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BHA: Creationists approved to open Free School in 2013

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.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7462 4993.

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

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