I have posted this on behalf of Roger Titcombe who is having difficulty posting threads.
of the National Secular Society (here) states the following:
"The National Secular Society has discovered that exam boards, the exam regulator and the government have been colluding with faith schools to shield pupils from key scientific concepts.
A freedom of information request revealed that the redaction of exam questions on science papers deemed incompatible with a school's religious character is being condoned on grounds of religious sensitivity.
In October 2013 the NSS revealed that questions had been redacted on exam papers by teachers at Yesodey Hatorah Jewish Voluntary Aided girls' secondary school.
After raising the matter with the Department for Education (DfE), the NSS was informed by education minister Elizabeth Truss that a "proportionate and reasonable response" had been agreed with the school.
The freedom of information response reveals that faith schools will still be permitted to redact questions they don't approve of as long as this is done in collaboration with the exam board.
Setting out the response to the uncovering of exam malpractice, OCR wrote to the exam regulator Ofqual, stating:
"In our deliberations we have reached the conclusion the most proportionate and reasonable approach would be to come to an agreement with the centres concerned which will protect the future integrity of our examinations – by stipulating how, when and where the redactions take place – but at the same time respect their need to do this in view of their religious beliefs. We believe we need to be mindful of the fact that if we do not come to an agreement with the centres we could be seen as creating a barrier to accessing the examinations for the candidates."
The correspondence reveals that the school was under the impression that, prior to the NSS raising it as an issue, the practice of redaction was something that OCR and other exam boards were aware of and accepting of.
OCR acknowledges in its correspondence that the issue has "significantly wider implications and could apply to other faith schools." In correspondence contained within the FOI response it is clear that neither OCR nor Ofqual regarded the malpractice at Yesodey Hatorah an isolated incident."
The NSS article goes on as follows.
"Stephen Evans, National Secular Society campaigns manager, said: "Given the Government's laissez-faire approach to the redaction of questions on science exam papers we have no confidence that the DfE will ensure the new science curriculum will be taught in full by all schools.
"The pressure from schools for redaction demonstrates that religious precepts are strongly influencing science classes in some minority faith schools.
"The censoring of key scientific concepts from science lessons and exams by religious organisations pursuing their own religious agenda compromises children's education. It also reveals a lack of concern from the Government over minority faith schools not preparing pupils for life in wide British society."
Lord Avebury, the Lib Dem peer, has put down parliamentary questions asking the Government for details of the redactions and what representations it has made to the Children's Commissioner regarding the right of pupils to see all questions in any public examination they are taking."
The principle that parents do not own their children and that the state has a role in protecting the rights and entitlements of children in contrary to the wishes of parents has long been enshrined in English law and British culture.
For example, only last week the High Court insisted that an infant child of Jehovah's Witnesses parents must have medical intervention that would include blood transfusions, despite this being opposed by the parents on religious grounds.
Local Authority Children's Services Departments have a duty of care of children that can overrule the wishes of parents.
The law can compel parents to ensure that their children attend school regularly and parents can be fined for taking their children on family holidays during school terms. (I am actually of the view that this is excessive interference in the rights of parents).
Of course no school or any of its teachers has the right to tell pupils what they must or should believe, but the school must have the right to ensure that all children are presented with the relevant facts and evidence that underpin all the key scientific theories and laws that the state reasonably dictates should constitute the science curriculum entitlement of every child, regardless of the wishes of parents.
The same principle applies to all curriculum areas. History is a good example. Children must be taught historical facts where these are not in dispute. Where they are then they must be taught the conflicting theories and their evidence base. This is potentially just as sensitive as the teaching of evolution, but neither should be ducked. To have a state education system that insists that all children have an entitlement to be taught a national curriculum, but to allow exceptions for religious or other interest groups is a very dangerous slippery slope that we already appear to be on.
The government has recently agreed that all pupils must be taught about the illegal practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), despite religious and cultural sensitivities. It remains to be seen if this teaching will in fact take place in all faith schools.
Returning to the teaching of evolution, Richard Dawkins is frequently maligned as an unnecessarily confrontational atheist zealot. He is nothing of the sort as was revealed in his More4 documentary 'Faith School Menace' broadcast on 18 August 2010. This, despite the title!
In the programme he talked to a group of girls in a Moslem school where the science teacher had told him in advance that none of her pupils believed in Darwinian evolution, despite her having explained it to them. One girl asked Dawkins, "Do you believe that humans are descended from apes?"
Dawkins replied correctly that he did not believe that.
"Humans ARE apes", he said. This is an absolutely incontestable fact, underpinned by anatomical classification now backed by incontrovertible DNA evidence. The DNA record can also indentify the common ancestor timeline and branching point.
Whether or not to believe in Darwinian evolution or a religious alternative is a free choice for adults and ultimately their children. However all children are entitled to have been presented with the evidence.
We cannot have religious schools negotiating their own exemptions to the questions in science exam papers.
9 March 8.20am The three paragraphs about Richard Dawkins have been changed to correct typos. Apologies.