Barking girls’ academy accused of tracking pupils’ menstural cycles

A private girls’ school has been reprimanded after inspectors found teachers were “tracking” pupil’s menstrual cycles against their will.

Ofsted made an emergency visit to the Lady Aisha Academy, a £3,600-a-year Islamic school in Barking, after the Department for Education (DfE) received a complaint that pupils were being questioned about their periods if they did not attend daily prayer services.

In some conservative interpretations of Islam it is wrong for women to pray in a mosque while menstruating.

According to Her Majesty’s Inspector Carolyn Dickinson the DfE was told “that the school was tracking pupils’ menstrual cycles”. The school has denied the allegations and complained to Ofsted.

But in a report published this week, Ms Dickinson said: “Pupils who do not attend daily prayers at the mosque remain in school. A register is taken. Pupils reported that, after a certain number of days, staff question if the reason for non-attendance is their menstrual cycle.

“This personal questioning does not promote pupils’ self-esteem and confidence.”

She added: “The questioning of pupils about their menstrual cycles in relation to attendance at prayers does not promote pupils’ welfare.

“This practice does not reflect the Secretary of State’s guidance that governing bodies and proprietors should ensure that appropriate policies and procedures are adopted to safeguard and promote children’s welfare.”

Almost 100 girls attend the school which caters for students aged 11 to 16.

Barking and Dagenham Council visited in April 2019, and the headteacher put a policy in place to stop the “practice of questioning pupils about the duration of their menstrual periods”, according to the Ofsted report, but this “guidance has not been followed by staff and the practice continues”.

Headteacher Naeem Aslam was not aware of this, according to the report.

After the emergency inspection on September 26, Ofsted found that the school, which was rated as “Good” during its 2018 visit, “does not meet all of the independent school standards”. It now faces further scrutiny from the regulator.

A spokesman for Lady Aisha Academy said: “The school does not agree with the findings mentioned in the report and has lodged a complaint to Ofsted. We will not be commenting any further.”

Rachael Burford

Local Democracy Reporter