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Liberal Democrats demand Inquiry into Ofsted

The Liberal Democrats yesterday demanded a government inquiry into Ofsted inspectors' views of science teaching, to safeguard pupils against becoming "fodder" to religious fundamentalists. . .

The call for a review of Ofsted procedures came as Phil Willis, the Liberal Democrat education spokesman, demanded to know why the school inspectors had failed to criticise science teaching at Emmanuel college in Gateshead, a city technology college which promotes creationism as an alternative to the theory of evolution. The college is backed by 2m from an evangelical Christian, Sir Peter Vardy. The tycoon has also offered to sponsor six new city academies - publicly-funded independent schools - including one in Middlesbrough.

"We cannot ignore the potentially dangerous cocktail of religious segregation and privately-sponsored academies that government policy is deliberately encouraging," Mr Willis said in a speech to the conference.

"The current debate about creationism is no longer acad emic - it goes to the very heart of the government's policy of diversity and its love of private sponsorship". . .

Mr Willis called for the education secretary, Estelle Morris, to intervene. "We must not stand by and see our children become the fodder for the extreme views of religious fundamentalists or their wealthy backers," he said. "Ofsted has a duty to root out such practices, not ignore or encourage them". . .

Mr Willis said they would be "obliged to adopt his fundamental beliefs on creationism". Mr Willis was given a standing ovation by NUT delegates at the end of his address.

[The Guardian, 1/4/02]