A Brent school led by Britain’s "strictest headteacher" has been taken to court by a Muslim pupil after it was accused of introducing a “prayer ban”.

The student, who cannot be named, told the High Court that Michaela Community School’s policy is discriminatory.

Lawyers for the school, which is opposing the legal challenge, attempted to have proceedings held in private, due to concerns over past harassment, including a “bomb hoax”.

But following arguments by the media, Mr Justice Linden ruled that the hearing should be held in public and the school and headteacher can be identified.

In the legal action against the free school’s governing body, the Michaela Community Schools Trust, the student claims the decision “banning prayer rituals” breaches her right to freedom of religion.

She added that the ban is “like somebody saying they don’t feel like I properly belong here” and that it had “fundamentally changed” how she feels “about being a Muslim in this country”.

At a hearing yesterday (January 16), the court was told that the school’s stance was first introduced in March last year by its founder and headteacher Katharine Birbalsingh, a former government social mobility Tsar.

Sarah Hannett KC, representing the student, told the court that the policy had the “practical effect of only preventing Muslims from praying because their prayer by nature has a ritualised nature rather than being internal”.

The barrister said it was “a ban uniquely on Muslim prayer”, stopping pupils praying “at a time as required by Islam”, under which it is part of the “five pillars” of the faith.

She said Muslim prayer requires “prostration and for the worshipper to face a particular direction”, adding that there was no evidence the ban affected other faiths in the school.

Ms Hannett said it “wouldn’t prevent a Christian child sitting quietly in the corner of the playground from praying”.

The pupil was seeking a “compromise” to the school’s position, her lawyer said, arguing they should be allowed to pray for around five minutes at lunch time, on dates when faith rules required it, but not during lessons.

Around half the roughly 700 students at the school are thought to be Muslim.

Jason Coppel KC, for the school trust said the school was previously targeted with “threats of violence”, abuse and “false” allegations of Islamophobia.

He said Ms Birbalsingh was concerned coverage of the hearing would cause “serious risk” of “physical danger to our school community”.

Mr Coppel is due to set the school’s defence to the case today (January 17), when the hearing is due to conclude.

Reporting by PA.