More creationist Free Schools planned for 2013 opening

More Free Schools are being planned for opening in 2013 by creationists or groups with links to a creationist organisation, the British Humanist Association (BHA) has learned. The BHA has concerns about proposals in Bedford and Barnsley, in addition to plans in Sheffield and Newark that the BHA had commented on earlier this year.

In Bedford, Destiny Christian School is being proposed by the Miracle Church of God in Christ, and if approved to open, will be a member school of the Christian Schools’ Trust (CST). At an open meeting attended by a BHA supporter, the group were asked about their policy on creationism and responded that they believe creationism is science and intend to teach it as such.

In Barnsley, the independent Barnsley Christian School is hoping to enter the state sector as a Free School. Like Destiny Christian School and Sheffield Christian Free School, Barnsley Christian School is a member of the CST. The CST is founded by creationist Sylvia Baker, author of Bone of Contention, and while not every CST school advocates creationism,  the organisation as a whole has a statement explaining that the organisation is creationist and recommending the teaching of creationism in its member schools.

The BHA has already commented on applications to open a Free School in 2013 by Sheffield Christian Free School and Everyday Champions Church, who are also creationist groups. In November, Everyday Champions Church had a meeting with officials at the Department for Education (DfE) to discuss why their application to open in 2012 was rejected, and their local MP, Patrick Mercer, additionally met privately with Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove to voice his support for the bid.

Other creationist groups have also applied to open Free Schools in the past, without their views on creationism getting public exposure. One example is The King’s School in Nottingham, another CST school that openly teaches creationism in science, also previously applied to open a Free School, both in 2011 and a second time in 2012, though it is unclear if the school intends to apply again in 2013.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘It is easy to see the appeal of Free Schools to certain religious groups, not only because they have freedom to discriminate in employment and admissions but because of the considerable latitude they have over the syllabus taught, which would in practice permit schools to promote religious dogma in place of objective teaching on issues such as creationism. Even more concerning is that so many groups with openly creationist positions believe they have a chance of receiving government approval for their schools to open within the state sector as Free Schools.       

‘In supporting and coordinating the ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’ position statement, we are calling on the government to make statutory and enforceable the current guidance that creationism and ‘intelligent design’ should not be taught as science in schools, and to ensure that all state-funded schools must teach evolution. Without such measures, the risk that one of these creationist schools will gain approval to become a Free School remains.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Andrew Copson on 07855 380 633.

Read the Christian Schools’ Trust’s ‘Statement concerning: The place of the teaching of the Creation/Evolution debate and Intelligent Design in schools affiliated to the Christian Schools Trust’, pages 354-356. The statement explains that ‘The Christian Schools Trust affirms a high view of God as the Creator and sustainer of the Universe and of all living things. It categorically rejects the notion that living things have come into being by a random and purposeless process in which God has played no part. It rejects the idea that living things came about by a process involving the death and destruction of mutated creatures and affirms the belief, held by many scientists both past and present, that nature provides abundant evidence of the hand of a Designer.

Discussing the secondary curriculum, the statement explains that ‘ideally, by the time students reach Years 10 and 11 they will have been fully exposed to the creation/evolution debate. Evidence for and against the theory of evolution will have been evaluated and discussed and they will have been made aware that many, probably most, of today‘s scientists support the theory. However, it will also have been pointed out that many well-qualified scientists oppose it or dissent from it in some way. The role taken in the development of modern science by Christians such as Kepler, Boyle, Newton, Linnaeus, Faraday and Mendel will have been emphasised and it will have been noted that some of these, including Isaac Newton and Carl Linnaeus, held essentially the same position as today’s Young-Earth ‘creationists.

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on countering creationism.

Read the ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’ 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’s government e-petition on the same subject, which with over 18,000 signatures is one of the most popular on the site, at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/1617

In addition to the freedoms discussed above, there are further reasons why Free Schools are attractive to religious groups. Like most other maintained ‘faith’ schools, religious Free Schools can be approved without two things groups would previously have needed to set up a maintained ‘faith’ school. First, proposals for maintained schools undergo open local scrutiny and are likely to require local authority support in order to gain approval to open. On the other hand, Free School bids do not need local authority approval, and are only announced to the public once they have support from the DfE, by which point they are very likely to gain approval to open. Second, maintained school proposers often agree to invest substantial capital into setting up the schools, which these groups can’t afford, whereas Free School proposals need no financial investment from the proposer.

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.