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School uniform: schools’ hotline FAQs

Practical Law Public Sector addresses the questions that schools may ask local authorities regarding day-to-day school management and sets out the legal issues to consider when responding:

This FAQ examines conflicts between school uniform policies and wearable items that are manifestations of a pupil’s religion. For details of all our school hotline queries, please see Practice note, Schools hotline FAQs.

Q: Ayesha, a Sikh, wears a Kara bangle to school though our uniform policy does not permit jewellery. Should the school allow her to wear it?

A: The school is entitled to set a uniform policy that does not permit jewellery. However, if the school enforces the policy and prevents Ayesha from wearing the bangle it may be breaching her rights under the Equality Act 2010 if wearing the bangle amounts to a manifestation of her religion. In that case, the school would need to show that the uniform policy is necessary and proportionate (see Practice note, School uniform, discrimination and religious rights).

In R (Watkins-Singh) v Governing Body of Aberdare Girls’ High School [2008] EWHC 1865 (Admin), a 14-year-old Sikh school girl who was refused permission to wear a Kara bangle succeeded in her claim for indirect race discrimination contrary to section 1 of the Race Relations Act 1976 and indirect discrimination on grounds of religion contrary to section 49 of the Equality Act 2006.

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