A ban on women driving their children to school issued by a Jewish education institution is “unacceptable”, the Department for Education has said.
Leaders of the ultra-Orthodox Belz sect in north London wrote to parents saying “no child will be allowed to learn in our school” if their mother drives.
Women driving “goes against the laws of modesty within our society”, it said.
The Home Office issued a response saying it was “developing a strategy to tackle extremism in all its forms”.
The Belz, who originated in Ukraine in the early 19th Century, are an ultra-Orthodox sect who follow Haredi Judaism.
The letter, which was signed from the “spiritual management” of Belz institutions, said: “There has been an increase in incidences of mothers of our students who have begun driving cars, something that goes against the laws of modesty within our society.”
This had led to “a lot of exasperation” among other parents”, it said.
The group’s leader in Israel, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, had advised that “if a woman is driving a car, she cannot send her children to be educated in Belz institutions”, it said.
It added that women with a “specific reason” to drive could submit a request to a special committee.
Responding to the letter, Education Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, Nicky Morgan, said: “This is completely unacceptable in modern Britain.
“If schools do not actively promote the principle of respect for other people they are breaching the independent school standards.
“Where we are made aware of such breaches we will investigate and take any necessary action to address the situation.”
A Home Office spokesman said it was “developing a strategy to tackle extremism in all its forms”.
They added that Home Secretary Theresa May had “made clear that she is not prepared to write off any British citizen as if they deserve fewer rights than the rest of us just because of where they’re born, who their parents are or what religion they happen to have and neither should anyone else”.