Humanists complain to Ofsted over Jewish school that brands being gay against its ‘ethos’

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The British Humanist Association has complained to Ofsted about an east London Jewish school that advises pupils to ignore exam questions on evolution, and considers evolution, same-sex relationships and social media to go against its ethos.

Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School in Hackney was downgraded from “outstanding” to “good” last month in an Ofsted inspection.

Earlier this year, Yesodey Hatorah was being investigated for blacking-out exam questions in a GCSE science paper taken last October, which were considered by the school to be contrary to its religious teachings.

Exams regulator Ofqual subsequently warned the school against continuing the “malpractice”.

Last month, Yesodey Hatorah Principal Rabbi Avraham Pinter said he will continue to discourage his pupils from answering “halaichally questionable” exam questions.

“Our children will be aware of which questions they should be answering and which ones they shouldn’t be,” he said to the Hackney Citizen.

Asked whether the Darwinian theory of evolution, which is a compulsory part of the national curriculum, was among the topics that were at odds with the school’s ethos, Rabbi Pinter replied: “Yes, it is.”

Questions about same-sex relationships and social media were also cited by Rabbi Pinter as topics of concern to the school’s ethos.

As one of 10 state-aided Jewish schools in the country, Yesodey Hatorah is required to follow the national curriculum.

BHA Faith Schools Campaigner Richy Thompson said: “Every young person is entitled to a broad and balanced education, including understanding evolution’s central role in biology and that it is the only evidence-based view of how life came to be. The government has made it clear that if a school teaches creationism as scientifically valid, then that, in its view, would be unbalanced. Equally, all the best evidence shows that full and comprehensive sex and relationships education leads to the best outcomes for young people in terms of sexual health and wellbeing.

“How can it be right that a school, never mind about a state school, can deny pupils a broad and balanced education in these important areas, and yet still be deemed by Ofsted to be ‘good’? We have asked Ofsted how this happened and why these issues are not mentioned in its report, and are currently awaiting a reply.”