School rapped for issuing own-brand qualifications instead of 'uncensored' GCSEs

An Orthodox Jewish school has been rapped for making pupils sit qualifications of “no value” which result in the school issuing its own certificate – because leaders would have to break exam rules and “censor” GCSEs.

Bnois Jerusalem Girls School, in Hackney, was rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in a report published today which also found creationism being taught in science lessons.

It is the latest Orthodox Jewish school to come under fire from Ofsted, with members of the community previously raising concerns the inspectorate needed to show more “respect” for faith schools.

Inspectors found the 840 pupils at the school do not take qualifications at the end of key stage 4 “because leaders would have to contravene the examination regulations in order to censor the examination papers”.

This is because “leaders have limited the scope of the curriculum to make it fit with Orthodox Jewish teaching”.  Text, photographs and illustrations in geography textbooks were redacted, Ofsted found, while the school library only has books in Yiddish.

Instead pupils take internal school examinations using past-paper questions, with the school then issuing its own certificates.

However, the watchdog said “these have no value outside of the community. Pupils do not have access to meaningful qualifications and so they are not prepared for life in modern Britain”.

Furthermore this lack of qualifications means “options for post- 16 study are limited”.

Creationism is “taught in geography and science”, which is “not appropriate”, and pupils “do not learn anything about the scientific theories about the origins of life”.

Megan Manson, a spokesperson for the National Secular Society spokesperson, said it was a “particularly appalling example of a school prioritising religious teachings over pupils’ education and welfare.”

“Teaching creationism as science, censoring resources, and depriving children the chance to gain qualifications and even communicate in English is utterly inexcusable. Fundamentalist religious zealotry should never be allowed to run roughshod over children’s basic rights in this manner.”

According to Jewish News, parents protested against the watchdog’s visit and requested parents did not speak to their children.

Leaders told Ofsted that pupils lead “very sheltered lives [and] would feel intimidated by talking to strangers… Similarly, they say that parents do not want their children to take external qualifications and that parents want younger pupils to learn to read using ‘look and say’ methods.”

But Ofsted found pupils are “not prepared for life in modern Britain” as “not only do they not obtain any qualifications, they have limited or no knowledge of other cultures and faiths”. They also criticised leaders for giving “undue weight to the views of parents in their decision-making”.

The watchdog previously raised issues with the lack of GCSEs during an inspection in 2018 when the school was rated ‘inadequate’.

Earlier this year think tank Policy Exchange criticised the watchdog for straying beyond official guidance and “seeking to create its own education policy” in its approach to faith schools. It stated if parents of faith “feel their children cannot receive an education that respects their belief in regulated schools, they are more likely to seek out alternative unregistered provision, where they will be more vulnerable to radicalisation”.

But Ofsted said: “We want schools to achieve good results by doing the right things . . .  We’ll continue to celebrate excellence in all types of school and to recognise academies and faith schools for exercising their freedoms in the best interests of their pupils.”

Bnois Jerusalem Girls Schools has been contacted for comment.