Update, 18 July: Since we published this news item, Grindon Hall principal Chris Gray has stated in the Guardian that ‘we were questioned at length about it when we were interviewed to be a free school, and that was to the [Department for Education]’s satisfaction. A number of schools have been sadly turned down on that. That document is from a time when we were not as clear as we are now about the proper distinction as to what is taught in a science lesson and what might be taught in assembly – two different spheres. If children question for themselves their origins, that’s what we want them to do – to ask sensible, responsible questions. Am I here by accident, or – dare I use the word – design?’
This seems to the BHA to make clear that the school still intends to teach creationism as true, only in RE and assemblies, not in science. The BHA believes this is just as unacceptable as 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.
A Free School due to open in September 2012 intends to ‘teach creation as a scientific theory’, the British Humanist Association (BHA) can reveal. Grindon Hall Christian School in Sunderland, currently a private all-through school but approved last October by the Department for Education to open as a Free School from this September, has a ‘Creation Policy’ (mirror) on its website in which they ‘affirm that to believe in God’s creation of the world is an entirely respectable position scientifically and rationally.’
Grindon Hall’s Creation Policy starts off by explaining that:
We will affirm the fact that “God created the world and everything in it”. We will affirm that he did so “ex nihilo” – out of nothing.
We believe that God, as sovereign Lord of the universe, is capable of creating the world in a few 24-hour days, or over a period of millions of years.
It goes on to state that the school does ‘not share the rigid creationist’s insistence on a literalistic interpretation of the first chapters of Genesis’ and that ‘We are therefore very happy to believe that God could have created the world in six days. But we do not feel that it is helpful to affirm it as an unarguable fact.’
However, it is clear that the school genuinely believes that there is genuine scientific controversy around whether or not God created the Universe and the world. The policy then explains:
we vigorously challenge the unscientific certainty often claimed by scientists surrounding the so-called “Big Bang” and origins generally.
We believe that no scientific theory provides – or ever will provide – a satisfactory explanation of origins, i.e. why the world appeared, and how nothing became something in the first place.
We will teach evolution as an established scientific principle, as far as it goes.
We will teach creation as a scientific theory and we will always affirm very clearly our position as Christians, i.e. that Christians believe that God’s creation of the world is not just a theory but a fact with eternal consequences for our planet and for every person who has ever lived on it.
We will affirm that to believe in God’s creation of the world is an entirely respectable position scientifically and rationally.
BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘Grindon Hall Christian School is a classic example of the so-called “teach the controversy” approach, often used by American creationist groups to get creationism taught in schools. Creationists do not argue that evolution should not be taught; they simply argue that there is genuine scientific debate over the origins of the Universe and the Earth, and that therefore creationism should be taught alongside evolution.
‘The issue with the “teach the controversy” approach is that there is no scientific controversy over evolution and creationism: the scientific consensus is overwhelmingly in favour of evolution.
‘Michael Gove said that he was “crystal clear that teaching creationism is at odds with scientific fact”. So it is startling to see two Free Schools that intend to teach creationism in RE and one that intends to teach 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.’
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: https://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: https://humanism.org.uk/news/view/1076
Grindon Hall Christian School’s ‘Creation Policy’ was downloaded from http://www.grindonhall.com/documents/Creation%20Policy.doc
Now mirrored at https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/creation-policy.doc
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: https://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.