Creationists approved to open Free School in 2013

Francis Gilbert's picture
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More disturbing news on the free school front, a free school has been approved which the British Humanist Association claims is a front for an evangelical sect. I suppose the problem is that if schools like the Steiner schools with their manifestly nutty beliefs, like we've evolving backwards to the spiritual Godhead, are approved, then why not creationist schools? Once again, Gove has broken a promise that this wouldn't happen. Surely, it's time for some high profile atheists like Richard Dawkins to speak out against this outrage?

I quote the press release from the BHA in full because it has all the relevant details and links:

"A group of creationists has gained approval from the Department for Education (DfE) to open a Free School from 2013. The group are behind the plans for Exemplar – Newark Business Academy, a revised bid from the same people who proposed Everyday Champion’s Academy last year. Everyday Champion’s Academy, which was formally backed by Everyday Champions Church, was explicitly rejected due to concerns surrounding the teaching of creationism. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has expressed deep concern at the Government choosing to fund a creationist group.

In February 2011, while promoting the Everyday Champions Academy bid, Everyday Champions Church leader Gareth Morgan provoked controversy when he stated that ‘Creationism will be taught as the belief of the leadership of the school. It will not be taught exclusively in the sciences, for example. At the same time, evolution will be taught as a theory.’

In October, the school’s bid was rejected. The Church was told by the Department for Education that ‘The Secretary of State carefully considered your application, the views and beliefs of your organisation as set out in your application, your responses at interview and information about your organisation available in the public domain. He was unable to accept that an organisation with creationist beliefs could prevent these views being reflected in the teaching in the school and in its other activities. It is his firm view that the teaching of creationist views as a potentially valid alternative theory is not acceptable in a 21st century state funded school.’

In January the group decided to bid again, this time for Exemplar Academy and without the formal backing of the church. However, the website for the new Academy was initially part of the Everyday Champions Church website; and the plans were launched at Everyday Champions Church, being described as a ‘resubmission’ of the previous bid. The group commented that ‘The school will be run on Christian values and we are proud of that. There is a huge difference between Christian values and Christian theology, which is why the original bid was turned down.’

Today, the group’s proposals have been approved. BHA Faith Schools Campaigner Richy Thompson commented, ‘Today the Government have given approval for a creationist group led school simply, it seems, because they have promised not to teach creationism. I am shocked that this is deemed a risk worth taking.

 ‘We will be campaigning vigorously in opposition to the plans.’

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on countering creationism: http://www.humanism.org.uk/campaigns/religion-and-schools/countering-creationism

 In 2011, the BHA came together with 30 leading scientists and educators and four other organisations to launch ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’ Read the statement from scientists including Sir David Attenborough, Professor Richard Dawkins and Professor Michael Reiss, and organisations including the BHA, the Association for Science Education, the British Science Association, the Campaign for Science and Engineering and Ekklesia at http://evolutionnotcreationism.org.uk/

 View the BHA-backed Government e-petition on the same subject at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/1617

 

Read the BHA’s previous comment on Exemplar Academy: http://www.humanism.org.uk/news/view/959

and the comment on the rejection of Everyday Champions Academy: http://www.humanism.org.uk/news/view/910

 

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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Comments

Steve's picture
Fri, 13/07/2012 - 21:33

The loophole that allows creationists to open free schools is something we ourselves found when we were making our short film about Gove's free schools. Basically, as long as the school doesn't teach creationism as science, it's ok. 

Our video was published back in April when change was still possible and UK whistleblowers coming forward could have made a difference.

I don't know how likely we are to change things now since the Gove runaway train shows so sign of slowing down. 

Francis talks about Steiner schools and their "manifestly nutty beliefs". Our video, and writings were trying to highlight the potential dangers of a school system that doesn't deal with bullying as you'd expect, casting doubt on the claim and advertising slogan that Steiner schools are a "safe, peaceful and natural learning haven". 

Sadly, although a few people did see our work and said "very informative", "well researched and clearly presented" and "very interesting - lots of valid points", that video has been sidelined by everyone high up enough to do potentially something useful with it.

So we're putting the link here now, in the hopes that someone can put the information gathered by a family of whistleblowers to good use, if it's not too late.

It's hard to fathom why a whistleblowing situation involving the first ever human rights mediation worldwide between a family and a Steiner school has been so obviously sidelined by so many claiming to be concerned about Steiner free schools.

Perhaps in the future when other families see those schools for what they truly are, they'll wonder the same thing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMIJzpiTuak

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 14/07/2012 - 13:33

Exemplar Academy has no website which surely should be expected in an organization that hopes to open a free school. The only reference I could find was on Linkedin under the heading:“About the Exemplar Academy - Newark's Business Academy Group"

The sidebar aid the “owner” was Gareth M and gave a website address of http://www.exemplaracademy.org.uk. The link to the website given on Linkedin reveals an error message: “You are accessing the Insight platform from Endis using a host name that is not recognised by our system.”

Gareth Morgan is the leader of the Everyday Champions Church and he was director of the proposed academy until 27 February when Daniel Ridgeway-Adams took over. The registered address of the company Exemplar Academy Ltd is c/o Daniel Ian Ridgeway-Adams at a business centre in Newark which rents out office space and provides services including a “virtual office” which forwards post. It would appear, then, that the company has no fixed base.

I cannot understand how a group whose initial proposal was initially refused should now get the go-ahead despite having strong links with the original proposers who were turned down. Even worse, that the school should be accepted when there is little information in the public domain. This is unacceptable. There is no information about any forthcoming consultation or level of demand.

Rosemary Mann's picture
Sun, 15/07/2012 - 07:13

This is all rather scary. Do people really think that the leadership view is not going to spread down to the curriculum and how it is delivered and do people think those who support the creationist view( are there really enough of these people in that area?) I used to work somewhere where it became clear after a while that the head of the division was a committed Catholic. This explained his views towards women, women with children who worked, and often statements of disapproval on team members lives. It was all rather subtle but his position of authority and personal clout resulted in effectively making his views the views of the whole organisation. I also worked somewhere where the CEO was into fair trade. Not that evil, you may think,, until you hear that she publicly berated staff who brought in Nescafe or a Kit kat so everyone went off to the local health food shop everytime to buy ethical and expensive biscuits and fair trade chocolate.

The impact of the view of the leadership plays a major role in organisations, please lets not forget that, and its usually well over and above the choice of refreshments.

Hellen O'Malley's picture
Mon, 16/07/2012 - 10:21

This comes close to a sectarian slur.

"I used to work somewhere where it became clear after a while that the head of the division was a committed Catholic. This explained his views towards women, women with children who worked"

The Catholic Church teaches that men and women are equal. There is no specific Catholic line on women with children working or not working. The decision is left to the individual woman.

Instead of recycling old bigotries about what Catholics are supposed to believe, why not open your eyes to the real world? There are millions of Catholic women with children in the workplace and playing prominent roles in public life. Your old boss may have expressed the views you report. But he did so because he was a jerk, not because he was a Catholic.

Your post is like saying "my boss was a Jamaican. That explained his attitude to gays."

I thought we were beyond that kind of thing nowdays.

andy's picture
Mon, 16/07/2012 - 16:23

Well said, Helen. The closed minds and totalitarianist views expressed on this site can be breathtakingly astonishing (as well as the downright bigotry).

Dr Colin Nutt's picture
Mon, 16/07/2012 - 21:49

That's an outrageous thing to write! Jamaicans are not inherently homophobic nor racist nor anti-catholic for that matter and most are neither too.

Rosemary Mann's picture
Mon, 16/07/2012 - 11:34

Sorry you feel that way. Perhaps my words were not as carefully chosen as they should have been. My point was that that individual held and demonstrated attitudes and views towards women workers with children that displayed disapproval over many aspects of their lives including comments about how long their children spent in childcare as a result of them working , how it was unfair on the children to have mothers working from home when the kids were sick, (not untrue but otherwise its a loss of salary) it influenced in many instances how he managed those women. It transpired later that his ultra conservative opinions rose from his beliefs, his words, not mine. His own wife stopped work when she was pregnant and stayed off until the children were in secondary school as that was the right way to bring up children. Admirable however not a reality for many. Whether those beliefs were truly representative of Catholic teachings I wouldnt know and you say otherwise here, but to have someone try and manage a department/organisation in practice in accordance with what they claimed to be their beliefs was a little unsettling and in contravention of the organisations actual policy. And yes, he may well have been what you say he was, but that didnt help his staff.
Also in my other example, not everyone sees the point in boycotting kitkats due to Nescafe and the forumula row in the Third World. Its a fair point and admirable position also however most people dont see not having their favourite chocolate as really getting the point across.

My main point was however how can someone who leads a creationist school avoid their true beliefs from being imparted to students. It is surely a mixed message for all concerned?

andy's picture
Mon, 16/07/2012 - 16:38

I note the exceedingly poor quality of your apology and total avoidance of accepting the bigotted nature of your outlandish comments. You are sorry that Helen felt that way. She recieved your comments in the manner in which they were constructed and delivered by the author, you. Do you accept responsibility for what you said and how your articulated your views, of cpurse not. It was Helen's fault for taking against them and feeling upset by them.

Look in the mirror Roslyn. What you ascribe as traits in others are exactly the same traits that your comment brought to bear on this thread. So if the Catholic senior manager, anti-Nestle minded boss and creationist school sponsors and senior leaders bring their personal viewpoints into the workplace then so do you, which is ample demonstrated here. In the case of Catholic head of division, and without knowing him personally or how is was outside of the workplace, you condemn the Catholic church out of hand. If you were the better informed you may have been moved to consider whether his attitudes were just that his as opposed to the teachings and position of his church. We only have your word for the CEO and fairtrade incident but I cannot help but muse as to whether what you portray here is your perception and antagonistic viewpoint as opposed to the CEO who may not have perceived her attitude as being as you describe. Either way a person cannot be sacked or disciplined for their choice of food and/or beverages.

Put another way please try to keep your own mixed messages and personal prejudices to yourself.

Dr Colin Nutt's picture
Mon, 16/07/2012 - 22:35

Re. Roslyn's provocative comments you state that 'It was Helen’s fault for taking against them and feeling upset by them.'

To an extent you are correct in that it is indeed Helen's reading of the comments that ultimately resulted in the her 'upset'. Without such a 'reading' there would be no 'upset' in the first place thus disavowing any need for the comment - hers, yours or anyone else's. It strikes me that the use of the word 'sorry' in this context is a proclamation of sympathy for the aberrant reading rather than apology for any particular statement. In any case, I am wondering how you were appointed Arbiter of Apology Quality for the forum and by whom? And what exactly makes your opinion and 'personal viewpoint' on the matter(s) valid where others are not (such as in the workplace). While I'm on the matter of invalidity, how would looking in a mirror help Roslyn or anyone else in this debate? Evaluating a person's views based on what that person looks like is just as outlandish as doing so on them being gay, Catholic, Jamaican or working for Nestle. Finally, I was dismissed from my job in 1976 for drinking beer and eating (and dropping) nuts whilst preparing Boron rods in a nuclear power station so some people would envy you your certainty. I think you might find that 'breathtakingly astonishing' is a pleonasm.

And Bigoted has only one 't' unlike 'literate' which has two (which, incidentally only has one).

Consequently there is no place for sterile dogma, childish superstition or false science in school and the whole sorry lot of them should be chased out before the poor kids get taught even more abusive nonsense than they already get at home. Its like the enlightenment never happened. No doubt someone's profiteering or getting favours for it somewhere along the line.

andy's picture
Tue, 17/07/2012 - 10:39

And the glove puppets come out to play ...

Pen's picture
Mon, 16/07/2012 - 18:30

Well, look at it this way. Possibly nobody will use the damn thing, and if some do, we'll know where all the weird people are.

andy's picture
Mon, 16/07/2012 - 18:36

Thank Pen, your comment serves to further illustrate the points I was making about some contributors on this site.

Dr Colin Nutt's picture
Mon, 16/07/2012 - 22:38

Yes - here!

Rosemary Mann's picture
Mon, 16/07/2012 - 22:38

Andy,your own response is hardly worth a reply so I;ll keep mine short.

Your sole purpose on this website seems clearly to rile and personally insult other contributors rather then engage in debate and argument. I dont really care if you consider my apology 'poor quality' as I do not post here to be judged by you.

My views are my own. I am not however endeavouring to run a school.

If you find us all so offensive, why hang around? You must have other more worthy company to spend time with.

The Catholic Church has recently been exposed as covering up extensive child abuse. Have we forgotten that already? I take it thats not in its teachings either but it still happened. Apologies if my reference to fact leads to accusations of more bigotry but then some might argue it never happened.

Dr Colin Nutt's picture
Mon, 16/07/2012 - 22:48

That's a different matter of fish altogether now. I hope that someone reported your Head of Division to Social Services or the police closer to the time.

andy's picture
Tue, 17/07/2012 - 11:03

Roslyn

I am sorry you feel that way. I was expressing an opinion based on my perception of your comments.

"Your sole purpose on this website seems clearly to rile and personally insult other contributors rather then engage in debate and argument." Evidence please. The fact that I may have reason and occasion to disgaree with comments made by others, which leads to a debate (exchange of views), is hardly the basis upon which to make such an accusation. For example, I would invite you to ask Janet whether she and I have engaged in fruitful debate. Add to this the fact that I have on occasion disagreed with both Tim and Ricky.

"If you find us all so offensive, why hang around? You must have other more worthy company to spend time with." How am I to interpret this? Are you the ultimate arbiter of who can engage in debate on this site or dictate whether they should always be in agreement with the views of others or decide how I should spend my time? I think not. It does create the impression of fragility on your part in that when challenged you lash out.

For the record, all child abuse is despicable no matter what its source. The issue of the sexual abuse of children is not excluusively down to the Catholic Church as you explicitly state. It is deeply regrettably that this is a occurrence that can affect anyone from any section of the community (including women), not just religious groups. One should be mindful that the last high media profile organised groups caught by the police included ethnically based people, a porn group and a nursery school in Plymouth. No incidence of this horrendous behaviour should be glosssed over let alone treated as though it never happened. It is however a example of how you lash out because someone has disagreed with your views. The introduction of the topic in relation to the headline debate is indicative of anger and intolerance of any views that run counter to those you hold.

PS By the way the evangelical group behind the "Creationist" Free School are not Catholics

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 17/07/2012 - 11:51

andy - it is true that you and I have had fruitful debates (I have you to thank for telling me about the Work Force Reform negotiations of which I was unaware). It's rather disappointing, then, that some of your posts aren't particularly illuminating (ie the glove puppets comment above).

http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2012/07/academies-have-freedom-to-...

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 17/07/2012 - 19:21

What about Grindon Hall which intends to teach creationism in science?
http://www.humanism.org.uk/news/view/1079?utm_source=e-bulletin+subscrib...

And then isn't Sevenoaks Christian School in Kent promoting it too?

andy's picture
Tue, 17/07/2012 - 20:32

http://www.sevenoakschristianschool.org.uk/?page_id=56

FAQ: Teach Creationism = No. Topic will be covered in RE

This is underscored by the latest from the Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/jul/17/creationist-groups-appro...

"Grindon Hall says it teaches evolution as "an established scientific principle, as far as it goes". However, the school's policy document adds: "We believe no scientific theory provides – or ever will provide – a satisfactory explanation of origins, ie why the world appeared, and how nothing became something in the first place."

The school's principal says this document is obsolete and the school would not teach creationism in science.

The Sevenoaks Christian school, due to open next year, says on its website: "The government has said that free schools cannot teach 'creationism' or 'intelligent design' in science lessons as an alternative to the theory of evolution and we are content to accept this."

The Grindon Hall principal, Chris Gray, said the document on the school's website is "out of date". He said: "First of all, it's illegal. Secondly, we were questioned at length about it when we were interviewed to be a free school, and that was to the [Department for Education]'s satisfaction. A number of schools have been sadly turned down on that. That document is from a time when we were not as clear as we are now about the proper distinction as to what is taught in a science lesson and what might be taught in assembly – two different spheres.

"If children question for themselves their origins, that's what we want them to do – to ask sensible, responsible questions. Am I here by accident, or – dare I use the word – design?"

Sevenoaks Christian school said in a statement: "Sevenoaks Christian school are delighted to have been successful in their bid to open a free school in 2013.

"With the support of 800 local families and more than 20 local churches, our proposal is both popular and broad-based.

"We reject the BHA claims as misleading and unfounded. Free schools cannot teach creationism and we accept this."

On Friday, the DfE announced that 102 free schools had been approved to open from next year, 33 of which describe themselves as religious.

The department says creationism or intelligent design should not be taught as "valid scientific theories" in any state-funded school. The government says it expects to see evolution included in the science curriculum of all free schools.

A DfE spokeswoman said: "It is absolutely not true that this free school will be able to teach creationism as scientific fact. No state school is permitted to do this. We have clear guidelines about what schools can and cannot teach. Any free school found to be contravening the guidelines will be in breach of their contract and will be subject to action by the department, including prohibiting them from operating."

Faith-based free schools have sought to draw a clear public distinction between teaching creationism in science and teaching the biblical creation story in RE. The principal of Grindon Hall said he would not teach creationism in science lessons.

Gray said: "I'd run a million miles from that – it's lethal.""

The article goes on to quote the BHA:

"Referring to the Sevenoaks Christian school, the BHA said: "Teaching creationism in RE is no more acceptable than teaching it in science, as pupils who are taught one thing in one subject and then the opposite in another are going to end up confused. The previous government made this very clear in their guidance on creationism and it is deeply concerning to see the present government watering that down."

So the schools clearly state that they will comply eith the legal situation and only cover creation as part of the RE delivery, which incidentally is what happens in the majority of state schools (Primary and Secondary) under the theme of what the different world religions teach and believe.

Sadly, the BHA are not satisfied with this and adopt a stance that explicitly tries to tell schools (faith based or otherwise) what they can and cannot cover in an RE lesson about what world religions believe about creation. I am bemused that the BHA cannot discern the difference between fact and belief. What next? Will they decide that myth and fables cannot be taught because they are not factual and confuse students between reality and fantasy? Will they ban teaching what Native American Indians, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and Judaism teach as their beliefs because there is no body of evidence sufficient to be categorised as factual to support their beliefs? To debate evolution, creartionism and intrelligent design is one thing but to attempt to dictate what an RE unit can cover is going way too far.

For me that's not Humanism, which allegedly respects the diversity of human culture and beliefs, rather it is steeping into aggressive militant and intolerant Atheism.

Ben Taylor's picture
Tue, 17/07/2012 - 21:25

"We believe that no scientific theory provides – or ever will provide – a satisfactory explanation of origins, i.e. why the world appeared, and how nothing became something in the first place."

The first statement about satisfactory origin or 'why' is correct since science does not answer questions about meaning but instead decides what facts are. The second is debatable, but the something out of something is still in the metaphysical realm, not that of being testable as far as I know. Might be wrong there, if someone knows if there are any relevant empirical physics experiments that have been done on that recently. I think we would have heard.

The problem is that the state school sector has not addressed the importance of meaning in the lives of many children and families. The subjective significance of faith to many, in terms of resilience and stability giving values for individuals and groups was the baby thrown out with the bath water when humanists sought to exclude spiritual life from public life.

I am not even sure Raymond Tallis understands science when he says science expresses the greatest human values: unless he means the culture of most scientists rather then the scientific method. The culture of science then has mostly do with what scientists have faith in rather than what they test. You could claim that scientific method is both of these elements but I have tried to separate two aspects in a way commonly understood by a modern scientist.

State schools do not on the whole have an adequate and motivating system of belief for many people. If the state non faith schools can find some way to nurture faith when it is present then 'one religion' religious schools will not be so necessary. I don't believe political belief is enough to replace spiritual belief generally which is why the modern state school is often failing culturally. Witness that the state in its contemporary documents never talks about loving one another whereas most established religions will. You could go in to a C of E assembly and hear that but you often never hear it in the non faith state school in the course of anything to do with how it talks about itself. It would be associated with sex and be “inappropriate” without the religious context.

This is a deeply personal view but I would ask why it is that faith organisations have the motivation? We could suppose there is already a default atheistic establishment.

If people reject it and want something different do you want to be in the position of overruling them? If you do are you acting on facts or from faith?

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