4. Religious symbols
45. Domestic courts have recently decided several cases concerning school uniform policies which prevented pupils from wearing particular forms of dress or artefacts associated with a religious belief. The contentious symbols included a jilbab (long coat-like garment), a niqab (full veil over the face) and a silver ring engraved with a reference to a biblical verse. In these individual cases the courts found the school uniform policies to be justified and not in breach of the right of a particular pupil to manifest their religion.
46. In October 2007, the Department for Children, Schools and Families issued a “guidance” to schools on school uniform and related policies. This non-statutory guidance strongly recommends wide consultations on school uniform policies including community leaders representing minority ethnic and religious groups and calls on schools to act reasonably in accommodating religious requirements. It further explains that restricting the freedom of pupils to manifest their religion may be lawful if justified on grounds specified in the Human Rights Act, including health, safety and the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. Furthermore, the guidance emphasizes that each case will depend on the circumstances of the particular school and that it is for a school to determine what sort of uniform policy is appropriate for it.