Faith schools have been banned from censoring exam questions that contradict their religious beliefs, the qualifications watchdog has ruled.
Ofqual said schools found to have redacted parts of GCSEs and A-levels will be guilty of “malpractice” and could ultimately be barred from staging public exams.
The move follows a decision by a London Jewish state school to block out questions about evolution on a GCSE science exam.
Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School in Hackney censored 52 test papers in two separate exams last year.
It meant pupils were unable to properly complete the test, potentially leaving them with lower marks than their peers. Ofqual has banned the censoring of tests, saying the move would carry the same punishment as cheating. Schools can be barred from running exams or have their entire results quashed.
In a statement, the watchdog said it had written to all exam boards to “set out our position on the redaction, or blacking out, of certain exam paper questions”. “Having looked into the issue, we concluded that while the practice was very rare, it should not be allowed,” it said.
“Denying learners access to all the questions on a paper prevents the candidate achieving their full potential and therefore disadvantages them. It also threatens the validity of the qualification.
“If awarding organisations suspect that schools or centres are redacting exam papers in the future we would expect them to act in the same way as they would for any other case of malpractice.”
The OCR exam board said a two schools redacted exam questions last summer. It also issued a statement insisting that schools would not be permitted to make changes to exams.