Free-school creationists won't take no for an answer

21st October 2011 at 01:00
Church group sponsor says it will submit another application

A church group with creationist beliefs behind a failed bid to open a free school has vowed to push on with its plans and will put forward another application to open a school in September 2013.

The Everyday Champions Church saw its application to open a new secondary school in Nottinghamshire turned down at the final hurdle last week by education secretary Michael Gove because of its religious views.

But the church, which believes in the power of speaking in tongues, has said it will continue with its plans to provide "the very best educational environment" while having "common Christian beliefs" at its core.

In February, Pastor Gareth Morgan, the driving force behind the school, said creationism would be taught across the curriculum. "Creationism will be taught as the belief of the leadership of the school," he told TES back then. "It will not be taught exclusively in the sciences, for example. At the same time, evolution will be taught as a theory."

Mr Morgan later changed his stance, saying "creationism will be embodied as a belief at Everyday Champions Academy, but will not be taught in the sciences".

The Everyday Champions Academy team put forward their free-school proposal in the spring and made it through to the final interview stage before being told last Monday that they had not been successful.

In a letter to the group, the Department for Education said: "(The secretary of state) 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."

The rejection led to the church putting out a statement, which said it felt saddened that the school had been rejected due to its "perceived association" with creationist beliefs. Creationism will "never" be taught in the school other than where the "national curriculum requires it", it added.

"We would like to make it categorically clear that the church and the school are separate legal entities and even though some of the team involved in the project are church members, the team is united in its belief that the school will not under any circumstances now, or in the future, teach the creation story other than where it is currently taught within the national curriculum, during religious studies," the church's statement said.

Free schools have opened up the range of options available to parents who are deciding where to send their child, including a variety of faith schools. The first wave of free schools, which opened last month, saw 11 out of 24 carrying a faith ethos, including a Sikh school and a Hindu school. In the next wave 12 out of 63 will have a religious character.

The proposed Everyday Champions Academy had become the focus of fierce scrutiny from secular education campaigners, which had recently launched a campaign for firmer statutory guidance against the promotion of creationism in school.

The British Humanist Association (BHA) said that if the church decided to reapply it hoped the DfE would again reject its application. "We believe more must be done to stop creationism from being taught as science in our schools, but this is a welcome first step, and we look forward to working with the Government on this issue going forward", BHA chief executive Andrew Copson said.


Thirty scientists, including Sir David Attenborough and professors Richard Dawkins and Michael Reiss, have signed a petition calling for more statutory guidance against the teaching of creationism in schools.

The Department for Education's decision to reject the Everyday Champions Academy free-school bid came just a month after the e-petition was launched, calling on the Government to introduce guidance that prevents the teaching of creationism or intelligent design as scientific theory.

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