X Factor is a test too far for Orthodox pupils

By Simon Rocker, March 6, 2014

Teachers at Jewish schools have told examiners that they should not assume all children are familiar with social media or with popular television shows such as X Factor.

In a recent English paper, set by one of the main examination boards, AQA, students were asked to argue either for or against the view that “talent shows like X Factor provide cheap television, gossip and nothing of any value.”

They were asked to imagine their answer would “appear on the entertainment pages of a website”.

But representatives of Hasmonean High School and other Orthodox schools pointed out that some of their pupils might not even watch television or use social media when they met AQA officials recently.

The meeting was arranged by the Board of Deputies to help examiners understand that religious groups may have problems with some questions.

As well as difficulties with popular culture, set books in literature courses which refer to sexual relationships could be difficult for some schools.

AQA head of English Gary Pollard said: “We always want to ensure that the questions we set are sensitive to the diverse range of cultures and communities within our society.”

The Board’s education policy manager Sara Younger said that it hoped other exam boards would follow suit.

Meanwhile, another exam board, OCR, confirmed this week that it will allow some strictly Orthodox schools to cover up science exam questions they deem unsuitable for pupils.

Schools such as the state-aided Yesodey Hatorah Girls High in Stamford Hill have in the past shielded pupils from GCSE questions on evolution or human reproduction.

But OCR said that censorship could continue only if it had written assurance that this reflected the wishes of pupils’ parents, and the school reported which questions had been affected.

A OCR spokesman said: “We do not consider covering up questions good exam practice.That said, we do respect religious and cultural sensitivities.”

He added that the exam board had done its best “to get consensus among all those involved as to the best way of dealing with this issue”.

The National Secular Society has challenged such arrangements and said that Liberal Democrat peer Lord Avebury had tabled a question in the Lords to ask which faith schools have reached an agreement with Ofqual, the exam regulation body, “on redactions to questions in science examinations”.

Last updated: 2:57pm, March 6 2014