Vardy link to drive on creationism

6th October 2006 at 01:00
A teacher at a state school sponsored by Sir Peter Vardy, the Christian car dealer, has emerged as a major backer of a national campaign to teach creationism in science lessons.

Steve Layfield, head of science at Emmanuel college, Gateshead, has been named as one of the directors of Truth in Science, a group behind new teaching materials which cast doubt on Darwin's theory of evolution.

Last week, the TES told how every secondary school science department in the UK was being sent the lesson plans - which include a booklet, DVDs and links to a new website - encouraging teachers to consider the strict Biblical interpretation of life on earth in GCSE and A-level science.

It has now emerged that Mr Layfield, who has been a vocal supporter of the use of creationism and its more recent offshoot, intelligent design, in science lessons, is on the six-man board bankrolling the campaign.

Emmanuel Schools Foundation, the education charity set up by Sir Peter, which sponsors Emmanuel college as well as two academies in Middlesbrough and Doncaster, have attracted criticism for pushing an overtly religious agenda. The foundation says its schools teach the theory of evolution in science, in line with the national curriculum, but insist that Biblical creationism is used to debate scientific controversy.

However, critics suggest that the emphasis on non-evolutionary theories is too strong. In 2000, Mr Layfield told the Christian Institute how science teachers should "note every occasion when an evolutionaryold-earth paradigm" is mentioned in a text book or exam and "courteously point out the fallibility of the statement and, wherever possible, give the alternative (always better) Biblical explanation of the same data".

Earlier this year Richard Almond, a former Emmanuel college pupil, alleged in a TV documentary that the Book of Genesis is taught as fact over Darwin's theory of natural selection.

Mr Layfield was unavailable for comment. However, Richard Buggs, who holds a doctorate in plant ecology and evolution from Oxford university and is a member of the group's scientific panel, suggested response to the campaign had been positive so far. He said 23 out of 32 teachers who have returned comment cards, contained in teaching packs, said they would use the lesson plans.

"Most science text books contain at least a paragraph on creationism," he said. "Teaching about creationism in science is not radical. All we are saying is that faith-based creationism is not the only alternative, there are legitimate scientific arguments against evolution and pupils should learn about them."

Other figures behind Truth in Science, which is targeting around 5,000 state and private schools with its campaign, include academics from Leeds, Bristol, Cardiff and Sheffield universities. Andy McIntosh, professor of thermodynamics at Leeds, said: "We realise we are a minority, but we are a growing minority and there is a number of academics within universities and schools who want to see a change in the way the subject of origins is taught in science."

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