School criticised for censorship of textbooks

A state school has been criticised for removing references to homosexuality and women socialising with men from a GCSE textbook.

An image of Fred Astaire dancing with Ginger Rogers was among the content blocked out by Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls' School - an Orthodox Jewish school in Stamford Hill, east London - in copies of the book seen by Humanists UK.

A spokesman for the school said it was well known that it redacts textbooks, and this is done to "protect girls from sexualisation" in line with parents' wishes and religious beliefs.

References to homosexuals in a section on Aryan ideas, racial policy and persecution were redacted and mentions of women drinking in public and driving with men were censored from "Understanding the Modern World", an AQA GCSE history resource, according to Humanists UK.

A number of images of women were also censored to hide parts of the body including chest, arms and legs.

The group, which received copies of the book from members of the community, said it was "simply not acceptable" for a state school to take "such a censorious, homophobic, and misogynistic approach to education".

A spokesman for Yesodey Hatorah school said: "Old news, old news. It is well known that we redact our textbooks and it has been reported time and again as well as being well documented by all relevant authorities.

"This policy has nothing to do homophobia or misogyny, but is to protect our girls from sexualisation in line with our parents' wishes and religious beliefs."

Images of redacting by Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School (Humanists UK/PA)
Images of redacting by Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School (Humanists UK/PA)

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 as '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."

An Ofsted spokeswoman said: "Ofsted is clear that all schools have a duty to actively promote fundamental British values. This includes mutual respect and tolerance of those who hold values different from their own.

"We will not hesitate to act where we have concerns that schools are failing to uphold these values, and to ensure that pupils are properly prepared for life in modern Britain."

Inspectors have recently visited the school in a routine inspection and the findings are expected to be published shortly.

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