An Orthodox Charedi school in Stamford Hill has defended its policy of censoring textbooks by removing mentions of homosexuality and drawing over images of women.
National charity Humanists UK, which revealed the practice in a new report, described the approach taken by Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School as “censorious, homophobic, and misogynistic”.
But a spokesman for the state-run secondary on Egerton Road says the policy is in place to “protect our girls from sexualisation in line with our parents’ wishes”.
Humanists UK, which represents non-religious people, was given exclusive access to textbooks used at the school by anonymous members of the local community.
Photos of the books, which are all copies of GCSE History tome Understanding the Modern World, show words and images covered up by black marker and certain sections hidden completely by glued-down paper.
Words that have been censored include “prostitute” and “homosexual”.
In a section about modern American society, references to women smoking, drinking and driving with men are blacked out, as is the sentence “They kissed in public”.
Several images of women have been edited to cover up their chests, arms and thighs, and a picture of the late American dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers has been completely papered over.
An entire passage about Roe v Wade, the US Supreme Court decision that made abortion a legal right, is scribbled out.
In 2014, Yesodey Hatorah was investigated for redacting exam questions on the grounds of religious sensitivity, with regulator Ofqual warning it to stop.
Ofsted’s latest inspection, also in 2014, rated the school as “good”.
Humanists UK’s education campaign manager Jay Harman said: “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.”
A spokesman for Yesodey Hatorah school, who described the report as an “annual attack by Humanists UK”, 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 with homophobia or misogyny but is to protect our girls from sexualisation in line with our parents’ wishes and religious beliefs.”
Hackney Council recently published the results of a two-year investigation into unregulated schools in the borough.
Although Yesodey Hatorah is a registered school, the Town Hall’s report touches on the complexities of education in the Orthodox Charedi community, whose traditions are sometimes at odds with the council’s responsibility to safeguard local children.
Commenting on the redacted textbooks, Hackney’s Deputy Mayor Anntoinette Bramble said: “We want every child in Hackney to receive a well-rounded education, to give them the best possible start in life, so it’s important that these claims are investigated.
“We recognise that many residents from our Charedi Orthodox Jewish communities wish to educate their children within the traditions of their community, but that should never come at the expense of a good education.”
Update: this article was amended at 09:47 on Saturday 10 March 2018 to include a comment from Deputy Mayor of Hackney Anntoinette Bramble./ 9 March, 2018