Reading Time: 3 minutes David Hawgood [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Reading Time: 3 minutes

This is a couple of weeks ago and comes from the Humanists UK. I am surprised that such a thing has been able to happen in a state school. This is why religious schooling should be shelved.

A state faith school in London is teaching its children that ‘the age of the universe is 5,778 years old’, warning that ‘men and women may not shake hands nor touch in any other manner’, and telling visitors that ‘all reference to TV programmes and the Internet should be avoided’. Humanists UK has stressed that Ofsted must come down very hard on this school, and any others who wish to espouse such a damaging and limiting religious ethos.

Beis Yaakov is a strictly Orthodox Jewish voluntary-aided, single-sex state school in Barnet, teaching girls between the ages of 4 and 11. The school’s visitors’ guide explains:

‘The society in which our girls live is a very protected one. They do not watch television and many do not have access to national newspapers or libraries. Pop culture is unknown and exposure to other religious experiences very limited.’

According to the school, a ‘strict code’ ‘governed by religious laws’ is enforced at the school, and dictates that, among other things:

  • ‘Men and women may not shake hands nor touch in any other manner. (Men try not to walk in between two woman and vice-versa)
  • Ladies must wear skirts, trousers must not be worn.
  • We only accept the biblical interpretation of creation as expounded by rabbinical teachings
  • The age of the universe is accepted as 5778 years old
  • We do not teach or discuss evolution in any form
  • Sexual matters may not be spoken about in any context
  • Personal relationships must not be discussed at all.
  • All references to TV programmes and the Internet should be avoided’

Contrary to the school’s desire to teach in this way and espouse its particular religious ethos, evolution is now part of the primary national curriculum and state schools are prohibited from teaching creationism as fact (both changes introduced following Humanists UK’s successful Teach evolution – not creationism campaign). From September 2019 all primary schools in England will also be required to teach Relationships Education to their pupils, something that the school will struggle to do if it continues to state that ‘personal relationships must not be discussed at all’.

This is not to mention the implications that the school’s policies have for its British Values obligations. Given how little exposure the pupils at the school are given to the society outside their immediate community, both in terms of culture and the beliefs and experiences of others, it is difficult to see how the school can be properly fulfilling its duty to promote either ‘individual liberty’ or ‘mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs’.

Despite this, the school is currently graded as ‘good’ by Ofsted, following its most recent inspection in 2015.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman commented, ‘Even if it wasn’t against the law, this kind of teaching is entirely unacceptable in any school, let alone a state-funded one. It is the duty of all schools to provide children with an education that opens their minds, encourages their curiosity, and introduces them to perspectives and experiences that may be different to their own. Not only is this school seemingly failing to do this, it appears to want to actively obstruct it too.

‘Ofsted must come down very hard on the school, and all others like it. Ultimately, if the ethos of a religious school dictates that it cannot meet the standards required, that school should not be allowed to exist. We are clear, and the Government should be too, that the rights of children must always come before any “right” of religion.’


For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK’s Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on or 0207 324 3078.

Read the school’s visitors guide:

Read more about Humanists UK’s work on faith schools:

Read more about Humanists UK’s work on evolution and creationism:

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association:

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...