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Government considering closing private creationist school

The Government has said it is considering deregistering a private Christian school which teaches science ‘from the Biblical perspective of creation’.

The Vine Christian School in Reading, which uses the fundamentalist Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) curriculum, has repeatedly failed to meet the Independent School Standards (ISS), including with respect to safeguarding. It also explicitly refers to teaching creationism as science on its website, despite the ISS making clear that this is not permitted. All private schools are required to meet the ISS.

Humanists UK successfully led the campaign to outlaw the teaching of creationism as science in state schools in England, and to get Ofsted to start failing private schools where they do likewise. It has also been raising the alarm about the curriculum taught in ACE schools for many years.

ACE, which originated in America but is now thought to be taught in around fifteen schools in the UK, as well by a large number of parents who home-school their children, has been accused by former pupils of espousing a fundamentalist, creationist, homophobic, and misogynistic Christian ideology.

Despite this, Ofsted and the DfE only began to take action on the issue relatively recently, with ten such schools downgraded at inspection in 2016 for failing to promote British values, including by failing to teach about other religions and beliefs or to promote respect for LGBT people.

The most recent Ofsted report for the Vine Christian School, published this month, notes that ‘there is not a secure culture of safeguarding in the school’ and ‘pupils do not feel that they can talk about things that might be worrying them, because they think they are not allowed to.’

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Ruth Wareham commented:

‘Irrespective of the school that they attend, all children should be entitled to a broad and balanced curriculum in a safe, secure environment. By teaching creationism as science and failing to take safeguarding seriously, the proprietors of this school are failing on both counts.

‘We have been raising concerns about ACE schools for many years, so it is good to learn that the rights and welfare of the pupils who attend these schools are finally being considered. We will continue to campaign on these issues until, at the very least, every child gets the basic education necessary to thrive in modern British society.’

Humanists UK is currently fundraising for the salary and resourcing costs of its dedicated education campaigner. The appeal was recently launched by Humanists UK patron and children’s rights activist Alf Dubs. Supporters of Humanists UK’s vision for a fairer education system are urged to donate at www.justgiving.com/nofaithschools.

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Ruth Wareham at ruth@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3000 or 07725 110 860.

Read our most recent article on the creationist Jewish school with no English books in the library where pupils were barred from sitting GCSEs.

Read about our ‘Teach Evolution, Not Creationism!’ campaigns in England and Wales

Read more about our work on private faith schools.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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