GCSE and A-level exams have been shifted to accommodate Muslim students who fast during Ramadan, it has emerged.
During a House of Commons education committee meeting on Wednesday (6 January), it was revealed that the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) has timetabled key exams to make allowance for the Islamic holy month.
This year, Ramadan runs from early June to early July, and as part of their observance some Muslim students will not eat or drink water during daylight hours. This has led to requests that exams be rescheduled so that Muslim students are not taking tests while fasting.
Christian campaigner Alan Craig, however, has questioned why the Muslim holy month is being accommodated, while the Christian celebration of Easter is now frequently replaced by 'Spring break.
|Listen to Alan Craig discuss the rearrangement of exams on Premier|
Exam schedule 'discussed with Muslim groups'
The JCQ, which represents exam boards, has been communicating with Muslim leaders about special arrangements since 2013, when Ramadan moved into the exam season. Exam dates and Ramadan coincide to such a degree this year that there is little room for rescheduling. But it appears that popular subjects, such as English and maths GCSEs, have been moved to accommodate Muslim students as far as possible.
Where popular exams could not be timetabled before the start of Ramadan, they have often been scheduled to start earlier in the day, when fasting students will be less hungry.
Ramadan falls during peak periods of the exam season over the next three years.
Director General of the JCQ Michael Turner said:
"JCQ and the qualifications regulator Ofqual have previously met with Muslim groups to discuss the timetabling of examinations in light of Ramadan moving into the examination period.
"Where possible, large-entry GCSE and GCE [A-level] subjects are timetabled prior to the commencement of Ramadan and consideration given to whether they are timetabled in the morning or afternoon."
Commenting on this Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, said:
"Making this accommodation for Muslim students fasting during Ramadan is just one instance of the ever-increasing demands of this highly prescriptive religion. We now have some schools that serve only halal meet, make allowance for Islamic prayers throughout the day and provide lessons on the Quran. We need to think seriously about the direction in which these concessions are leading us.
"The United Kingdom was built upon Christian principles, including a level of accommodation for other faiths. We must remember, however, that Islam doesn’t make the same kind of accommodation.
"The values of Islam and Christianity are, ultimately, not compatible. At some point we will have to choose whether we will maintain the freedoms passed down to us by our Christian heritage, or submit to the increasing encroachments of Islamic law."
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