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BHA expresses alarm at creationist and alleged ‘extremist’ nurseries getting state funding

The British Humanist Association (BHA) is alarmed to have uncovered a large number of creationist, Charedi, Steiner and Muslim (with past allegations of links to extremist groups) nurseries that are in receipt of state funding through a scheme to provide two, three and four year olds with free education. Last year, through analysis of Ofsted reports, the BHA identified 17 nurseries of concern receiving this funding. However, after having submitted Freedom of Information requests to local authorities to enquire about which groups are being funded, the BHA has now identified 67 nurseries of concern.

In total, the BHA identified:

  • Nine schools teaching the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum. Amongst other things, ACE schools until recently taught that the Loch Ness monster disproves evolution and that there is no biological basis for homosexuality. Nursery resources bought by the BHA show that in Science children are taught  to identify what happened on each of the days of creation and about Adam and Eve, while in Social Studies they are also taught about Noah’s Ark. Most worryingly, one prospective parent was told by an ACE school that the state funding ‘has enabled them to reduce tuition fees for the entire school’ – i.e. the state is subsidising the entire school.
  • 16 schools that are part of the Christian Schools’ Trust. The CST has a statement explaining it is creationist and recommending that schools teach creationism.
  • 13 Charedi Jewish schools. Such schools are also usually creationist and like ACE and CST schools, are not approved for state funding through the Free Schools programme. In 2012 one advisor to Michael Gove referred to some Jewish groups as ‘segregationist’.
  • 27 Steiner schools. The BHA has concerns in relation to Steiner schools around pseudoscience, homeopathy and vaccinations. Last year the Government consulted on proposed changes to the funding scheme. The BHA responded to that consultation to point out that the conditions of the funding include that it goes to nurseries that haven’t exempted themselves from teaching the early years foundation stage (EYFS) – which Steiner nurseries invariably have. However, instead of stopping the nurseries from getting funding, the BHA was alarmed to see that the new regulations, which came into force in December, instead resolved the problem by removing the prohibition on funding for EYFS-exempted nurseries – thus allowing the Steiner schools to get funding without any legal issues.

Finally, the BHA identified that two nurseries that received funding in each of 2010-13 were the Islamic Shakhsiyah Foundation nurseries in Haringey and Slough, with the Haringey nursery having between 113 and 154 places funded each year. In 2009 David Cameron raised the nursery’s getting funding in prime minister’s questions, alleging that the foundation was a front group for Hizb ut-Tahrir. Michael Gove went on Newsnight about the matter and wrote an article for The Telegraph saying it should not get funding. In December 2012 the school was again in The Telegraph after a Government document leaked identifying it as ‘of concern’ due to potential extremism – although the article says ‘The school said they had been reassured by the Department for Education that they have “no concerns about extremism in our schools” and said there was “no involvement of Hizb-ut-Tahrir activists on the board of the foundation.”’ The DfE told the BHA last week that investigations by the Charity Commission and Ofsted in the last couple of years found that there are no longer links to Hizb ut-Tahrir; but also that the DfE was unaware of the ongoing nursery funding, and is now investigating the matter.

When this issue was first raised by the BHA in May last year, Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal commented, ‘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.’

Today she added, ‘There is a large number of private schools that due to concerns about creationism or fundamentalism would be deemed to be inappropriate by the Government to get state funding through the Free Schools programme but are being propped up by the state as a result of getting funding through their nurseries.

‘Two of the schools involved have been repeatedly dogged by accusations of extremism and five years ago Michael Gove and David Cameron made a big stand about how they should not be getting funding, yet nothing has changed since – despite four years of Coalition Government.

‘The Department for Education urgently needs to be getting its ducks in a row to ensure consistent policies on appropriateness for funding across the Department and we will be doing what we can to raise this issue further.’

Notes

For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at pavan@humanism.org.uk or on 0773 843 5059.

See which nurseries are getting funding: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/State-funded-nurseries-of-concern.xlsx

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 the previous BHA comment, ‘Public funds being spent to send children to creationist, Charedi and Steiner nurseries’, 6 May 2013: https://humanism.org.uk/2013/05/06/public-funds-being-spent-to-send-children-to-creationist-charedi-and-steiner-nurseries/

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.

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