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Voluntary aided Jewish school redacted ...

Postby a_haworthroberts » Tue Mar 04, 2014 8:00 pm

... redacted evolution questions from science examination paper.
http://paulbraterman.wordpress.com/2014 ... ermission/

And there is a NEW claim in Paul's blog post of today (see the - first - NSS link, and also the - third - BHA link) that Ofqual, the OCR and other exam boards have been reaching agreements with at least one and seemingly several state funded faith schools to allow them to black out exam questions on evolution in cases where such questions are deemed incompatible with the schools’ religious ethos.
Last edited by a_haworthroberts on Tue Mar 04, 2014 8:12 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Voluntary aided Jewish school redacted ...

Postby cathy » Tue Mar 04, 2014 8:03 pm

You've just beaten me to it Ashley. My friend has just told me to look at this. Both of us are incandescent with rage!
www.secularism.org.uk/news/2014/03/gove ... -evolution

I cannot believe it. I really can't.

Maximum publicity required.
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Re: Voluntary aided Jewish school redacted ...

Postby a_haworthroberts » Tue Mar 04, 2014 8:23 pm

I note the first two Parliamentary Questions from Lord Avebury:
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/p ... cumlst.htm

It sounds as though Paul, unlike me, has read the full paywalled Sunday Times article (no other media organ yet appears to have the story).
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Re: Voluntary aided Jewish school redacted ...

Postby Brian Jordan » Wed Mar 05, 2014 11:02 am

This seems to have been first uncovered by the NSS in October - I haven't come across anything previous to that.
http://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2013/10/jewish-faith-school-caught-censoring-questions-on-science-exam-papers
In the latest fuss, the exam board says that no pupil was advantaged by having to miss some questions(!!). However, I thought that I had seen a version of that statement which claimed that none had been disadvantaged either, which would be incorrect because the above NSS report said that they potentially missed either 3 or 1 of 75 marks, depending on which censored paper they sat.
I have not been able to confirm my recollection of a claim of no disadvantage - Google is almost as quiet on the matter as the mainstream press. If anyone does come across such a claim, I'd be glad to hear of it, please.

Regarding the paywall, by the way, many local libraries subscribe to an online archive of newspapers and such - mine includes the online OED too. Might be worth trying your library while (if) it still has funds: access can occasionally be quite useful, let alone a regular distraction!
http://infoweb.newsbank.com I just sign in by adding /mylibraryname and entering my library card number.
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Re: Voluntary aided Jewish school redacted ...

Postby a_haworthroberts » Wed Mar 05, 2014 11:57 am

Brian Jordan wrote:This seems to have been first uncovered by the NSS in October - I haven't come across anything previous to that.
http://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2013/10/jewish-faith-school-caught-censoring-questions-on-science-exam-papers
In the latest fuss, the exam board says that no pupil was advantaged by having to miss some questions(!!). However, I thought that I had seen a version of that statement which claimed that none had been disadvantaged either, which would be incorrect because the above NSS report said that they potentially missed either 3 or 1 of 75 marks, depending on which censored paper they sat.
I have not been able to confirm my recollection of a claim of no disadvantage - Google is almost as quiet on the matter as the mainstream press. If anyone does come across such a claim, I'd be glad to hear of it, please.

Regarding the paywall, by the way, many local libraries subscribe to an online archive of newspapers and such - mine includes the online OED too. Might be worth trying your library while (if) it still has funds: access can occasionally be quite useful, let alone a regular distraction!
http://infoweb.newsbank.com I just sign in by adding /mylibraryname and entering my library card number.



I cannot recall whether I read anything in Paul's links about disadvantage, Brian. But my thought was that if a student is taught about evolution but is then unable to choose an evolution question, there IS potential disadvantage. But not (to the same extent anyway) if they were never taught anything about evolution in the first place.

Cannot see anything current about this on the OCR website.

[Amended reply.]
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Re: Voluntary aided Jewish school redacted ...

Postby Brian Jordan » Wed Mar 05, 2014 12:35 pm

I think we can take it as read that the pupils were never taught about evolution and so were disadvantaged by missing part of the curriculum. However, some of them - perhaps the keenest young biologists, for instance - might have been taught or learned about evolution outside the classroom and been deprived of the chance to benefit from this rectification in the exam.
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Re: Voluntary aided Jewish school redacted ...

Postby a_haworthroberts » Wed Mar 05, 2014 12:37 pm

I'm stuck indoors awaiting a district nurse weekly visit for a change of foot dressing - so I had a quick look at Paul's links again.

http://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2013/ ... xam-papers (report dated 2013)
"The investigation confirmed pupils were left disadvantaged by being unable to access 3 marks out of 75 for a unit in a higher GCSE science exam, and 1 mark out of 75 for a unit on a lower paper."
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Re: Voluntary aided Jewish school redacted ...

Postby Brian Jordan » Wed Mar 05, 2014 1:07 pm

I see that the BBC has now caught up with the original event, whilst glossing over completely the even more serious matter of the board's and government's accommodation of such censorship. It also repeats the usual version of the checking:
The examinations body, OCR, says it was satisfied that the girls did not have an unfair advantage.
Which, however many times I see it, still leaves me gasping at the very idea that the only problem posed by throwing away part of the paper is possible advantage to the candidates. Would they say the same if the girls had been allowed to answer the question and then had that page torn out of their answer books?
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-26437882
However, I now see that the Huffington Post has to some extent confirmed my recollection, albeit with a twist that I hadn't considered.
The OCR exam board, which investigated claims that pupils at the Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School in north London were being prevented from answering certain questions in their obscuring questions in a GCSE science paper, said the action was "not good exam practice".

But it added that its inquiry concluded that no student gained an advantage by the school's actions, and it did not penalise any candidate.

It is understood that following the investigation, OCR, other exam bodies, the Department for Education and the schools inspectorate are looking to see whether there should be clearer guidelines for faith schools on how to deal with a situation where they are faced with questions in exam papers that are at odds with their belief system.
<snip>
An OCR spokesman said: "Ensuring the integrity of the exam system is of paramount importance to OCR and we will always take all the steps necessary to protect it. On this occasion we conducted a thorough investigation into the centre concerned and found that no candidate gained an advantage. As a result, we did not penalise any candidate.

"We have tried to respect the religious and cultural sensitivities of this community whilst protecting the integrity of our exams. That said, we do not consider obscuring aspects of question papers to be good exam practice.[my emphases]
So they didn't penalise any candidate for being disadvantaged. ******* charming!
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/10/10/jewish-school-yesodey-hatorah-hid-exam-questions_n_4077300.html
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Re: Voluntary aided Jewish school redacted ...

Postby Brian Jordan » Wed Mar 05, 2014 2:16 pm

It looks as though I wasn't using the correct search term. There's a Guardian article from October that reveals how the issue was first revealed
The exam censorship came to light after complaints by the National Secular Society, after comments by Rabbi Avraham Pinter, the principal of Yesodey Hatorah, to the Jewish Chronicle, in which he said "sometimes Charedi schools, if they find anything in the paper which could be offensive to parents, advise children to avoid that question".
http://www.theguardian.com/education/2013/oct/11/jewish-school-censored-gcses-evolution/

Then a Freedom of Information request about science teaching was refused by the school, who claimed that the questioner was using a pseudonym.
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/science_teaching_of_the_national#incoming-357073
There's also a story of the rejection of a question about Shakespeare - this time allegedly by the pupils and their parents
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-522938/School-falls-league-tables-pupils-boycott-anti-Semitic-Shakespeare.html
Then - the list grows as I plough through Google's pages - there's an article in the Jewish Chronicle suggesting that evolution wasn't the subject "obscured" but containing this damning admission
Rabbi Pinter believed that the question may have been “covered up” rather than blacked out. But he added: “What we have done is standard practice among all Charedi schools.”

In previous years, he said, the school had sent a covering letter to the exam board after the exam to explain if a question had been omitted — but this had not been done this summer.

But he emphasised: “We have agreed guidelines with OCR, which allows us to respect the religious sensitivities of our parents, at the same time satisfy the requirements of the exam board.”[my emphasis]
http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/112462/school-probed-exam-row

Then today (pity you can't rank by date on Google) Patheos chipped in with an illustration of blacked-out questions on what seems to be the actual paper. No mere "covering up" there. This article is a good summary and I've scanned ten pages of Google so I'll leave it at that for now.
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/03/04/british-government-allows-religious-schools-to-censor-questions-about-evolution-on-standardized-tests
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Re: Voluntary aided Jewish school redacted ...

Postby cathy » Wed Mar 05, 2014 5:20 pm

I would imagine the comment from OCR about no girls gaining an advantage (which is what they will initially have been investigating) is because it is malpractice to open exam papers before an exam. The school therefore would risk losing it's licence to run exams. The exam papers in the original article were clearly opened beforehand to check for and redact questions.
www.secularism.co.uk/news/2013/10/jewis ... exam-paper

The only logically expected reason for opening exam papers prior to the exam day would be to give students a heads up on what they were going to be examined. Because that is the only sane reason to engage in exam malpractice I would imagine it was the one thing that OCR would have procedures in to check. Hence OCR seems to have satisfied itself that this was not the case. No girls gained an advantage from the school having access to the questions before the exam date, therefore that particular piece of malpractice did not result in loss of licence.

The girls should certainly have been disadvantage tho. They would have been disadvantaged by losing a possible three marks out of 75 on the higher papers or one on the lower. If the exam board than fudged things to ensure this disadvantage was accounted for then it would have been unfair on other students from other schools. I think exam boards can do things like this in exceptional circumstances. We had a student whose mother died in the middle of practical exams for example. The exam board waived the marks for that particular coursework and marked her on the remainder. That would not be appropriate in this case!!

This whole thing is disgusting and should be stamped on very firmly. It will lead to special papers for 'special interest' groups. It makes a mockery of the whole exam system. I believe the school in question, in common with a lot of fundie morons, is sexist in the extreme. It could teach that girls are inferior or would be harmed by education.

Gove is undoubtedly and idiot, but he is on this 'mission' to drive up standards. Redacting papers could be seen as lowering standards - for example by removing topics from the papers. I guess that is a possible strategy?

Maximum publicity as well.

And questions should be asked as to why a school with a tendency to break rules about opening exam papers in advance of exams is allowed to keep offering them! Any other school doing that for any other reason would probably lose its licence.
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Re: Voluntary aided Jewish school redacted ...

Postby a_haworthroberts » Wed Mar 05, 2014 5:30 pm

As far as I can make out those Lord Avebury parliamentary questions (see my link from yesterday) still await Written Answer.

"Lord Avebury
to ask Her Majesty’s Government which faith schools have reached an agreement with Ofqual on redactions to questions in science examinations on grounds of religious sensitivity; whether they will place details of any such redactions in the Library of the House; and whether they intend to refer to the Children’s Commissioner the question of whether such redactions will have negative impacts on the pupils concerned."

"Lord Avebury
to ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the Children’s Commissioner regarding the right of pupils to see all questions in any public examination they are taking."
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Re: Voluntary aided Jewish school redacted ...

Postby cathy » Wed Mar 05, 2014 7:07 pm

Perhaps he should also ask why certain schools are allowed to open exam papers in advance to redact them. Why all schools aren't allowed to see papers beforehand?

This after all, must have been done by the biology dept - we aren't even allowed to see the papers until AFTER the actual exam. We used to be allowed in to have a peek after the first half hour, now we have to wait till after.

So sane teachers aren't allowed a peek beforehand (and the school apparently gets good results - hmm we all know how honest creationists are, they don't give their kids a heads up? ha pull the other one) but loony tunes are not only allowed a peek but sufficient time to go thru and remove questions they don't like. Where is the exam integrity in that? Where is the fairness.
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Re: Voluntary aided Jewish school redacted ...

Postby a_haworthroberts » Wed Mar 12, 2014 1:03 am

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Re: Voluntary aided Jewish school redacted ...

Postby Brian Jordan » Wed Mar 12, 2014 10:46 am

Any idea what happens next, Ashley? Assuming an answer arrives in the library, will a link appear on that site, or does some vigilant individual have to spot it and get it made public?
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Re: Voluntary aided Jewish school redacted ...

Postby a_haworthroberts » Wed Mar 12, 2014 6:40 pm

I'm embarrassed (as a former civil servant at the Department for Education up until 2004) to say that I'm not entirely sure ...
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