Headteacher’s prayer ban ‘lawful’ & London primary school places: The Standard podcast

A high court judge has ruled that a prayer ban at one of the highest-performing state schools in England run by ‘Britain’s strictest headteacher’ - was not unlawful.

Katharine Birbalsingh, who founded Michaela Community School, a free school in Brent, said she introduced the prayer ban in March last year, “against a backdrop of events including violence, intimidation and appalling racial harassment of teachers”.

A Muslim pupil, who cannot be named, claimed the prayer policy was discriminatory and breached their right to religious freedom.

Following the decision, Birbalsingh said in a post on social media that the ruling was a "victory for all schools".

It comes on the same day that primary school places are announced. New figures reveal that almost 10,000 children failed to get a place at their first choice primary school despite a drop in applications partly caused by families fleeing London.

Overall, 89 per cent of parents who applied for their children to start in a Reception class in September were allocated their top preference school. An increase of 0.6 per cent from last year’s figures.

Experts said the fall in applications was caused by the falling birth rate, and families leaving London due to Brexit, the pandemic and the cost of living crisis.

The Evening Standard’s Education Editor Anna Davis shares her insight and analysis.

You can listen to the episode in the player above, find us on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.