When it’s from a faith school, and the exam boards have redacted all questions about evolution from the exams, in order to respect religious sensitivities.
Unfortunately, it’s not a joke.
Here’s the article from the Sunday Times (paywall) which broke the story about exam board OCR removing questions about evolution from the science GCSE papers at Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School, a Jewish faith school in Hackney. And here’s a freely available summary of the story from the BBC.
Faith schools, in the form of CofE institutions, and a few Jewish ones, have been around for decades, although administrative changes by the government of Roman Catholic convert and supernaturalist Tony Blair have allowed for new faith schools to be opened by other religious groups since 1997. At the time, secularists like me argued that the very concept of “faith school” was an oxymoron. Education should be about evidence, critical thinking and intellectual challenge and growth; faith is the exact opposite. Our concerns, and warnings about the inevitable conflict in science education, were ignored. And now the “told you so” moment has arrived.
However, there’s a very simple solution to the current exam row. OCR and other exam boards should publish a list of all the schools which they’ve exempted from evolution questions. Employers and universities should keep an eye on that list. Because it’s pretty straightforward:
If you have a science GCSE from one of those schools, you don’t have a science GCSE.
Qualifications are only qualifications as long as they’re recognised. OCR and any other exam boards which follow suit will rapidly devalue their own certificates when it becomes known that particular subject areas haven’t been covered. The schools on the list will suffer even worse: their reputations for rigorous and comprehensive education will lie in tatters.
I’m a university admissions tutor, looking over an application form. It’s from a pupil at Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School. She’s applying for engineering, has the requisite A-levels in maths and physics. She has 10 GCSEs, including science. A quick annotation in red pen: she has 9 GCSEs which I recognise. Biology may not be relevant to
engineering some engineering, but it still puts her below a number of other candidates, who are otherwise equally strong, in a very competitive field. “I’m sorry, but your application was not successful, as we require all applicants for engineering to have a GCSE in science which covers the full curriculum.”
Imagine the rush of aspirational parents to move their children out of the now-toxic Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School.