Board lets Jewish schools erase evolution
TWO ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools in north London have been
allowed to delete questions on GCSE science papers set by the
Oxford, Cambridge, and RSA (OCR) examinations board which infringe
their community's beliefs. The two schools are associated with the
Haredi community, a Jewish sect that teaches that human beings and
animals were created by God in their present form.
Almost all of the 30-plus schools that serve their north-London
community are privately run, but the two schools involved in
tailoring science papers are state-maintained. One has been named
as the Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls' School.
School staff are understood to use a black marking pen to erase
examination questions that refer to evolution.
An OCR spokesman confirmed that the schools concerned had
negotiated the process, known as "redaction", with the Board, but
had been asked for written assurances that all parents knew of, and
approved, the practice. OCR has also placed limits on school staff
responsible for examinations. Moreover, the schools are required to
tell the examinations board in writing, and within 24 hours, which
papers had questions covered up, and to outline the reasons.
An OCR statement said: "We do not consider covering up questions
to be good examination practice. That said, while protecting the
integrity of our exams, we do respect religious and cultural
A statement from OFSTED said: "If a school was deliberately
preventing children from receiving a broad and balanced curriculum,
this would be taken very seriously and could result in an
inspection being brought forward as part of our risk assessment
The National Secular Society says that the OCR's response to the
editing of its science papers by two Haredi schools calls into
question the funding of all maintained faith schools. The majority
of so-called "faith" schools, however, are long-established C of E,
Roman Catholic, and joint church schools that serve the wider
community, teach the national curriculum, and have no difficulty
with standard science examinations.
Students' religious beliefs surveyed.
Researchers at York University who studied attitudes to evolution
among 200 teenagers at four maintained comprehensives, found that
80 per cent of those aged 14 to 16 at a non-faith school with a
mainly Muslim catchment believed in creationism, whereas 60 per
cent of the age group attending a school with a Christian
designation thought that humans had developed over time, with some
divine involvement. One in four students at the Christian school
accepted evolution without divine involvement.
About half of those attending a non-faith school with a mixed
catchment accepted evolution without divine involvement; one in
three thought that God had played some part in the development of
humans, and ten per cent - a significant minority - believed in
The results of the research have been reported by Pam Hanley, of
York University's Institute for Effective Education, in an article
in the online magazine The Conversation. "To avoid
alienating students, understanding evolution rather than accepting
it should be emphasised," she writes.