Wilshaw: moving exams for religious festivals sets a ‘very bad precedent’

Moving examination dates to accommodate religious festivals sets a “very bad precedent”, according to the head of Ofsted.

Sir Michael Wilshaw said he disagreed with the Joint Council for Qualifications’ decision to move certain GCSE and A-level papers to accommodate Ramadan, announced last week.

In an interview on LBC radio today, Sir Michael said he was worried about religious communities “piling in” to try to have examinations moved, saying: “Once we give in to one religious group, we’ve got to give in to the other.”

Since JCQ’s announcement, media reports have suggested Jewish groups have placed pressure on boards to cancel examinations on 13 June this year, during the Jewish festival of Shavuot.

The Ofsted chief said that giving in to pressure from religious groups could make the exam timetable unmanageable. “Examinations take place throughout the year. There are school-set internal assessments throughout the year,” he said.

“Other groups might say, ‘We’ve got a festival here, a holy day there, we want you to change’. Schools would find it very difficult to manage that.”

After criticism of the move to accommodate Ramadan in its examination timetable, JCQ said: “The timetable for 2016 was drafted over a year ago, is published, and won’t be changing.” It added: “Each year the timetable is reviewed to ensure it meets the current needs of students, schools and colleges.”

A spokeswoman for JCQ said it had nothing more to add following Sir Michael’s comments.

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