Sunday, 17 January 2021

It's Not Just Christian Fundamentalists Who Lie to Children

Bnois Jerusalem Girls School, Amherst Park, London
Government issues notice to Jewish school which taught creationism - National Secular Society

It's not just fundamentalist Christian schools that lie to children whenever they can get away with it; Orthodox Jewish schools do it too. Despite the law forbidding faith schools from teaching creationism as science and/or history, a Jewish faith school in north London, England does just that and has now been issued with a statutory notice by the UK government.

According to the National Secular Society, the Bnois Jerusalem Girls School, Amhurst Park, in North London was found 'inadequate' in all areas in an Ofsted inspection in December 2019 and has failed to meet standards in multiple recent inspections. Ofsted is the Government agency responsible for setting and maintaining standards in education. It's scope includes all schools that receive government funding.

The case of this school flagrantly ignoring the national curriculum it is paid to teach to was brought to the attention of the education minister, Elizabeth Berridge, last June. The school was issued with the notice after inspections resumed. The notice requires the school to sumbit an improveent plan. They are then monitored more closely to ensure compliance.

In december 2019, Ofted reported that the school was inadequate in all areas. In particular it found that:
For older pupils, wider reading is limited. Pupils’ class reading books are selected from a narrow genre of fiction, such as ‘Carrie’s War’ by Nina Bawden. Even within that narrow genre, pupils’ fiction books are censored and redacted. There are no English language books in the school library.

Leaders have limited the scope of the curriculum to make it fit with Orthodox Jewish teaching. Text, photographs and illustrations in geography text books are redacted. Pupils learn about creationism, according to religious teachings, in the kodesh curriculum. However, this is also taught in geography and science, which is not appropriate. Pupils do not learn anything about the scientific theories about the origins of life.

Pupils do not take any external GCSE or other qualifications, because leaders would have to break examination regulations in order to censor the papers. Pupils take internal school examinations using past-paper questions. Subjects are graded and the school issues certificates. However, 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.

[...]

Other aspects of pupils’ personal development are much weaker or non-existent. Pupils have very few opportunities to learn about other cultures other than in geography. These are limited by the censorship of resources. Pupils do not have opportunities to learn about other faiths. Pupils’ social development is also weak. Pupils lack confidence when speaking in class. They are not well prepared for life in modern Britain. Not only do they not obtain any qualifications, they have limited or no knowledge of other cultures and faiths.

[...]

...overall, governors are not showing the leadership skills required to move the school forward. On the issues of equality and diversity, the protected characteristics, and censorship of the curriculum and resources, leaders have not made any changes since the last full standard inspection in June 2018. The relevant independent school standards remain unmet.

Ofsted also found:
  • The school did not enter pupils for exams at GCSE level because leaders were not allowed to censor exam papers.
  • Leaders had limited the curriculum to fit within Orthodox Jewish teaching.
  • Leaders did not allow inspectors to talk to pupils, apparently at the request of parents.
  • Inspectors found redacted text and images in textbooks.
  • The school only stocked library books in Yiddish, and pupils lacked confidence with English language.
According to this report, an astonishing 21 other London schools, most of them independent Islamic or Jewish faith schools, were similarly found to be failing their pupils by Oftead in 2019, not all of them for teaching Creationism, it must be said. They are:
  • The School of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Brent.
  • Beis Chinuch Lebonos Girls School, Hackney.
  • Tayyibah Girls' School, Stamford Hill.
  • Lubavitch Senior Boys' School, Clapton Common.
  • Talmud Torah Bobov Primary School, Egerton Road, London.
  • Barbara Speake School for Performing Arts, East Acton.
  • Wiznitz Cheder School, Hackney.
  • North London Rudolf Steiner School, Hornsey.
  • Lantern of Knowledge Secondary School, Leyton.
  • The Japanese School, Acton.
  • Beis Medrash Elyon, West Hendon.
  • Jus'T'Learn, Mitcham.
  • Instituto Espanol Canada Blanch, Bortobello Road, London.
  • Zakariya Primary School, Forest Gate, London.
  • Benedict Primary School, Mitcham.
  • Shiras Devorah, Woodside Park Road, London.
  • Al-Khair School, Croydon.
  • Beis Ruchel D`Satmar, Stamford Hill, London.
  • Talmud Torah Toldos Yakof Yosef School(TTTYY School), Heathland Road, London.
  • St Andrew’s Church of England (Secondary) School, Croydon.
  • Talmud Torah Yetev Lev, Cazenove Road, London.
And these are just in London!

In 2012 I had a correspondence with the then Minister for Education, Michael Gove, via my MP, then Nicola Blackwood, (Conservative). I was assured then that teaching creationism as science was illegal in state-funded schools in England and that the government would take action against schools that did so.

In his reply to me, Lord Hill, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Schools, had this to say:
There is no place for the teaching of creationism as science in Free Schools. The Free School application guidance is clear: creationism, intelligent design, and similar ideas cannot be taught as valid scientific theories.

In this instance, the Department defines creationism as a belief that a divine creation can be empirically proven. It is perfectly acceptable for a Free School, or any other state-funded school, to teach the belief that God created everything as a faith position in Religious Education (RE). At the same time, we expect to see evolution and its foundation topics fully included in these schools' science curricula.

The teaching of creationism as science in any lesson, including RE, is forbidden by legal agreement that sets out the conditions by which all Free Schools receive their funding. Should there be evidence of a breach of this clause we would take swift action which would be likely to result in the termination of that funding agreement. This would mean that the organisation no longer had any role in running the school with state funding.
It is interesting, therefore, that so many faith schools appear to be breaking the law in this respect and yet are allowed to continue teaching, albeit under strict Ofsted supervision.

Like Christian fundamentalist, Orthodox Jewish schools obviously feel themselves to be above the law and entitled to lie to children when their faith disagrees with basic biology, history, geology and geography. In the case of the Bnois Jerusalem Girls School, victims are deprived of the learning and understanding, and indeed the qualifications, that they need to lead a full, productive adult life and exercise the choices to which they should be entitled. Instead, they are fed the lies and superstitions that their faith leaders need them to have to keep them in the faith and subject to their control.

Faith schools found to be guilty of this abuse of children should be shut down and their students tansferred to schools that teach a full national curriculum and meet the full standards required to teach children in a safe environment and prepare them for a full life as adults in a modern, multi-cultural society.









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