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Schools ordered to continue teaching creationism by religious body in spite of Government ban

A religious organisation responsible for overseeing a number of state, private, and nursery schools in England has instructed its institutions to continue teaching creationism as fact in spite of requirements that prohibit such teaching. Humanists UK, which ran the ‘Teach evolution, not creationism’ campaign that led to teaching creationism as science being outlawed in English state schools, has called on Ofsted, Hackney Council, and the Department for Education (DfE) to investigate immediately.

The Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC) is the umbrella organisation for the strictly Orthodox Charedi Jewish communities in London and acts as the religious authority for the state-funded Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School and Pardes House Primary School in Hackney, Avigdor Hirsch Torah Temimah Primary School in Brent, and Menorah Foundation School in Barnet, as well as many private schools.

In a letter to its schools in January this year regarding funding for free early education and childcare to two, three, and four-year olds, the UOHC stated that it had been ‘brought to [their] attention’ that such funding is contingent on rules regarding the teaching of creationism. The law on the provision of early years funding states that local authorities must ‘not fund providers who do not actively promote fundamental British values or if they promote views or theories as fact which are contrary to established scientific or historical evidence and explanations.’ The statutory guidance goes on to clarify that this:

is intended to cover the presentation of creationism as fact. It has no bearing on teaching children about religious beliefs, traditions and festivals, and is simply intended to remove funding from providers presenting such views and beliefs as ‘fact’ or ‘science’

In its letter, the UOHC states that it has ‘carefully evaluated the contract and the guidelines’, finding that:

‘they place great doubts, Heaven forfend, in the creation of the world with the lie that the world is ancient, may their mouths be filled with earth. This is a lie that earlier sages of blessed memory contended with, and now they wish to infiltrate us with this falsehood. We are obliged to oppose this…’

‘…We therefore inform all those who abide by our rulings that they should not sign up to these clauses and those who have already signed must retract their signatures. They must send a letter attached to the contract [form] so that it is incorporated in the form that their signature does not apply to the clauses relating to this subject [i.e. creationism]’

In 2015 Humanists UK revealed that as many as 61 creationist Christian, Charedi Jewish, Muslim, and Steiner nurseries were continuing to receive early years funding from their local councils in spite of the ban. In light of this latest revelation, Humanists UK has called for the funding of all these settings to be reviewed, as well as the OUHC’s authority over the four state schools.

Humanists UK Education Campaigner Jay Harman commented, ‘Since our “Teach evolution, not creationism” campaign achieved its aims in 2014, the Government has been crystal clear that any school or nursery in receipt of state funding cannot teach creationism as fact or science. It’s incredibly disappointing, therefore, to discover that there still appears to be groups out there who believe they can ignore the rules and continue to teach in this way while receiving state funds. Given the overwhelming scientific consensus discrediting creationism, children deserve far better than to be taught it as science and public money is far too precious to be wasted on it. We will be urging the Department for Education to give these schools a clear ultimatum and, if necessary, to withdraw their funding.’

Notes

For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigner Jay Harman on jay@humanism.org.uk or 07970 393680.

Read the UOHC letter to its schools: https://ifyoutickleus.blogspot.co.uk/2018/01/uohc-on-creationism.html

Read the Government’s Early education and childcare: statutory guidance for local authorities: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/596460/early_education_and_childcare_statutory_guidance_2017.pdf

Read the news item ‘Humanist UK reveals creationist private schools continue to receive state funds through nurseries despite Government ban’: https://humanism.org.uk/2015/05/02/bha-reveals-creationist-private-schools-continue-to-receive-state-funds-through-nurseries-despite-government-ban/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/05/22/bha-becomes-humanists-uk/

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