The Government has revised the single Academies model funding agreement to bring it in line with the Free Schools model funding agreement in preventing Academies from teaching pseudoscience and to require the teaching of evolution. The changes, which will apply to stand-alone Academies opening from today onwards, have been welcomed by the British Humanist Association (BHA), which has long been campaigning for this change.
In addition to the clauses on evolution and creationism, the Government has also introduced another new rule for Free Schools that says that ‘The Academy Trust must ensure that so far as is reasonably practicable and consistent with [faith-based admissions, Religious Education and Collective Worship] and the Equality Act 2010, the policies and practices adopted by the Academy (in particular regarding curriculum, uniform and school food) enable pupils of all faiths and none to play a full part in the life of the Academy, and do not disadvantage pupils or parents of any faith or none. For the avoidance of doubt, this requirement applies irrespective of the proportion of pupils of any faiths or none currently attending or predicted to join the school.’ This change has almost certainly been written in light of the situation that arose at the Al-Madinah School in Derby, and stops the religious ethos of a school from extending beyond admissions, RE and assemblies.
Finally, the Government has also introduced for Academies another rule that previously only applied to Free Schools, namely ‘The Academy Trust must ensure that principles are promoted which support fundamental British values, including: respect for the basis on which the law is made and applied in England; respect for democracy and support for participation in the democratic processes; support for equality of opportunity for all; support and respect for the liberties of all within the law; and respect for and tolerance of different faiths and religious and other beliefs.’ This is designed to prevent extremism in schools.
The changes will only apply to future Academies and Free Schools and, confusingly, currently will not apply to Academies and Free Schools that are part of Academy chains. However, the BHA will be pushing for the changes to be extended there too, and hope that this simply reflects the fact that the Academy chain policy has not recently been revised.
BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal commented, ‘Two years ago the Government precluded Free Schools from teaching creationism and required the teaching of evolution – but told us that similar changes would not be made with respect to Academies. Since then we have been working hard to get these two clauses extended to Academies and this has now happened.
‘We are delighted with the range of changes that the Government has introduced today with respect to evolution, creationism, extremism and the proliferation of religion throughout schools’ curriculum. These changes go a long way to addressing our concerns about pseudoscience and extremism in Free Schools and Academies, and we look forward to working with the Government to ensure their robust implementation.’
For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 078155 89 636.
Read the ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’ statement, coordinated by the BHA, from 30 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 work on ‘faith’ schools: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/faith-schools/
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.