By Jaya Narain
A veiled Muslim mother was turned away from her child's school after being told visitors' faces should be visible at all times (picture posed by model)
A mother was barred from a parents' evening at her son's school as she was wearing a veil.
The 34-year-old was turned away on security and safety grounds after arriving in clothes which covered every part of her body except her eyes.
The incident in Blackburn follows a furore over comments by the area's MP Jack Straw about women who cover their faces.
Mr Straw, now Justice Secretary, said in 2006 that veils could make community relations harder as they were a 'visible statement of separation and difference'.
In the latest controversy last week, the mother of one was furious after being told that visitors' faces should be visible at all times.
She insisted that her religion should not affect her access to Our Lady and St John Catholic Art College, a mixed school for 11 to 16-year-olds where she was also a pupil. The woman, who lives in
Blackburn, said: 'I don't like going to the school any more because I leave crying.
'I can understand that people should be identified but I am just a normal person, trying to lead a normal life. Why should how I dress make a difference?'
Police were called to the school when she refused to remove her niqab or leave the premises.
Her wearing of the veil prompted a change of school policy after another parents' evening in 2007.
'I got told not to go into the hall because I was wearing a veil,' said the mother.
'I explained I was willing to take the veil off in front of female teachers but not the male teachers.'
School rules requiring hoodies and crash helmets be removed to gain entry were amended to include full-face veils after this.
Three years ago, Blackburn MP Jack Straw suggested women who wear veils over their face can make community relations harder
The woman added: 'This week at parents' evening, I signed in and saw two teachers in the library as I was not allowed in the main hall.
'Then I was asked by a member of staff whether I was aware of the school's policy on identification. My son enjoys going to the school and has settled in. I am in a strange situation where I can't see how he is progressing or even go to drop him off inside.
'If I had been told this was their intended policy, then maybe I would not have considered sending my son to the school.'
Anjum Anwar, head of Woman's Voice, an advice group for Asian woman in Lancashire, has been working with the mother and school to try to find a solution.
She said: 'We had hoped that the situation would have been resolved.
'We are saddened to hear this young lady is still not given access to participate in her child's education because of her faith.'
Headteacher Colette Gillen said it was important for parents to discuss their children's progress with staff.
Our Lady and St John Catholic Art College, in Blackburn, Lancs, where the incident occurred
She has offered to set up one-to-one meetings between the mother and teachers in her office.
'While this would be acceptable, the difficulty would be if a number of ladies wearing veils were free to wander the corridors or rooms,' said Mrs Gillen.
'It would not be feasible to monitor who is who.'
Mrs Gillen pointed to the Ofsted report rating the school as 'outstanding' for its community cohesion, care and guidance.
Many Muslim women in the UK wear a hijab or head scarf with only a minority wearing the full-length niqab veil.
Mr Straw yesterday refused to comment.