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Private religious school failed by Ofsted for teaching young earth creationism as science

In news that could have wide implications for the teaching of creationism in private schools, an independent religious school in London has been criticised by Ofsted for having a policy which ‘promotes the teaching of incorrect content’ on evolution and creationism, and told that it does not meet the minimum standards for an independent school. Getters Talmud Torah’s downgrading is the first time the British Humanist Association (BHA) is aware of this happening in a private school. The BHA, whose ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’ campaign saw evolution being taught as part of the primary national curriculum for the first time this academic year, has welcomed Ofsted’s efforts to crack down on the teaching of creationism and called on a similar approach to be adopted in other private schools.

The school’s policy states that ‘our curricula for Science, Geography and History will not reference evolution or prehistoric events that would de facto predate the creation of the world 5776 years ago’. Ofsted’s report says that as a consequence of the school’s approach to evolution and the age of the earth, ‘the curriculum still does not ensure pupils have sufficient or correct knowledge and understanding in the required areas of their education.’

This is particularly notable given the number of private religious schools around the country that are known to be teaching creationism as fact. Whilst this is banned in state-funded schools – the model funding agreement for academies, for instance, states that ‘the Academy Trust must not allow any view or theory to be taught as evidence-based if it is contrary to established scientific or historical evidence’ – it remains ambiguous as to whether or not it is permitted in private schools, which are only required to give pupils ‘experience in… scientific education’. This latest report, however, suggests that Ofsted may well be looking to take a tougher stance on pseudoscientific and creationist teaching in the future.

BHA Faith Schools Campaigner Jay Harman said ‘Our campaigns have been incredibly successful in recent years at eradicating young earth creationism and intelligent design being taught as science in state-funded schools in England and ensuring that evolution must be taught in its stead, but private schools have continued to be able teach these views with impunity.

‘All children, regardless of which school their parents have chosen to send them to, are entitled to a broad and balanced education and the opportunity to study evidence and learn about the great tradition of scientific inquiry and advancement that defines us as human beings. The teaching of creationism in science stands entirely at odds with that, so we welcome the action that has been taken by Ofsted in the case of this one school and hope it will adopt a similar approach in others.’

Notes

For further comment or information please contact Jay Harman on jay@humanism.org.uk or 020 7324 3078.

Read the full Ofsted report: http://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provider/ELS/132041

Other problems identified in the report

  • ‘Teaching of the secular curriculum continues to be restricted to between 45 minutes and 1 hour per day for the older year groups, with no provision for the younger years. This is insufficient time to enable required subjects to be taught in sufficient depth, or, in some cases, at all.’
  • ‘Pupils continue to have very limited exposure to creative subjects. For example, pupils have not heard of drama and are not taught music or art. Engagement with any form of creativity is limited to basic drawing in lessons with no guidance on how to progress.’
  • ‘Senior leaders continue to preclude any reference to sex and relationships education because to do so would contravene the precepts of their faith.’
  • ‘Leaders prohibit any reference to some of the protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010, for example sexual orientation, therefore this aspect of the curriculum still does not meet requirements.’
  • ‘Pupils show limited awareness of potential career pathways and they are not prepared adequately for life in modern Britain. Pupils demonstrated stereotypical views on the roles of men and women, with men “going to work” and women “cooking and cleaning”.’
  • ‘The school does not undertake a prohibition check for teachers with qualified teacher status. The designated safeguarding lead was not aware that such a check existed.’

Visit the ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’ campaign page: http://evolutionnotcreationism.org.uk/

Read the BHA’s news item ‘Government bans all existing and future Academies and Free Schools from teaching creationism as science’: https://humanism.org.uk/2014/06/18/victory-government-bans-existing-future-academies-free-schools-teaching-creationism-science/

Read the BHA’s news item ‘First teaching of evolution in new primary national curriculum gets underway in English schools’: https://humanism.org.uk/2015/09/01/first-teaching-of-evolution-in-new-primary-national-curriculum-gets-underway-in-english-schools/

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

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

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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