'Britain's strictest school' can ban Muslim prayers, court rules

High Court rules in favour of Michaela Community School in London that claimed allowing prayers risked 'undermining inclusion' between pupils

The High Court has ruled that Michaela Community School in London can set its own policy on whether it allows prayers. Alamy
Powered by automated translation

A Muslim student has lost her bid at London's High Court to overturn a ban on prayers at her school.

The pupil, who cannot be named for legal reasons, took legal action against the Michaela Community School in London over its policy that she claimed was discriminatory. The school has a reputation as being the strictest in the UK.

The secondary school has defended its policy on the grounds that allowing prayer rituals risked “undermining inclusion” between pupils. Almost half of the school's pupils are Muslim.

In an 83-page judgment handed down on Tuesday, Justice Linden rejected the pupil's claim.

“It seems to me that this is a case … where the claimant at the very least impliedly accepted, when she enrolled at the school, that she would be subject to restrictions on her ability to manifest her religion,” he said.

“She knew that the school is secular and her own evidence is that her mother wished her to go there because it was known to be strict.

“She herself says that, long before the prayer ritual policy was introduced, she and her friends believed that prayer was not permitted at school and she therefore made up for missed prayers when she got home.”

The case will be seen as upholding the right of non-religious schools to make their own decisions over prayers.

The school's head teacher, Katharine Birbalsingh, has previously been described as the strictest in Britain.

The high-profile school leader has attracted a lot of media attention over the years for her outspoken views on education and “woke” culture.

Pupils at the school are required to attend a behaviour “boot camp” that teaches them how to walk to lessons quickly in single file, how to sit properly on a chair, and how to concentrate in class.

Pupils get detention if they talk in the corridors or if they forget their pencil case or ruler.

In January, in a post on X, Ms Birbalsingh defended the school’s policy on prayers and said it came against a backdrop of violence, intimidation and racial harassment of teachers.

In the same week of the High Court hearing, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan hailed Ms Birbalsingh’s leadership of Michaela School as “incredible” on social media.

Updated: April 16, 2024, 4:22 PM