BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson and Head of Public Affairs Naomi Phillips met with the schools minister Nick Gibb MP at the Department for Education. Mr Copson explained the BHA’s long history in education, campaigning for inclusive schools since the early 1900s and on RE since the 1950s.
Mr Copson raised the BHA’s concerns about religious discrimination in the state school system and the funding of ‘faith’ schools. Mr Gibb replied that the government did not agree with the BHA’s position on ‘faith’ schools. We raised the issue of compulsory worship, informing the minister that it was one of the most frequent reasons why parents got in touch with us, worried about their children being forced to worship and equally not wanting to withdraw them from whole class or school activities. Mr Gibb stated that he felt there was already enough flexibility in the system, with schools being able to apply for “determinations” so that they do not have to have mainly Christian content in the worship.
We raised the issue of evolution in the curriculum, asking for the government’s position on including evolution as a core part of the primary science curriculum. Mr Gibb said that he agreed that the teaching of evolution should be compulsory at secondary level. Mr Gibb also said that he and his department were robust in their response to requests from religious groups wanting the inclusion of creationism and “intelligent design” in science lessons, stating that creationism has no basis in science and should not be taught as such.
The topic of Religious Education was discussed, with particular reference to the inefficiency of RE curriculums being locally determined and the deleterious effect on the subject because of that. The BHA argued that RE should be included in the current review of the curriculum being carried out by Mr Gibb’s department.
The British Humanist Association (BHA) is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people in the UK and campaigning for an end to religious privilege and discrimination. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for a secular state.