Further to our post on 6th December (which can be found HERE), Ofsted has since appealed the High Court’s ruling and taken the case to the Court of Appeal.
Ofsted presented the case with the arguments that the High Court ‘erred’ in its decision and that it should have considered that the lack of socialising between sexes results in less favourable treatment for each sex as they are deprived of the opportunity to learn from each other.
Another argument raised was that girls suffer from being a minority power in society and would therefore be more susceptible to damage from separation. However, due to evidence from experts and pupils from the school, the Judges ruled that girls were not suffering to a greater extent than the boys and this thread was dismissed.
The appeal did, however, succeed in its main argument that the segregation policy did constitute direct discrimination. The reasoning behind the Court of Appeal’s decision was that when assessing discrimination you must look at the individual rather than the group (in this case the sexes). The decision went on to explain that, when viewed from the perspective of an individual student, whether male or female, the individual would be treated less favourably as they are being deprived of the knowledge that can be learned from socialising with the opposite sex.
The Court rejected the argument that a different outcome should be reached since Ofsted had not previously (prior to the inspection giving rise to this case) objected to a policy of segregation in this school. Neither was it strictly relevant that many other co-educational schools operated a similar policy strictly, with the prospect of a floodgate of claims being made by parents and children in those schools.
Ofsted made clear in the course of the hearing that it would adopt a consistent approach to all similarly organised schools in future. The Court commented that it would be helpful if Ofsted gave schools affected time to “put their houses in order”, given that in the past Ofsted had sanctioned and accepted a state of affairs which is unlawful.