BHA expresses alarm as two state schools challenge teaching of evolution

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Two state-funded schools have in recent days come to light for challenging Government policy that every school must teach evolution as a valid scientific theory. Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School, a Charedi Jewish secondary in Hackney has been found by the Oxford, Cambridge and RSA (OCR) Exam board to have blacked out questions about evolution on pupils’ Science exams, depriving them of possible marks. Meanwhile, Al-Madinah School, a Muslim school in Derby, has advertised to parents in its prospectus that ‘Sensitive, inaccurate and potentially blasphemous material will be censored or removed completely. If and when teachers are required by the curriculum to convey teachings that are totally against Islam (Darwinism, for example), the Director of Islamic Studies will brief the relevant teachers and advise accordingly.’ The British Humanist Association (BHA) has expressed alarm at the findings.

Both schools have already been the subject of controversy this year. In June, the principal of Yesodey Hatorah was quoted in the Jewish Chronicle in respect to evolution as saying ‘sometimes Charedi schools, if they find anything in the paper which could be offensive to parents, advise children to avoid that question. We are confident that the government will take into consideration the educational priorities of parents and children of all faiths, and ensure that this topic is covered in a balanced and sensitive manner.’

Meanwhile Al-Madinah School, a Free School that opened last year, has recently come under scrutiny for a large range of issues including that girls have been required to sit at the back of classrooms, female members of staff have been forced to wear a hijab (whether Muslim or not), and because the school denotes a huge amount of time each week to religious observance. As a consequence the Government has recently written to the school asking it to change its behaviour in 17 different places, or face closure.

BHA Faith Schools Campaigner Richy Thompson commented, ‘We are deeply concerned that individuals responsible for running these two schools take views on evolution at odds with the established scientific consensus, and that those views have directly interfered with the schools’ teaching. The Government has been repeatedly clear that it is unacceptable for schools to present creationism or intelligent design as scientifically valid or refuse to teach evolution. Now it is time for it to put its position into practice, by reviewing the continued state funding of these two schools.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson at [email protected] or on 0781 55 89 636.

Read the ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’ statement, coordinated by the BHA, from scientists including Sir David Attenborough, Professor Richard Dawkins, Sir Paul Nurse and Professor Michael Reiss, the Association for Science Education, the British Science Association, the Campaign for Science and Engineering and Ekklesia at http://evolutionnotcreationism.org.uk/

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.