Vegetarian GCSE student disqualified for ‘obscene racial comments’ about halal meat in RS exam

Vegetarian GCSE student 16, is disqualified for ‘obscene racial comments’ because she criticised halal meat in Religious Studies exam

  •  Abigail Ward, 16, was told by exam board OCR that she would be disqualified
  •  Appeal launched by her school, Gildredge House in Eastbourne, East Sussex 
  •  Examiner had taken her comment on halal butchers to be Islamophobic 
  •  But school argued it was in relation to vegetarianism, not opinion on Muslims

A GCSE pupil was disqualified after examiners mistook her vegetarian views on Halal meat for Islamophobia.  

Abigail Ward, 16, who attends Gildredge House school in Eastbourne, East Sussex, was told by exam board OCR that she had made ‘obscene racial comments’ while answering her Religious Studies exam in June.

On the subject of halal butchers, the student had written, ‘…which I find absolutely disgusting.’ 

Abigail Ward, who attends Gildredge House School in Eastbourne, (pictured), was disqualified from her GCSE after her vegetarian views were mistaken for Islamaphobic comments

In an appeal, her school explained that her comment was in relation to her vegetarian beliefs, not her opinions on Muslims. 

Her mother, Layla Ward, said the examiner has been ‘over-zealous, over-righteous’.

Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph, the 36-year-old said the family were shocked by the decision to disqualify her daughter, and the exam board has since been overturned the decision.

She said:  ‘Abbey is an animal lover and a very strict vegetarian. 

‘It made me angry … when asked a question in the exam, you can’t even express your feelings. 

‘It’s great that it has been overturned, but it should never have happened.’ 

In a statement, OCR said it has apologised to Abbey, adding that its initial conclusion was incorrect and ‘too harsh’.

Exam board OCR has since overturned the decision to disqualify the student (file pic)

 Exam board OCR has since overturned the decision to disqualify the student (file pic)

A Daily Mail investigation found this week that OCR – which oversaw 163,000 A-level entries this year – offered A-level ‘assessor’ roles to a reporter in two subjects in which she had no qualifications.

The reporter applied online for two marking roles in history and Latin using fabricated CVs.

At no stage did OCR or its management company, Cambridge Assessment, check any of her claims, seek any references or verify any of the qualifications.

The reporter was then added to OCR’s ‘approved assessor’ list.

OCR insisted the reporter would have been put through ‘robust’ training and ‘standardisation’ tests before actually being given any papers to mark, but did not explain why its staff had failed to check references before approving the application. 

Ofqual, the exams watchdog, said it was investigating. 

‘We are closely reviewing the evidence provided by the Daily Mail,’ a spokesman said. ‘We will take appropriate regulatory action if we find our rules have not been met.’