Family & Education

Did Jewish school give Queen Bess get the chop?

The Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls' School was criticised by Ofsted for censoring textbooks


Since she became Ofsted’s chief inspector three years ago, Amanda Spielman has been on the warpath against discrimination.

When she was interviewed on Sky News by Sophie Ridge earlier this month, as an example of girls getting a worse deal than boys, she cited an unnamed Jewish school where girls were “not allowed” to know about the history of Elizabeth I’s reign.

At the end of last year, at the launch of her annual report, she also spoke of Elizabeth being airbrushed “out of history”.

Her comments were taken to refer to the Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School in Hackney.

The state-aided high school was put into special measures ago two years after a critical Ofsted report which highlighted the religious censorship of textbooks. In one on Elizabethan England, inspectors found that “leaders had redacted sections relating to the queen’s supremacy and the Puritan challenge”.

That the school has edited textbooks — and in ways many of us would find excessively puritanical — is not in doubt. But it maintains it is wrong to believe it did not teach about Elizabeth at all, erasing one of England’s greatest monarchs because she was a woman.

Some textbook pages seen by the JC suggest what happened. In one section which explains that Elizabeth was only the second queen to reign in England, a picture of her dancing with her “favourite”, Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, was blanked out.

Also removed was a lengthy passage describing some of Henry VIII’s marital machinations, including how he divorced his first wife to marry the pregnant Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth’s mother.

While later the fact that Anne was executed was left in the textbook, the accusation of adultery against her was edited out.

Given all this, you might wonder what Yesodey Hatorah girls learn — or do not learn — about some episodes in the Bible. But that is another story.

At any rate, on a recent follow-up visit to the school, Ofsted said its history teaching “meets the requirements of the national curriculum”.


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