A 12-YEAR-old school pupil has been banned from wearing a Muslim veil in lessons because it is not seen as uniform.
The girl, who goes to a Bucks school, has been asked to stop wearing her niqab, a veil that covers the face usually leaving only the eyes visible.
The school is now facing a court battle about whether she can wear the veil and could be left with a £500,000 bill.
The pupil and her dad, who do not want to be named, are taking their case to court through a judicial review next month. The Muslim pupils at the school are allowed to wear a hijab, a scarf which covers the head, but not a full niqab.
Buckinghamshire County Council (BCC), who are responsible for the county's schools, are in talks with the family and are trying to stop the case going to court. The girl, meanwhile, is having lessons at home. This is being paid for by the school.
Wycombe MP Paul Goodman has written to Alan Johnson, Secretary of State for the Department of Education and Schools (DfES) asking for an urgent meeting.
He said it's right that the school should take the religious requirements of its Muslim pupils into account. "It already does so by allowing students to wear the hijab or headscarf, a policy on which it has consulted. It's worth noting that the vast majority of Muslim women in my constituency don't wear the niqab or veil.
"I gather that the school maintains on educational and security grounds that its students shouldn't wear the niqab. I support the school one hundred per cent."
BCC said it cannot fork out taxpayers' money on the case while the DfES said it does not comment on individual cases. But Mr Goodman thought the two authorities could help.
He added: "I believe that the DfES and Bucks County Council should support the school in principle, and should work together to help fund this court case."
Marion Clayton, county council cabinet member for achievement and learning, said: "I can confirm that a parent has asked for a judicial review regarding his daughter not being allowed to attend a Buckinghamshire school wearing a niqab. A hearing is expected shortly to decide whether that review should go ahead.
"The school and parent have asked for anonymity. Neither the school nor this council feel it is appropriate to comment on the issues of the case until the review, if any, has taken place. We have been working with the school throughout to try and achieve a resolution in the best interests of the pupil and the school."
* Editor's Note: Few stories have polarised local opinion quite as widely as that of the girl banned from wearing the veil to school. There has been a lengthy, robust and wide ranging exploration of the subject using the 'comments' feature of our website, and we feel - now that there have been in excess of 180 posts - the subject has run its course for the time being.