Thousands of state primary schools are allowing girls as young as five to wear the Muslim religious headscarf as part of approved school uniform, a Sunday Times survey has revealed.

The rise of the classroom hijab has alarmed female Muslim campaigners, church leaders and academics. They say it is divisive, sexualises young girls because it is traditionally not worn until puberty, and should be "fiercely resisted".

Ofsted, the schools watchdog, said there was "growing concern" about the trend. Inspectors are investigating whether head teachers have come under pressure from parents or religious leaders to change uniform regulations.

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