Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Latest advice on uniform policies and religion

The 'Silver Ring Thing' case in June came before the courts too late to take into consideration in ASCL's guidance paper 38 on religious affiliation and uniform.

Fortunately, the case was decided in favour of the school and has not changed the practical consideration for heads and governors. Essentially the guidance remains the same.

The judge in the case cited the DfES/DCSF guidance on uniforms and schools are encouraged look at it carefully if they haven't already done so. The argument that allowing jewellery may increase the danger of bullying was relevant in this case.

The case highlighted the need to consider special exemptions carefully. The young woman in question argued that she was being discriminated against on grounds of religion under Article 14 of the Convention on Human Rights.

However, it was only after careful consideration that the governors had made the distinction between Sikh and Muslim and Christian Brethren symbols of faith on the one hand, and the silver purity ring on the other. The judge therefore considered it lawful.

The guidance from the courts is that an act or practice must be 'intimately linked' to a belief (in the wording of the European Court of Human Rights) in order to qualify as a manifestation of a belief. Hence, there is a legitimate reason for Sikh turbans and Muslim hijabs to be treated differently than purity rings.

Finally, once again, the fact that another school was readily available to the young woman was cited as a reason why the judge found in favour of the school. We still have to see what the courts will say if a school in the remoter, rural parts of the country becomes involved in a case like this.

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