Everyday Champions Church, the group bidding to set up a creationist Free School, have announced that their proposal has passed the first round of applications and is through to the interview stage of the process. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has said it is astonished that the application has progressed, after previously meeting with Minister of State for Schools Nick Gibb and receiving assurances from him that creationism has no basis in science and should not be taught as such, and after the Department for Education (DfE) subsequently published guidance prohibiting such teaching.
Everyday Champions Church first submitted its proposal to open Everyday Champions Academy in February, with church leader Pastor Gareth Morgan stating that ‘Creationism will be taught as the belief of the leadership of the school. It will not be taught exclusively in the sciences, for example. At the same time, evolution will be taught as a theory.’ Secretary of State Michael Gove said at the time that applications from creationist groups to open Free Schools would be considered, however in March Nick Gibb went on record as ruling bids from such groups out, saying that ‘we have been clear that creationism should not form part of any science curriculum or be taught as a scientific alternative to accepted scientific theories. We expect to see evolution and its foundation topics fully included in any science curriculum.’ And in May, new guidance on how to apply to open a Free School was published, stating that ‘Creationism, intelligent design and similar ideas must not be taught as valid scientific theories.’
However, the Church is now being interviewed by the DfE on their proposals this week. BHA Faith Schools and Education Campaigns Officer Richy Thompson commented, ‘It is astonishing that a Free School proposal from a church which has been explicit in its intention to teach creationism has had its bid accepted, let alone progressed to the interview stage. Everyday Champions Church have been very clear that they intend to teach creationism as valid, and sideline evolution as just ‘a theory’. Equally, the Department for Education has been increasingly clear that creationism should not be taught in Free Schools. Given this, how can the Department for Education have now allowed this proposal to pass through to the interview stage?
‘The creep of creationism into the English education system remains a serious concern, and the Department for Education have a lot more work to do if they want to stop extremist groups from opening Free Schools.’
The BHA has already met with senior DfE officials about these issues on multiple occasions, and will be raising them again as a matter of urgency.
For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7462 4993.
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.