apart from being potentially unlawful, this appears to be the kind of the policy which reflects a failure to recognise gender equality or to promote respect for women,” a spokesman added. “If these attitudes are being espoused by the school and inculcated in its pupils, the Department for Education must take swift action.”
Their comments were echoed by the National Secular Society, which said: “All schools have a duty to promote fundamental British values and any school that fails to respect the law and promote gender equality is clearly unfit to educate young people.”
However, the school’s headmaster, Dr Perwaiz Saeed Alam, said the advert had not been “about discrimination”, adding that the new role had been earmarked as a male position because the teacher would be required to accompany pupils to the mosque.
If these attitudes are being espoused by the school and inculcated in its pupils, the Department for Education must take swift action.
“We have been seeking a male science and Islamic studies teacher,” he added. “We do have male staff teaching girls and boys and female staff teaching girls and boys.
Asked why a female teacher could not perform the role, he said a male was required due to the “obvious sensitivities” involved, but added that advert had not “come across very well” and would be withdrawn.
“We as a school first and foremost have an equality policy throughout our school. We employ 27 members of staff and 18 of those are female and nine are male. It is quite evident that is predominantly female staff.
“It is difficult, but you can understand the sensitivities involved,”he added.
The incident follows a case at an Islamic school in Leicester in 2014, when the Madani Boys School was forced to remove an advert for a “male science teacher” following a complaint to the Department for Education.