Creationists are called to be school governors

22nd March 2002 at 00:00
Former head urges fundamentalist Christians to become involved in appointing teachers.Joe Clancy reports

Fundamentalist Christians who do not believe in evolution are being encouraged to become school governors and appoint teachers who share their minority views on creation.

The call comes from John Burn, chairman of the Christian Institute and the former headteacher at Emmanuel College in Gateshead, which hosted a conference on creationism earlier this month.

Mr Burn wants creationist Christians to influence the appointment of science and geography teachers and heads with similar beliefs.

He is also chief education officer for the Vardy Foundation, funded by evangelical Christian Sir Peter Vardy, the millionaire businessman behind the Reg Vardy car dealerships.

The Vardy foundation provided pound;2 million in sponsorship for the Emmanuel City Technology College. It is also sponsoring a city academy in Middlesbrough due to open next year, and is offering to sponsor five other academies.

In an article for the magazine Faith in Education, Mr Burn urges Christian fundamentalists to "consider very carefully becoming a school governor" and advises them to either stand for election as a parent governor or offer themselves for co-option.

He writes: "Governors appoint the teaching staff and the headteacher. Governors can question science and geography teachers about their treatment of evolution.

"There are opportunities for biblical Christians to influence all of the compulsory requirements in schools. Have we the wisdom and courage to contend for this?"

The Christian Institute has 10,000 followers and last year received pound;500,000 in donations. It was founded in 1991 to promote fundamentalist Christian beliefs.

Four key members of staff at Emmanuel College have published papers on the Christian Institute's website supporting the theory. They are the principal Nigel McQuoid, the vice-principal, head of science and a maths teacher.

Mr Burn spent three days this week interviewing for a principal for the Middlesbrough academy.

Both the Anglican and Catholic churches accept evolution as a fact.

In 2000 in a Christian Institute article Mr Burn wrote that the government announcement of city academies was an answer to their prayers. "We also need to be training a new generation of headteachers and senior staff who are informed by scripture and who seek to live their whole lives under the influence of God's word."

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, described the development as "sinister" and said it "calls into question the whole basis of voluntary-aided and state religious schools". He added: "It could be very dangerous if teachers are appointed, not because they are the best person for the job, but because of their religious beliefs."

The TES revealed last week that a group of distinguished scientists led by geneticist Professor Steve Jones called for a re-inspection of Emmanuel College. They expressed concerns that pupils were be given a distorted view of science.

But Sir Peter Vardy said: "New earth creationism is not being taught in the college. I didn't even know what it was until this hullabaloo blew up."

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