A state faith school in London has been redacting sections of its textbooks to remove mentions of ‘homosexuals’, examples of women socialising with men, and pictures showing women’s shoulders and legs. Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School is a state secondary serving the strictly Orthodox Charedi community in Hackney. The textbooks, seen exclusively by Humanists UK, are copies of a book entitled ‘Understanding the modern world’, which is one of AQA’s GCSE History resources.
In 2014 Humanists UK reported on how the same school was censoring exam questions (a practice subsequently halted after the exam board intervened), as well as revealing its refusal to teach sex education and insistence on teaching creationism ‘to all year groups throughout the school.’ That similar behaviour is still occurring four years later is all the more surprising. Humanists UK has now described the school’s approach to education as ‘censorious, homophobic, and misogynistic’ and has called on Ofsted to investigate immediately. The school was last rated in 2014 as ‘good’.
Examples of the redactions include:
References to ‘homosexuals’ are removed from a section detailing Aryan superiority claims. The word ‘prostitute’ has also been redacted:
In a section on the position of women in modern American society, references to women smoking, drinking, and driving ‘with men’ are redacted, as is the sentence ‘They kissed in public’:
A number of images of women are censored to hide their chests, shoulders, arms, and legs above the knee:
A picture of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing (left) is covered completely:
A section on Roe v Wade, the US Supreme Court decision that made abortion a legal right, is redacted:
This censorious approach is not confined to lessons. The school’s behaviour policy, available on its website, sets out a number of rules that must be adhered to ‘outside of school’. For instance, students are instructed not to ‘access the internet’ or ‘[engage] in activities such as bowling and ice-skating’. The policy goes on to state that ‘girls may only visit public libraries if accompanied by parent’ and prohibits ‘sleepovers’. The school’s admissions policy also dictates that ‘television is absolutely forbidden’ and stipulates that skirts must cover the knees, but ‘very long skirts’ are banned.
Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman commented, ‘It is simply not acceptable for a state-funded school to take such a censorious, homophobic, and misogynistic approach to education. Nor is it acceptable for such a school to be rated “good”. Once again, the consequences of giving religion free reign over our education system are brought into sharp focus. Children deserve so much better than this, so we hope Ofsted will now investigate and take action immediately.’
For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0207 324 3078.
See the full, unredacted textbook here.
Read Humanists UK’s 2014 news item ‘Yesodey Hatorah says censoring exam questions “has successfully been in place with the Charedi schools throughout England for many years”’: https://humanists.uk/2014/03/28/yesodey-hatorah-says-censoring-exam-questions-successfully-place-within-charedi-schools-throughout-england-many-years/
Read more about our work on faith schools: https://humanists.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/faith-schools/
At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.