Colleges could be judged inadequate by the education watchdog if they do not ban pupils from wearing face veils when they believe it is hindering effective teaching.
Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has announced today he gives his “full support” to college principals who “decided to take a stand against the inappropriate wearing of the veil”.
The announcement follows comments Sir Michael made on BBC Newsnight last week where he supported similar calls from education secretary Nicky Morgan and the Prime Minister.
He said: “I am concerned that some heads and principals who are trying to restrict the wearing of the full veil in certain circumstances are coming under pressure from others to relax their policy.
“I want to assure these leaders that they can rely on my full backing for the stance they are taking.”
Adding: “I have also made clear to my inspectors that where leaders are condoning the wearing of the face veil by staff members or by pupils when this is clearly hindering communication and effective teaching, they should give consideration to judging the school as inadequate.”
He said Ofsted is determined to ensure discrimination has “no place in our classrooms”. “We want our schools, whether faith schools or non-faith schools, to prepare their pupils equally for life in 21st century Britain.
“We need to be confident our children’s education and future prospects are not being harmed in any way.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We fully support Sir Michael’s statement today. We are pleased that heads who choose to implement policies which restrict the wearing of the veil to support effective teaching and learning will receive Ofsted’s backing.
“It is also clearly right that if the wearing of the veil is interfering with education in schools that should trigger action from Ofsted.”
But Leora Cruddas, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said the union does not think that it is the role of Ofsted inspectors to judge schools on uniform policies and dress codes.
“Inspectors should focus on what schools achieve rather than what people wear,” Ms Cruddas said.
“Schools make decisions on uniform policies and dress codes with the needs of their staff and pupils in mind and take into consideration relevant educational, welfare and equalities issues.”
The Association of Colleges declined to comment.