Public funds being spent to send children to creationist, Charedi and Steiner nurseries

The British Humanist Association (BHA) is seriously concerned to have discovered that public funds are being spent to provide free nursery places for children at creationist, Charedi and Steiner schools. The money is allocated by local authorities as part of a scheme to provide two, three and four year olds with free education, with very few strings attached.

The BHA first became aware of the problem when anti-creationist campaigner Jonny Scaramanga identified through Ofsted reports that funds were being spent on schools in the Christian Education Europe  network of private creationist schools that teach the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) curriculum. The curriculum teaches that the Loch Ness monster disproves evolution and that there is no biological basis for homosexuality. By looking at Ofsted reports it is possible to identify at least six schools that are receiving funds (Carmel Christian School, Excellence Christian School, Redemption Academy, Kings Kids Christian School, The Lambs Christian School and Beehive School).

The BHA was unsure what is actually taught at nursery stage in ACE schools, and so bought a number of ACE textbooks to find out. At nursery stage, children are taught in Science to identify what is taught on each of the days of creation, and about Adam and Eve. In Social Studies, they are also taught about Noah’s Ark.

Funds are also being spent on:

However, these are only some of the schools where such funding happens to be mentioned in the school’s Ofsted report; the true number is likely to be (perhaps substantially) higher.

The funds are allocated by local authorities, with the criteria for which schools are funded simply being that they are not exempted from the requirement to teach the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). But this simply specifies basic requirements about teaching literacy, mathematics and ‘understanding the world’, and does not preclude pseudoscientific or extreme religious groups from being funded. It would seemingly preclude Steiner schools, which have exempted themselves from the early years foundation stage since 2009. However, this does not seem to have prevented these schools from getting funding.

The BHA contacted the DfE to ask whether it considered the funding of creationist nurseries acceptable, and it said that it only required nurseries to teach the EYFS and meet general requirements on private schools.

BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal commented, ‘It is outrageous that public funding is being spent on nursery places for children at schools that the Government considers too extreme to run state schools. The Government urgently needs to review who this funding is going to.

‘To those that would say that it doesn’t matter what is taught to children so young, we would respond that education is vital whatever the age of the child. The Jesuits say “Give me the child for his first seven years, and I’ll give you the man.” This funding gets these groups half way there.’

Jonny Scaramanga is a PhD student who went to an ACE school and now campaigns against them, and who first spotted this issue. Mr Scaramanga added, ‘My experience of ACE schools is that people of other faiths and no faith are seen as inferior. Children are taught “true Christians” should not associate with them, because their beliefs are categorically false and harmful. They also present a highly distorted view of science, and this makes them unsuitable candidates to receive government funding.’

Coincidentally the Government is currently consulting on reforming how such places are funded. The BHA has responded to the consultation urging funding to the groups it has identified to cease.

Notes

For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at [email protected] or on 0773 843 5059.

Read coverage in Nursery World today – ’Questions over funding for creationist nurseries’: http://www.nurseryworld.co.uk/news/1181091/Questions-funding-creationist-nurseries/

See the BHA’s scans of Accelerated Christian Education kindergarten Science and Social Studies textbooks: http://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/ACE-nursery-science.pdf – these were purchased by a supporter of the BHA from Christian Education Europe’s UK shop.

Read BHA correspondence with the DfE on Carmel Christian School, an ACE school that was the first to be identified: http://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Correspondence-between-the-BHA-and-DfE-concerning-creationist-nurseries-receiving-state-funds.pdf

Read about the Government’s Consultation on proposed changes to the role of the local authority in early education and childcare: https://www.education.gov.uk/consultations/index.cfm?action=consultationDetails&consultationId=1889&external=no&menu=1

Read the response from the BHA to the consultation: http://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Role-of-LA-response-form-4-response-from-the-British-Humanist-Association.pdf

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on ‘faith’ schools: http://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/faith-schools/

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on science, evolution and creationism: http://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/school-curriculum/science-evolution-and-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.