Poems unloved by Orthodox schools


A number of Orthodox schools have complained that poems about falling in love that appeared in a GCSE English exam were unfair to their pupils because the subject was outside their experience. The JC understands that some students did not answer questions on the poems, which were set in AQA English literature papers and were worth a third of the marks.

A source close to one school said that "they would not have been able to answer questions because this is an experience they are unfamiliar with".

In one of the higher-level papers, pupils were asked to discuss Symptoms by Sophie Hannah, while in the lower-level foundation course, the poem was Brian Patten's First Love.

First Love describes the feelings of a besotted 15-year-old boy, recording that "Each night he dreamed of her/ Each day he telephoned her".

In Symptoms, the love-struck narrator has "Weak knees, a lurching heart, a fuzzy brain/ A high-pitched laugh, a monumental phone bill".

A spokesman for the Board of Deputies said it had been "alerted by several schools", which considered the poem inappropriate. "We have passed on these concerns to the exam board," he said.

The National Association of Orthodox Jewish Schools said that two of its schools were concerned by the questions. But Najos was not convinced that it could get the papers re-marked if pupils did not complete them and had advised the schools to look for alternative exam boards that did not ask questions about romance.

Jonathan Rabson, executive director of Najos, said that "it is becoming increasingly challenging for Orthodox Jewish schools to select examinations - particularly English - that respect their cultural and religious perspective".

A spokesperson for AQA said it was sorry there had been concerns.

"We are working with schools who have been in touch to find the most appropriate solution so that no student is disadvantaged."

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive