A creationist Free School, Sheffield Christian Free School, has been proposed to open in 2013, and last week held a public meeting to gauge parent support. The British Humanist Association (BHA), which recently worked with other groups to launch a new campaign website, ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’, has expressed concern at the continuing confidence of creationist groups in applying to open Free Schools, and disappointment that the Department for Education (DfE) hasn’t taken firmer steps to discourage such applications.
Sheffield Christian Free School will be run by Christian Family Schools Limited, who already run two private schools in Sheffield, including Bethany School. Both are members of the Christian Schools’ Trust, a network of over 40 private schools. A core team member of the CST is creationist Sylvia Baker, author of Bone of Contention, who was the guest speaker at the public meeting. Sheffield Christian Free School’s curriculum policy will be ‘broadly based on nine themes found in the early chapters of the book of Genesis.’ Bethany School’s science curriculum is all about God’s role in creation, and creation appears throughout the school’s curriculum grid. In explaining the appeal of Christian Schools, the Free School’s website cites as a positive that just 7% of pupils agree with the statement, ‘I believe in evolution creating all things over millions of years.’
BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘We welcomed last month’s rejection of Everyday Champions Church’s Free School bid because of their intention to teach creationism. We are concerned that, even following this, creationist groups continue to see Free Schools as a viable route.
‘Following on from the launch of the ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’ website, which we coordinated, we wrote to the DfE further outlining our concerns. Despite the weight of support from scientists and educators behind our position, in their reply the Government refused to make their guidance on the teaching of creationism statutory and enforceable. We again urge the Government to put this issue to bed once and for all by making this simple change.’
For further comment or information, please contact Andrew Copson on 07534 248596.
Read the statement from scientists including Sir David Attenborough, Professor Richard Dawkins and Professor Michael Reiss, the British Humanist Association, the Association for Science Education, the British Science Association, the Campaign for Science and Engineering and Ekklesia at http://evolutionnotcreationism.org.uk/
View the BHA-backed Government e-petition on the same subject at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/1617
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.