The Department of Education has recommended that there be no change to how schools decide their uniform policies.

New guidelines published by the department today say the current system, whereby schools decide uniform policy at local level, is reasonable and should be maintained.

The guidelines were drawn up after controversy earlier this year over the wearing of the Hijab veil by Muslim students.

They go on to say that no school uniform policy should act in such a way that it would in effect exclude students of a particular religious background from the school.

But the guidelines do not support the wearing of clothing in the classroom which obscures the face. They say such clothing would hinder proper communication.

Schools have also been told to take note of obligations placed on them by equality legislation before setting down a school uniform policy.

Commenting on the publication of the guidelines, Minister for Education Batt O'Keeffe said while 92% of schools in the country were under the patronage of one religion, that fact had not operated to exclude pupils of different religions from these schools.

He said it seemed clear that where schools had permitted the wearing of the Hijab in a colour similar to the school uniform, no problems had been encountered.

The Islamic Board of Education said it generally welcomes the new guidelines.

Primary school teacher's union INTO has also welcomed the recommendations, describing them as sensible and practical.

The Irish Hijab Campaign has said it welcomes the recommendations although it says it would like to have seen more explicit legislation to protect the hijab.

However the group says it is concerned with what it called the less than favourable statement regarding niqab or the wearing of a cloth over the face.

It says niqab is not currently an issue in State schools and it is concerned that highlighting the niqab can only further objectify an already marginalised group.