Tens of thousands of pupils, families and teachers could be affected if judges decide a Birmingham Islamic school illegally discriminated against pupils by separating girls and boys from the age of nine, a court has heard.

Lawyers for the Al-Hijrah school, a state-funded Islamic school, argued mixed-sex schools across the country that practise gender segregation could face upheaval and uncertainty if they were forced to change the way they operate following a legal appeal by Ofsted, the schools inspectorate.

The case is a "pretty extraordinary situation", the school's barrister Peter Oldham QC said on the second day of the court of appeal hearing in central London. He said: "Ofsted has chosen to decide, in effect from one moment to the next, that schools that segregate are unlawful."

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