Despite past assurances to the contrary, the Education Secretary Rt Hon Michael Gove MP has said that applications to set up state-funded ‘free schools’ from creationist groups ‘would be considered’. The BHA’s chief executive Andrew Copson has condemned any teaching of creationism and intelligent design in science lessons, and has said that changes such as these to the school system creates a new threat to the teaching of evolution in schools.
The British Humanist Association has been at the forefront of challenging and bringing to public attention the growing threat to education from creationism, and promoting the teaching of evolution in schools.
After five years of campaigning by the BHA and others, in September 2007, the Labour Government published its ‘Guidance on the place of creationism and intelligent design in science lessons’, in which it is made clear that creationism and intelligent design are not scientific theories, and so cannot be taught in science lessons, as they have ‘no underlying scientific principles, or explanations, and are not accepted by the scientific community as a whole’. However attempts to discredit a wide variety of established scientific facts, and promote creationist and creationist inspired ideas in their place, continues.
In June 2010, the BHA coordinated a letter from top scientists and educators to the Conservative Education Secretary, urging him to protect and promote science in the school curriculum, with the specific inclusion of the teaching of evolution in the primary curriculum. The Department for Education’s reply stated that creationism and intelligent design do not form part of the national curriculum for science and therefore should not be taught. However, the response lacks assurances that schools would be required to teach about evolution in science. Moreover, new ‘free schools’ and academies do not have to teach the national curriculum, so the scant assurances from the government that religious myths have no place in the science curriculum will not even apply to potentially thousands of schools.
Mr Copson commented, ‘Successive governments have failed to enshrine and protect the teaching of evolution in primary school science, and moves to lift potentially thousands of existing and new schools out of the national curriculum altogether means that pupils of all ages may not be taught what is probably the most important idea underlying biological science. This, combined with the threat of groups running schools who willingly purport anti-scientific theories which are not supported by evidence as fact, creates a new threat to the teaching of evolution and school science more generally.’