Evangelicals' free school would include creationism on science curriculum

Everyday Champions Church set to be latest in line of faith-based founders

Richard Vaughan

An evangelical church, which intends to teach creationism as part of its science curriculum, has submitted a proposal to open a free school in Nottinghamshire.

The Everyday Champions Church in Newark handed its plans to open a 625-pupil secondary school in the area to the Department for Education last week.

The application came just a day before the DfE held its first free school conference, where education secretary Michael Gove said applications from creationist groups would be considered, with each judged on its individual merits.

According to the church, the Everyday Champions Academy will possess a "Christian ethos that permeates everything that happens throughout the school".

The church states that it believes the Bible is an "accurate" depiction of God's word, and that God is the "creator of all things".

Pastor Gareth Morgan, the church leader and the driving force behind the free school bid, confirmed that creationism would be taught across the curriculum, should the school be given the green light.

"Creationism will be taught as the belief of the leadership of the school," Pastor Morgan said. "It will not be taught exclusively in the sciences, for example. At the same time, evolution will be taught as a theory."

The church website carries a video that states: "If creation is true, there is a purpose to life. If evolution is true, there is no purpose to life." It adds that "if creation is true, then man is a fallen creature and we need a saviour. If evolution is true then man is an evolving creature and we don't need any saviour".

It is hoped that the school will open its gates in a new building by September 2012, offering places to both Year 7 and Year 8 pupils.

Earlier this month, the Everyday Champions Church held a community meeting where it laid out its vision for the school.

Pastor Morgan said that conversations with Newark and Sherwood District Council had shown that there would be a need for a 600-plus pupil secondary school in the area by 2015.

The National Secular Society urged Mr Gove to protect the science curriculum. Executive director Keith Porteous Wood said: "The secretary of state should emphasise that in regards to science, schools should teach the accepted theory of evolution and that any biblical teachings should be left to religious education.

"If creationism were taught in a science environment, there is a danger that it would be taught with the implication that it is the real explanation and that the scientific version was 'only a theory'," he added.

The academy is the latest in a line of proposed free schools with a faith-based ethos, such as the Tauheedul Islam Boys' High School, which has been proposed in Blackburn, and the Haringey Jewish Primary School in London.

According to the British Humanist Association (BHA), seven out of 10 free school applications have a faith-based ethos.

BHA head of public affairs Naomi Phillips said schools such as the Everyday Champions Academy reaffirmed the association's concerns over free schools.

"This type of school holds up our fear from when Michael Gove first put forward his proposals - that they would be schools with faith-based and sometimes extreme views that would largely be applying to take over the running of our state-funded schools," Ms Phillips said.

"This is despite Michael Gove saying that the Government would protect against creationists and other extreme religions ... It's clear there are no such protections in place."

A spokesman for the Department for Education said it did not comment on free school applications.

DUE DILIGENCE - 'Hijack' worry

Michael Gove said the DfE has set up a due diligence committee to root out extremism in schools.

Speaking last week, he said: "It will be the responsibility of that committee to monitor all applications for new schools. And to monitor existing arrangements in existing schools to make sure there are no risks of extremism taking hold.

"We're going to ensure that we have the resource here to help local authorities and others to deal either with a small group of governors hijacking a school or a group who are promoting a school who are inappropriate, whether they be religious extremists or political extremists."

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Richard Vaughan

Richard has been writing about politics, policy and technology in education for nearly five years after joining TES in 2008. He joined TES from the building press having been a reporter and then later news editor at the Architects’ Journal. Before then he studied at Cardiff University’s school of journalism. Richard can be found tweeting at @richardvaughan1

Find me on Twitter @RichardVaughan1

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