Second group supportive of teaching creationism backed to open 2013 school by Government

TAKE ACTION! Write to your MP and to Michael Gove to oppose the plans, and encourage your friends, family and colleagues to do likewise.

Update, 4 January 2013: A representative of Sevenoaks Christian School has contacted us to say that the school is not supportive of teaching creationism. The FAQ on the school’s website has consequentially been revised.

Update, 3 September: The BHA has revised this article to reflect that it is not clear that this group actually holds creationist beliefs – just that they are supportive of teaching creationism as a valid scientific theory. In addition, the group has only said they will teach about creationism in RE, not teach creationism as evidence-based.

Finally, the BHA would like to state that it does not object to schools teaching about the Christian, Jewish and Muslim creation narratives in RE, as they are prominent stories in the respective religious texts. But it is extremely rare for a secondary school to do this, and this raises concerns that this school is intending to promote creationist views to their students as scientific theories.

Revised article:

A second group supportive of teaching creationism in science has been backed by the Department for Education (DfE) to open a fully state-funded Free School from September 2013, the British Humanist Association (BHA) can reveal. Sevenoaks Christian School, a secondary school in Kent, sets out that the school’s founders support teaching creationism in science, and explains that creationism will be taught about in Religious Education (RE).

On Friday, the Department for Education announced that 102 new Free Schools have been ‘pre-approved’ to open from next year – 33 of which are ‘faith’ schools. The BHA also revealed that one of the proposed schools, ‘Exemplar – Newark Business Academy’, was from a creationist group that last year had its bid rejected by the Government due to concerns around teaching creationism. When rejecting that bid, the DfE said that Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove ‘was unable to accept that an organisation with creationist beliefs could prevent these views being reflected in the teaching in the school and in its other activities’. However, Mr Gove approved the same group a year later, after they promised to only teach creationism in RE, not science.

And today, the BHA is also revealing that Grindon Hall Christian School, a group backed by the DfE last October to open a Free School from this September, has a ‘Creation Policy’ in which they advocate teaching creationism in science alongside evolution.

The BHA has now been alerted by a supporter to the fact that a second Free School also supports teaching creationism. In its FAQ, in response to the question ‘Will you teach creationism?’, Sevenoaks Christian School explain:

‘Christians believe that God made the world, loves the world and is pleased with his creation. In RE we plan to teach about this and our responsibility as stewards of this precious earth. The government has said that free schools cannot teach “creationism” or “intelligent design” in science lessons as an alternative to the theory of evolution and we are content to accept this.’

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘It is plain from their comments that Sevenoaks Christian School are a group who have identified that they can’t teach creationism in science, so they will teach about it in RE instead.

‘Teaching creationism in RE is no more acceptable than teaching it in science as pupils who are taught one thing in one subject and then the opposite in another are going to end up confused. The previous government made this very clear in their guidance on creationism and it is deeply concerning to see the present government watering that down.’

‘Michael Gove said that he was “crystal clear that teaching creationism is at odds with scientific fact”. So it is startling to see three Free Schools that are supportive of teaching creationism as a valid scientific theory. Either the scrutiny to which bids are being subjected is inadequate, or the government’s policy statements are untrue.’

Notes

TAKE ACTION! Write to your MP and to Michael Gove to oppose the plans, and encourage your friends, family and colleagues to do likewise.

For further comment or information, please contact Andrew Copson on 07534 248596.

Yesterday afternoon the BHA posted a facility through which people could write to their MPs or Michael Gove. By today, over 1,000 emails had been sent: http://www.humanism.org.uk/campaigns/what-you-can-do-to-help/creationist-free-schools

Read the previous press release on Exemplar Academy, Creationists approved to open Free School in 2013, 13 July 2012: http://www.humanism.org.uk/news/view/1076

In 2011, the BHA came together with 30 leading scientists and educators and four other organisations to launch ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’ Read the statement from scientists including Sir David Attenborough, Professor Richard Dawkins and Professor Michael Reiss, and organisations including the BHA, the Association for Science Education, the British Science Association, the Campaign for Science and Engineering and Ekklesia: http://evolutionnotcreationism.org.uk/

View the BHA-backed Government e-petition on the same subject: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/1617

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on countering creationism: http://www.humanism.org.uk/campaigns/religion-and-schools/countering-creationism

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.