Published On: Wed, Dec 3rd, 2014

Secular Group Complains London Orthodox School’s Education Under-Sexed

Yesodey HaTorah girls school

Yesodey HaTorah, an ultra Orthodox school for girls in Hackney, London, opened to great fanfare in 2005, with Tony Blair, Lord Levy, Gerald Ronson and Richard Desmond in attendance. However, its curriculum has met with objections with secular groups, according to EastLondonLines, for its refusal to teach evolution, allow the internet, and address topics such as sexual health.

The groups are upset by “lenient” responses to these complaints, especially since the school is state-funded. The school serves the chareidi population, which comprises 10% of Hackney. Yesodey haTorah has 300 students, all girls, aged 11 to 16.

The National Secular Society called for an investigation that the school had been redacting questions about science on exam papers. However, it was discovered that the OCR exam board had reached an agreement to redact questions that conflicted with the students’ religious beliefs.

The principle, Rabbi Avraham Pinter, said “If we can’t redact questions, we won’t redact them.” but added he advised students to avoid answering questions that were  at odds with halacha, or Jewish law.

The NSS argues that redacting such questions is not in the best interests of the students and leaves them unprepared for life outside their communities. However, it is unlikely the students are encouraged to leave their community. The students are instructed not to go to a public library unattended, to have Facebook accounts, cellphones, go bowling or ice skating or even have sleepovers.

While Rabbi Pinter believes he is serving the school and the community well with the restrictions, the school declined in its ratings when 9 students refused to sit a Key Stage Three English Exam on “The Merchant of Venice.” Rabbi Pinter explained the girls preferred a zero score than to sit an exam on a play that is considered anti-Semitic. However, the choice of play might not have been relevant; there are such schools do not allow students to read Shakespeare at all.

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