Landmark ruling forces the DfE to publish a list of proposals for free schools

Francis Gilbert's picture
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A Freedom of Information request from the British Humanist Association has just been granted by the Information Commissioner which effectively means that the DfE will have to publish a list of the PROPOSALS for free schools. At the moment, these proposals are hidden from the public's view, and taxpayer only gets to know about a free school they are funding when the proposal has been accepted. This is patently an absurd situation because it means no one knows where the next free school is going to pop up, and has no time to lodge a complaint because the establishment of the free school is effectively a "done deal" secured behind closed doors. A number of people connected with the LSN -- including myself -- have submitted similar requests for information, but we've always been stonewalled with the argument that the DfE needs to protect commercial sensitivities blah, blah, blah. The real reason is that the government doesn't want the public to see that the vast majority of free school applications are from faith groups of all hues and persuasions or from groups with a clearly socially segregationist agenda. Many applicants have been termed "extremists and loonies" because of their commitment to fundamentalist principles such as creationism or pseudo-scientific beliefs like the Steiner schools -- their founder believed black people were below white people on his balmy evolutionary tree.

Well done to the BHA I say! I salute you! Now, at last, we might have a more transparent free school application process and be able to question where the most divisive and damaging applications are.

This is the information provided in the BHA press release. It's not up on the website yet, so it's worth quoting in full:

"BHA Faith Schools Campaigner Richy Thompson commented, ‘We welcome the ICO’s ruling and the additional transparency that will come about as a result. The BHA campaigns against state-funded ‘faith’ schools, and an important part of being able to do this effectively is being able to identify who is applying to set them up.

 ‘This year we have been trying to identify all Free School applications, but have only been able to identify about two-fifths of the groups that applied– the majority of groups are simply unknown to the public at large. It is hard to know how the public is able to scrutinise these proposals if we don’t even know about them in the first place. By the time Free Schools are “pre-approved” to open by the DfE and publicly listed, it is often too late to stop them.

 ‘The BHA does not oppose Free Schools in principle, but does have particular concerns that the additional freedoms afforded to Free Schools may increase religious discrimination within the state-funded sector. In addition, the BHA is concerned about the wider diversity of schools opening as Free Schools, including evangelical and pseudoscientific schools.’

 Details of the FOI request

 On 21 June 2011, the BHA submitted an FOI request to the DfE asking for:

 A list of Free School proposals received by the Department for Education, including the 323 received during the first wave and the 281 received during the second wave, giving for each:


  • The name of the project

  • The local authority/area of the proposed school

  • The previous name (if applicable) of the proposed school

  • The faith (if any) of the proposed school

  • Whether the proposal was received in the first wave or the second wave



However, the Department for Education claimed it did not need to publish the proposals due to the exemption found in section 36 of the FOI Act – ‘prejudice of effective conduct of public affairs’. The exemption comes with a public interest test, and the DfE ruled that the balance lay against disclosure.

On 1 August, the BHA appealed the ruling; however, the DfE subsequently concluded that the exemptions in sections 21 (‘Information accessible to applicant by other means’), 22 (‘Information intended for future publication’) and 35 (‘Formulation of government policy’) of the FOI Act were also engaged. Section 35 again comes with a public interest test, and again DfE ruled that the balance lay against disclosure.

As a result, on 22 September, the BHA complained to the ICO. The ICO has now ruled that the DfE was wrong to decide that the exemptions in sections 21 and 22 were engaged. Furthermore, the DfE was right to consider that the exemption in section 36 was engaged, but wrong to conclude that the public interest lies against disclosure. The DfE must now publish the information by 8 August.

The ICO separately ruled in May that the DfE must publish a list of proposed University Technical Colleges and 16-19 Free Schools. However, this represents the first time the ICO has ruled on Free Schools in general."

 

 
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Comments

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Fri, 06/07/2012 - 19:55

Well done to the BHA.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 07/07/2012 - 10:04

The British Humanist Society is to be congratulated for its persistence. It is indefensible that the DfE should consider sanctioning schools which could potentially teach pseudo-scientific ideas such as creationism.

The DfE says that schools can’t teach what the schools claims are “evidence-based views or theories” that run “contrary to established scientific and/or historical evidence and explanations” but the National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC) has just rubber-stamped exams offered by The International Certificate of Christian Education (ICEE). These exams are based on a curriculum which recognises the Bible as the “final authority” and taken in place of GCSEs and A levels.

TES (6 July 2012) said the exam is already used by at least 34 English private schools and is based on the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) programme which is a “Biblically Based Program Infused with Godly Character”. TES found claims in ACE curriculum included describing evolution as an “indefensible theory” and homosexuality as “learned behaviour”.

http://www.aceministries.com/curriculum/?content=main&distinctive=progra...

Following concerns expressed by secular campaigners, NARIC issued a statement.

“The ICCE qualifications involve a substantial, but not exclusive use, of ACE curriculum materials with students also able to obtain credit for studies using curriculum for languages and Biology from other established examination boards and providers.”

http://www.ecctis.co.uk/naric/News%20Story.aspx?NewsID=167

As the number of free schools is set to rise, it’s essential that no school should be funded by the taxpayer if it offers examinations like those set by ICEE. It’s important that the public know about free school proposals before they’ve been accepted so that schools promoting dubious theories are prevented from being established.

Sarah's picture
Sat, 07/07/2012 - 13:46

I think we owe a debt of gratitude to the British Humanist Society for persisting with their campaign to increase the transparency of decision making around free schools. It is fundamentally undemocratic to have these decisions made in secret without local communities being able to properly scrutinise the proposals and make informed responses to robust and fair consultation BEFORE the decisions are taken and before public money is spent. There is growing concern about the approval of free schools in areas where there is no demographic need. There should be a proper best value evaluation of the opportunity cost of creating additional surplus places as a means of expanding choice in parallel with having to provide funding to create those primary pupil places that are required in order to ensure that all children have a school place.

How much is this 'choice' costing the taxpayer? - and wouldn't it be better spent on providing places where there is need (as opposed to parental 'demand'). Not to mention the additional cost of creating temporary premises for free schools that don't have a permanent site - surely one of the biggest wastes of money imaginable at a time of austerity.

Adrian Elliott's picture
Sat, 07/07/2012 - 18:42

I checked out the one, proposed 'catholic' school in the list, in Buckinghamshire. As far as I can tell (and I apologise if the situation has changed) it does not have the support of the local RC diocese-Northampton.

Moreover, there is an extraordinary statement in their online proposal where they state that another proposed 'catholic' free school, in Truro, has the support of the 'archdiocese of Cornwall'.

Anybody who states there is a catholic 'archbishop of Cornwall' is unlikely to be either a catholic or know very much at all about the catholic church in England .

andy's picture
Mon, 09/07/2012 - 07:28

I too applaud the achievement of greater transparency but am exceedingly wary of the underlying motivation by the BHA who in recent years have become increasingly and aggressively illiberal in their views an rampant denunciation of groups holding views contrary to their own.

Whether a groups views are generally accepted or rejected by specialist groups or the public at large is simply part of life. However, if one is being wholly open, transparent and liberal then it should be recognised that it matters not whether the viewpoint is science based or otherwise they are all hypothesies/theories and in that sense carry equally weighting. So when it comes down to the ultimate questions there are ultimately no definitive/unequivocal answers. One person's science is anothers heresey in the same way that one person's beliefs (religious or otherwise) are anothers irrational nonsense. The key here is that we live in an allegedly free and democratic society but often try to limit the freedoms of those with whom we disagree.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 09/07/2012 - 13:23

Andy the BHA has always had its 'atheists with and agenda' branch. I don't think that's anything new. I've met Andrew Copson and he's not of that ilk and I've seen no evidence that BHA policy is going any more in that direction than it's ever been. The BHA has always had a clear mandate to support secular education and to oppose faith based education (pursuing the kind of education system they have in France). Their views form part of the spectrum of views which represent UK opinion. They've usually had good relations with SoSs for education in the past who have valued their scrutiny of policy to ensure that it doesn't lead to further segregation of society or the nurturing of extremism even if those SoSs for education have been very supportive of faith schools.

andy's picture
Wed, 11/07/2012 - 17:24

I would greatly appreciate it some contributors did not deign to condescend or patronise me. I am well aware of the BHA and am equally aware that we are in the Uk not France. It is deplorable that for some their instant reaction to an expresion of concern about unspoken agendas and illiberalism is label faith schools as being automatically seggregationist and nurturers of extremism.

For the record the BHA: is not a publically elected organisation; is not a government quango; and does not represent the voice or thoughts of the general public. It should then be permitted any undue sway over government policy. The BHA is a voluntary organisation with an entitlement to lawfully articulate its views but not regulate the thoughts or desires of others. It follows then that (and whether one like the current education or not) parents and like minded supporters have the right to apply to set up Free Schools with a focus of their choice. What neither they nor the government should have is the ability to operate behind a cloak of secrecy and it is the removal of this that I strongly support and applaud. But not any hidden agenda to obstruct the peaceful and lawful wishes of parents to organise a faith school with or without a Creationist or Designer focus.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 11/07/2012 - 17:33

It has been legally decided that it is, on balance, in the public interest for information about proposed free schools to be published. I agree with this judgement and I am glad that the BHA have pursued this point.

I have no explicit or implicit intention of patronising you Andy. I just disagreed an aspect of the point you are making on the basis of my personal experiences with the BHA.

andy's picture
Wed, 11/07/2012 - 18:08

For those who are hard of reading as opposed to hearing, here is a quote from my original posting, "I too applaud the achievement of greater transparency ..." and from my second, " ... it is the removal of this that I strongly support and applaud." Whichever way these tow comments are read they cnnot be conceived as being anything but support of the request and/or the ICOs decision.

And just like other contributors and the BHA, I too am entitled to my opinion.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 12/07/2012 - 08:14

andy - I, too, welcome the greater transparency that this judgement brings. And you are correct in saying that free speech exists in a truly democratic society. Organisations are entitled to have their say provided they are not promoting violence.

However, there is a great deal of difference between the freedom to speak out and being able to set up a school at taxpayers' expense. It does not follow that free speech allows groups to do what they want.

Parents, like any other group, are entitled to say that there is a need for more school places in an area. However, their voices should not trump others if a request for a new school rests not on a genuine need but on demand - a demand, say, for their children to be educated only with children of a similar faith, class or whose parents subscribe to particular theories (ie creationism), or if the demand risks harming existing schools (as in Beccles).

andy's picture
Thu, 12/07/2012 - 08:52

Janet, it is as ever a pleasure to engage in thoughtful discourse. I fear however that this a topic we are going to genteely and philosophically disgaree on. My comments were not expressly predicated on freedom of speech. They were based on lawful actions and philosophical differences that have no ultimate resolution and I am well aware that you are fully acquainted with the classic ultimate questions etc. I am with you all the way in relation to freedom of speech not going hand in glove with freedom of action. The latter would be anarchic. However, groups acting in a wholly lawful manner do not fit that description. What you are friving at, and where I rejoin you, is that the prevailing legal situation is doing a diservice to the taxpayer and needs to be changed. However, even if that were to happen we would part company over your understanding of genuine need versus demand. If a group of like minded parents come together to lobby for a faith school with or without a specific curricular focus (e.g. Creationism or Special Design) this is rooted in what they perceive to be a genuine need as opposed to a demand. What I would not support is a group wanting to form a school that would cause tangible harm to children (e.g. corporal punishment or pedophilia). This is where the ultimate questions comes back into play: in the same way that there is no definitive proof that a Creator God does not exist neither is there definitive proof that a Creator God does not exist. Balance of probability and arguments of logical/rationality are not definitive proofs.

What I do dig my heels in about is the inference that the BHA have some right to be quasi public arbiters of what is acceptable and unacceptable between secular and non-secular views and activities. They simply are not.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 12/07/2012 - 10:35

andy - I like that: freedom of speech does not mean freedom of action.

However, as you say, we are going to disagree about "need" and "demand".

You rightly say that no school should be allowed which would harm children. But would exposing them to dubious theories which are presented as facts also not be harmful? The theories I have include anthroposophy, which underpins Steiner, and contains dubious theories about the races, and creationism as fact (rather than a theory which can be discussed). The DfE says no school should not teach creationism as a fact in science but exams by the International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE) have been recognised by the National Academic Recognition Centre (Naric) and are already offered by some private schools instead of GCSE. ICCE is undepinned by the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum which contains dubious theories in its materials eg homosexuality is "learned behaviour", evolution is an "indefensible theory". I do not think it is acceptable that any group has the right to demand a school that promotes these ideas.

http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6259996

You know, of course, that it is impossible to prove a negative. I can say that the earth goes round the sun because it has been proven. But I can't prove that there is not a teapot flying around the earth ready to pour scalding water on unbelievers. However, as you're probably aware, I'm a great fan of evidence and on the balance of probability I think I can say that it is unlikely there is such a teapot because (a) no-one has seen it (b) no recordings (eg pictures, sound, radar) exist, and (c) no-one has been scalded by boiling water coming from the heavens.

That is not to say, however, that religion should not be taught in schools. It is quite possible to teach religion as sets of belief that mean a great deal to believers and govern many aspects of their lives. And it's essential for pupils to know about religions because (a) they will encounter many people of different beliefs or none in the UK (b) it's impossible to understand Western literature, art, history and culture without knowing about religion especially Christianity and (c) there are some cracking stories in religion.

Richard Dawkins, described by the Mail as the "Ayatollah of Atheists" actually endorses the teaching of religion for the reasons given in (b) above (it's in "The God Delusion" somewhere).

andy's picture
Thu, 12/07/2012 - 11:03

Janet, the thought of an orbiting teapot brought a welcome smile to a dry day, thank you. The core issue is that philosophically it is possible to argue that just as religion has no definitive evidence neither has science. Yes, science has some empirical evidence to support prevailing hypothesies (aka theories) but the fact that the history of science is littered with debunked hypothesies that were in their day considered and publicly lauded as facts, demonstrates that science lacks demonstrably stable evidence. Thus there is a case to answer that science has produced and continues to produce at best guestimates/calculations/formulations/theories in its particular quest for answers and these may be equally worthy of the label 'dubious' as the religious equivalents are. So just a human existence is in a state of flux (ever evolving) so too is human knowledge and understanding but the ulitmate questions remain definitively unanswerable.

With regard to need and demand, if you and your friends decide to hold a fortnightly social gathering to stay in touch and entertain each other on a carousel basis is that to meet a genuine need or to meet a demand? If a group of people genuinely and earnestly believe in something e.g. the need for a school rooted in vocational/work related qualifications or a school based on PISA style international testing or a school predicated on a High School diploma with no external assessments until the diploma at age 18/19, are they expressing a genuine need or a demand. Moreover, at what stage does a genuine need become distinctly and discretely identifiable as a need as opposed to a demand? Equally, what makes a need positive and casts a demand as negative, which is what your position explicitly implies?

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 12/07/2012 - 15:17

andy - I must confess that the orbiting teapot was suggested by Bertrand Russell.

I don't think you can dismiss science as just another theory. It is supported by evidence that is known and tested (and re-tested) at the time. No-one needs faith to believe that to which all the evidence points. As you say, human knowledge is for ever evolving - the large Hadron Collider should increase our knowledge of the universe, for example.

And what is an "ultimate question"?

Your group of friends meeting fortnightly (need or demand?) doesn't require any funding from taxation. However, when people expect the taxpayer to foot the bill then other taxpayers have a right to ask whether there is a genuine need or whether someone is just demanding something that they would like irrespective of the needs of others. That's why schools (even fee paying ones) are a compromise - balancing the needs of the many against what can realistically be provided. And if a demand of a small group of parents for a school which offered, say, a completely vocational education means that money would be diverted from another school which offers both academic and vocational which in turn means that the existing school has to cut back its curricula, then this is an example of how someone's demand damages someone else's needs.


Re Bertrand Russell's teapot:
http://www.cfpf.org.uk/articles/religion/br/br_god.html (penultimate paragraph)

andy's picture
Thu, 12/07/2012 - 17:11

Janet, I would open by reaffirming that it is not my position that science (per se) was a theory. In crude terms science is involved in the human quest for knowledge, understanding and truth about the world and Cosmos around us (the known and unknown). In the process of these quests scientists of all types/specialisms arrive at hypotheses to explain their understanding based on what their investigations have derived. This is accorded the status of fact. However, as I said earlier, as a result of further scientific research these scientific facts are subject to regular change either because the hypotheses are refined or completely debunked. Hence there is a case to answer that science comes up with some dubious theories in the same way as some faith groups do. For example we may never ultimately whether the Big Band and Evolution or Creationism or Intelligent Design or something not yet known is the truth.

Ultimate questions are questions that do not have definitive answers e.g.:

What is the origin of life?

What is the purpose of human life?

Is there life after death?

Does God exist?

How did the Cosmos come into existence?

What is the purpose of evil?

Is evil real?

Dictionary definitions:

Need:

verb

Require (something) because it is essential or very important rather than just desirable

http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/need


Demand

[mass noun] the desire of consumers, clients, employers, etc. for a particular commodity, service, or other item

http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/demand?q=demand

I would argue that there is no tangible difference between the two. The fact that the parent groups are (to use your position) demanding a school of no matter what complexion cannot obviate the fact that their position is rooted in what they see as their need. The reverse is also true. The parents who feel the continuance of their existing school is threatened by the new school express their need for its continuance, which is articulated through their demand that either the new school is blocked or the existing school is guaranteed to continue.

Your argument about differentiating between ‘need’ and ‘demand’ conveys a strong sense of ethics and morality but is this applied passively/neutrally and universally or from personal perspective? The latter is tenable as a pre-stated / pre-advertised personal disposition which necessarily contains a bias. For my part I believe that the issue of taxation is irrelevant and may even cloud the core debate relating to ‘need v demand’. Indeed, it is the taxation aspect allied to the utilitarian strand through the greatest good for the greatest number that takes the debate into the ethical/moral context. In this regard you are using a distinctly Kantian methodology through applying a categorical imperative to the interpretation of ‘need’ and ‘demand’ but that means it must be acceptable as a rule/interpretation in every circumstance every time, which I fear would be tenable.

Andy's picture
Fri, 13/07/2012 - 09:31

Sorry Janet but somewhat mysteriously my response appeared and then disappeared? The website has a funny way of repeating this trick ... And the response only had 2 embedded links in it.

andy's picture
Sat, 14/07/2012 - 08:01

Goodness, and now it reappears ...

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 14/07/2012 - 08:15

Andy - the difference between demand and need can be demonstrated by the following:

1 Two children come home from school hungry. They demand to eat a packet of crisps followed by a chocolate bar washed down with a sugary drink. Does the parent give in to the demand or does s/he give the children what they need: a properly balanced meal?

2 The parent provides a properly balanced meal but one of the children demands that s/he has some of the food, say baked beans, from the other's plate. The child demanding more justifies this by saying s/he needs the beans because she doesn't like the potato. Should the parent give in and take the beans from the other child even though by doing so s/he would be depriving the other of the nutrients in beans? The first child can justify the request by saying it is a "need". So, should the need be satisfied?

This philosophy is making my head hurt this early in the morning. I need a break.

andy's picture
Sat, 14/07/2012 - 09:25

Janet, forgive for what follows as it may appear somewhat blunt but it is by no means intended to be so.

As I perceive/receive it your example extends beyond the definitions of 'need' and 'demand' and also represents a scenario constructed to meet the thrust of your stance, which carries with in an inherent bias

Firstly, the hungry children demand foood but this is rooted in a genuine need to take away their hunger. This illustrates the inextricable interconnectedness of need and demand.

Secondly, the rest of the context represents both a constructed scenario that favours your stance and also extends into ethical/moral issues of what sustenance is considered best for the childrens diet. This represents a bias in selecting a cameo that moves away from understanding the definitions of 'need' and 'demand' into the ethical/moral decision making models of consequentialism (crudely cost v benefit basis) and utilitarianism (greatest good for the greatest number).

The second example is likewise constructed in such a way as to favour one side of the debate over the other rather than focus on understanding the words that are under scrutiny. On this occasion emotivism is being brought into play and whilst the ethical basis of emotivism is important in sofaras it gives rise a persons immediate innate response to a set of circumstances or proposition it because a potentially serious flaw if not taken further my investigating the underlying reasons that motivate the emotive response. That is to say that other ethical models need to be used to explore the circumstances/proposition to hand. It is also pertinent that the 'beans' example lacks crucial contextual information without which an informed response is not possible (e.g. Are the 'balanced' meals the same size/portions? Is there an age difference between the children? Have the children been involved in the same level of activities and energy usage? Are the childrens metabolic rates the same? Did both children have breakfast and lunch or one miss or fail to eat all of a meal for whatever reason?).

I must therefore defer to my earlier position:

"... there is no tangible difference between the two. The fact that the parent groups are (to use your position) demanding a school of no matter what complexion cannot obviate the fact that their position is rooted in what they see as their need. The reverse is also true. The parents who feel the continuance of their existing school is threatened by the new school express their need for its continuance, which is articulated through their demand that either the new school is blocked or the existing school is guaranteed to continue."

One of the things I love about philosophy is that it is open ended and constant in its quest for deeper and richer understanding. It is never deontological.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 14/07/2012 - 09:59

andy - you are correct that the hungry children's demands are rooted in a need for food. The demands of parents for a school is also rooted in a need for their children to be educated. So far, so good.

However, there can be a conflict between demands and needs. Humans need food and that food needs to be nourishing. If it isn't then the need for nourishment is not being met if the person eating the food demanded unhealthy food. Similarly, children need education in order to be best equipped for their future. But that need is not met if they, or their parents, demand a certain kind of education which leaves them poorly equipped for the future (eg an education which teaches dubious theories as fact, or if the education is indoctrination). And the needs of other people's children can be compromised if a new school, established by parental demand, is set up in an area where there are already surplus places. This risks, as in Beccles, schools being so small they can only offer a narrow range of subjects.

andy's picture
Sat, 14/07/2012 - 10:54

Janet, what we appear to have established is that your position in relation to Free Schools is not rooted in any alleged differentiation between 'need' or 'demand'. Rather your opposition is based on the potential impact of such school, which you perceive to be questionable on the grounds of ethics and morality whether because they are funded by taxpayers and/or the potential impact on existing provision. This is underpinned by a perception that the legilsation involved is flawed and requires review.

In relation to curricula issues these are based on personal preferences and not provable incontrovertible evidence because no such evidence base exists. This applies to theists and non-theists alike. it is also worth noting that the issue of creationism has already been addressed by the previous government and in crude terms it was decided that schools had the following options:

1. Not include it
2. Include it but only in RE and/or Philosophy
3. Include it in Science but delivery had to be via the DCSF approved programme of study issued through the now defunct Secondary National Strategy

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 14/07/2012 - 13:24

andy - I'm sorry if I haven't made myself clear. There are three issues here:

1 The point raised in the post at the head of the thread - that publicising free school proposals allows the public to know whether any groups are proposing schools which would offer an education which promotes unscientific theories as facts. The example given was creationism and the government is clear - it should not be taught in science as fact. However, there is a loophole here which would allow proponents of creationism to teach it as fact outside science (say in RE).

2 To say that nothing can be proven because there is no evidence base is, of course, nonsense. If I am ill I expect the doctor to prescribe treatment which is underpinned by evidence from clinical trials etc. I don't expect the doctor to prescribe walking round the garden naked at midnight to absorb the moon's ray's When I fly in an aeroplane, I am comforted by evidence that heavy objects can be persuaded to leave the ground and move through the air.

3 The third point was "need" v "demand". As far as the establishment of any school is concerned I have no objection to a school being provided if there is a need for places. If there is no need (ie there are already sufficient places in the right location for the number of existing and forecast pupils) then there is no requirement for the taxpayer to fund it.

andy's picture
Sat, 14/07/2012 - 14:18

Janet, to be clear:

1. The FOIA request was about establishing a level of transparency that didn't exist before. This I wholeheartedly applaud. The underlying motivation (of the BHA) is a separate issue.

2. We were not and have not until your last comment talking about medicine. Our discourse gravitated around science/creationism/intelligent design. In this regard no-one has categorical uniequivocal evidence to support their position. Hence it comes down to personal choice (i.e. to accept or reject current scientific hypotheses, to accept or reject faith/believe in a divine origin of everything).

3. Your own statement confirms that your issue with approving Free Schools or any other school for that matter is focused on whether there is under/over capacity within the age range(s) involved. This nothing to do with the original opposition between 'need' and 'demand' rather it is a substantive cristicism of the statute that permits approvals where there is no under capacity.

Returning to your point (2): Yes, theories, and I stress theories, of how everything came into being can be covered in RE (and Philosophy) programmes of study but these are not taught as fact they are delivered as what x, y, z religions belief and teach. Thus there is no 'loophole'. My experience in several schools is that world religions are covered as belief systems and all cover philosophical aspects of each faith system. You may also wish to note that in one of Ian Gilbert's latest threads:

http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2012/07/creationists-approved-to-o...

He makes it clear from his quotes that the sponsoring organisation of the Creationist Free School will not teach creationism as either a science or as fact. Yes, there will be anxieties about how this will play out but the SoS has made the governments position clear and the sponsors have given a undertaking and agreed to accept the government's position, so if they breach it we can only hope that they will be appropriately held to account - even to the point of closure or being removed and the school handed over to another sponsor or academised.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 14/07/2012 - 16:31

andy - sorry, misunderstood your comments about evidence - thought you were disputing the evidence base for everything. As far as creationism/intelligent design is concerned, I prefer science based on present evidence than theories based on no evidence at all.

http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/15404

Need v demand has everything to do with whether a school should be established in areas where there may be a surplus of places. If there is no need for extra places, and an existing school could be harmed by another school, then no second school should be established because a small group of parents (22 in Beccles) demand it.

andy's picture
Sun, 15/07/2012 - 08:25

Janet, So we agree that the new transparency is a welcome and good development and that the issue of science and faith is a matter of personal choice/preference. However, we must accept a parting the ways regarding ‘need’ and ‘demand’. To borrow from a well-known axiom ‘One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’, ‘one persons need is another person’s demand’. For me it is not possible to separate the interconnectedness of the two words. My understanding and appreciation of your stance is that you disagree with the underlying policy and its operation, which is a different thing.

Within the latter situation lurks vexed and thorny issues involving the use of choice and opportunity as tools to bring about improvement in schools through competition and/or maintaining the status quo simply because sufficient school place capacity already exists. But that is another debate.

andy's picture
Sat, 14/07/2012 - 14:20

Please excuse spelling and other errors - am hastening to make an appointment but wanted to respond to your comments, sorry.

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