Nicky Morgan: Conversations on veil 'flunked' for too long

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan
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FACE veils are a barrier to learning, the Education Secretary insists, as she claims difficult conversations around the subject have been 'flunked' for too long.

In an interview with the Yorkshire Post Nicky Morgan said she backed Ofsted's chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw in raising debate about the veil's place in UK classrooms.

She said it was important to explain to the public why it can block effective communication, and to pass on the information gathered from conversations with teachers and classroom staff.

She said: "Sir Michael got it right. The tone that we say these things in, is really, really, important and things like explaining why the face veil is a barrier to learning, based on the conversations that I've had is really important.

"Rather than making it sound like there's a whole group of people that you just don't like very much - that's not what we are. It's very much about saying that we are addressing some key issues, and some key issues facing our country.

"I think as a country we've flunked having these conversations about things like values, including things like wearing the face veil for a long time. Actually we are now having to have these conversations and I think it's the right thing to do."

Mr Wilshaw caused controversy last week when he said that inspectors should consider grading schools as inadequate if face veils get in the way of adequate communication and effective learning.

The National Union of Teachers described his idea as alienating, while NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said Ofsted should be driven by evidence and queried: "Where is the evidence that demonstrates that wearing the veil is a barrier to teaching and learning?"

While the Education Secretary has said that schools should be in control of their own uniform policies, she said the face veil can present some difficulties in the classroom for teaching and learning.

She said: "It's from my conversations with head teachers and talking to people about how you teach young children particularly in terms of the reading and speaking, actually children will look very much at mouths and how they work.

"It's based on conversations with people who are doing it on the front-line."

"It's very difficult territory. I think it ties in with much wider conversations we're having about integration, community cohesion, around segregation."