Evolution is to be included in the primary curriculum, it has today been announced. The Department for Education (DfE) has published its draft primary National Curriculum for science, which includes the teaching of evolution from year four (age 8-9). The British Humanist Association (BHA) spearheaded the 'Teach evolution, not creationism' campaign calling for just this change, and is delighted at the news.
Currently, evolution is first taught from year ten (age 14-15), but biologists and educational experts have argued that the topic is so central to biology that it should be taught from an earlier age. As a result, the BHA has long campaigned for evolution to be added to the primary curriculum. In July 2009, the BHA coordinated a letter from 26 leading scientists and educators on this matter, and following on from this, the Government told the BHA that the change would be made in the Children, Schools and Families Bill. The BHA was bitterly disappointed when the plans were subsequently dropped due to the Bill due to the Bill running out of parliamentary time before the 2010 election.
After the election, the Coalition Government announced its intention to embark on a new curriculum review. In September 2011, the BHA came together with 30 leading scientists and four other organisations to launch a new campaign website, 'Teach evolution, not creationism'. The campaign argued that ‘An understanding of evolution is central to understanding all aspects of biology. The teaching of evolution should be included at both primary and secondary levels in the National Curriculum and in all schools.’ It was also supported by an e-petition that has so far garnered over 23,000 signatures.
The programmes of study announced today include modules in years four and five on ‘Evolution and inheritance’. In year four, pupils will explore ‘how characteristics are passed from one generation to another’, and ‘explain how the human skeleton has changed over time, since we separated from other primates’. In year six, pupils will ‘be introduced to the fossil as evidence for evolution’ and ‘how animals and plants are suited to and adapt to their environment in different ways; and how this leads to evolution.’
BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘We are delighted that evolution will be added to the primary curriculum – something that we have long advocated. Teaching this core concept from an earlier age will give pupils a much stronger understanding of the life sciences and of how we came to be. The Government must be commended for making this change, and we look forward to working with them to ensure this proposal becomes reality.’
For further comment or information, please contact Andrew Copson on 07855 380 633.
Read today’s government press release, New Primary Curriculum to bring higher standards in English, maths and science: http://education.gov.uk/inthenews/inthenews/a00210127/newnatcurric
Read the National Curriculum for science Key Stages 1 and 2 – Draft, published today as part of the ongoing National Curriculum Review: http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/pdf/d/draft%20national%20curriculum%20for%20science%20key%20stages%201%202%20primary%20%20%20%2011%20june%202012.pdf
Read the ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’ statement from scientists including Sir David Attenborough, Professor Richard Dawkins and Professor Michael Reiss, the British Humanist Association, the Association for Science Education, the British Science Association, the Campaign for Science and Engineering and Ekklesia at http://evolutionnotcreationism.org.uk/
Read the press release at the launch of the ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’ statement: http://www.humanism.org.uk/news/view/895
Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on countering creationism: http://www.humanism.org.uk/campaigns/religion-and-schools/countering-creationism
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.