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  Creationists taking over state schools

Minor update 25 July 2005.

Creationist schools

What they say

Critical reaction
Government and official reaction

A school in Gateshead is teaching creationism as a superior alternative to evolution in its science lessons.  
And Tony Blair, given the chance to condemn it, merely praised the school's academic results.

What is more, another "creationist" academy opened in Middlesbrough in September 2003 (it is known as King's Academy) and another will open in September 2005 in Doncaster. (A second planned for Doncaster was fought off by a campaign by parents and teachers - for details, search Google for CADPAG and see the cached files). Sunderland and Ashington (Northumberland) are possible further sites.

The Gateshead school was partly funded by the Vardy Foundation, endowed by Sir Peter Vardy. He contributed £1,722,000 but the Government provided far more: £6,887,000. The Middlesbrough academy will be an even worse bargain for the public purse: the DfES will pay over £19 million to this "independent" school, whereas Vardy will contribute a mere £2 million.

Another foundation, Christian Vision, associated with millionaire businessman Bob Edmiston, is planning to open an academy in Coventry. His right-hand man, Steve Chase, told the Coventry Evening News:

"What we've said is we will teach evolution - because it is a theory still, unless someone has found the missing link and proofs to put it to bed once and for all - and creationism, in the appropriate subjects. Certainly evolution is usually taught in science and creationism is usually in RE, but that would not exclude a closer look at comparative theories of the origins of the world in either subject."

All running costs of the so-called Academies are met by the Government but they are legally independent, privately owned by their trustees, and so have considerable freedom.  

However, what these academies are doing in science is already being done in voluntary aided schools run by Muslims and Seventh Day Adventists.

And the powerful and extraordinarily wealthy creationist movement in the USA is impressed by the ease with which money buys access to children in the UK.

This is how the story broke in 2002:

Creationist schools

Emmanuel College: creationists run state-funded Gateshead school - plan six more - all at public expense [The Guardian, 9/3/02]

Creationism already taught in some voluntary aided schools
[Independent on Sunday, 17/3/02; The Guardian, 19/3/02]

US creationist fundamentalists plan to take advantage of UK law
on faith schools, city academies etc [The Times, 19/3/02]

Proposal for creationist school in Torfaen, south Wales
: sponsor says: "I think it's time that the teaching of evolution as a fact were challenged. Okay, it's a plausible theory, but it's a hoax" - but plan meets resistance [The Guardian, 9/4/02]

Vardy Foundation plans schools in Doncaster, Leeds , Newcastle, Sunderland and Hull.- Vardy (and Richard Dawkins) interviewed on BBC Radio 4 "Today", 28/4/03: "We do teach creationism alongside evolution - we present them as the two views - that some people hold the faith position of creation and others believe in evolution."

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What they say

Extracts from lecture by Steven Layfield, Head of Science at Emmanuel College: "When an evolutionary/old-earth paradigm (millions or billions of years) is explicitly mentioned or implied by a textbook . . . we must give the alternative (always better) biblical explanation of the same data"  [The Guardian, 9/3/02]
- or read the full text (rescued after the Christian Institute removed it from their website!)

Quotes from other staff - "the feasibility of maintaining an ark full of representative creatures for a year until the waters had sufficiently receded has been well documented" - Emmanuel College head of science.

Visit the Emmanuel College website: "This desire to see the claims of the Bible taught as fundamental to a true understanding of all that is important in life permeates our whole approach to education"
- or read extracts (pdf)

Visit the website of the closely allied Christian Institute and see its views on science in the school curriculum: "It seems to us that attempts to reconcile evolutionary theory with the Biblical account of creation strain and distort scripture and that they introduce a symbolic reading of Genesis which cannot logically deny the symbolic reading of the Virgin Birth, physical Resurrection of Christ or the Second Coming."

Interview with Sir Peter Vardy (Emmanuel College sponsor): "What is being rammed down our throats at the moment is that evolution is right and creationism is wrong" [BBC Radio 4 10 O'Clock News 11/3/02]

The US experience: "Creation scientist" on the dinosaur that threatened a Roman army [BBC Radio 4 10 O'Clock News 11/3/02]

Interview with Revd. David Holloway, vicar of Jesmond Parish Church, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, founding member of the Christian Institute: "In America . . . this debate is much more advanced . . ."  [BBC Radio 4 Today programme 13/3/02] - plus a quotation from a letter from him [Church Times, 5/4/02]

Profile of Sir Peter Vardy, "a multi-millionaire car dealer and creationist evangelist" who says "I don't believe my ancestors were monkeys."  [The Times, 17/3/02]

Vardy Foundation chief education officer
: "there are opportunities for biblical Christians to influence all the compulsory requirements in schools" [Daily Telegraph, 31/3/02]

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Q&A on creationism v. evolution: "Creationists generally believe that the world is less than 10,000 years old; that humans co-existed with dinosaurs"  [The Times, 14/3/02]

The difference between a scientific theory and a belief:  " 'Theory' . . . does not mean 'hypothesis' but the body of methodological tools and data which provide a context for scientific investigation"  [Letters, The Guardian, 19/3/02]

Supernatural Selection: Review of a recent book putting the case for and against the soft-sell creationism known as Intelligent Design [New York Times, 14/4/02]

More clergy believe in creationism than ever since Darwin  One in ten believes in six-day creation. [Church Times, 22/3/02]

Science and Religion - a paper by David Pollock sets out the historical background to the conflict between science and religion, contrasting two fundamentally different outlooks.

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Critical reaction

Richard Dawkins: creationism "a preposterous, mind-shrinking falsehood" [The Guardian, 9/3/02]

Ralph Levinson
(Institute of Education lecturer in science education): "we must remember who is in the power position here [at Emmanuel College]: it is the teachers . . ." [BBC Radio 4 10 O'Clock News 11/3/02]

Richard Dawkins
"These people are teaching that the earth is a matter of mere thousands of years old. That is not just wrong, that's six orders of magnitude wrong - that's six zeros wrong." [BBC Radio 4 Today programme 13/3/02]

Scientists and academics
seek re-inspection by Ofsted and clarification of science national curriculum  [The Guardian, 14/3/02]

Bishop of Oxford: "Do some people really think that the worldwide scientific community is engaged in a massive conspiracy to hoodwink the rest of us?" [Thought for the Day, BBC Radio 4, 15/3/02]

Bishop of Durham wants re-inspection by Ofsted [Daily Telegraph, 15/3/02]

Prof Niall Shanks, US biology professor, on coping with "well-funded purveyors of baloney" [The Guardian, 19/3/02]

Lib-Dems demand review of Ofsted inspection procedures [The Guardian, 1/4/02]

Bishops and scientists write to Tony Blair: "growing anxiety about what will be taught" in faith schools [The
Observer, 7/4/02]
or read copy of the letter with complete list of signatories

Dawkins to debate at Emmanuel College?  Sir Peter Vardy may invite Richard Dawkins to a debate. [The Guardian, 9/4/02]

No-one can control Emmanuel College  Durham diocesan director of education, Canon David Whittington, says Emmanuel College is out of control [Church Times, 22/3/02]

Scientific and theological nonsense Letter from Rev. Michael Roberts [Church Times, 12/4/02]

Creationism "Insinuating Itself into Schools Richard Dawkins renews his criticism [The Guardian, 19/6/02]

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Government and official reaction

Tony Blair defends Emmanuel College: "In the end, a more diverse school system will deliver better results for our children" [PQ 12/3/02]

Estelle Morris - "no need to investigate Emmanuel College" [The Times, 17/3/02]

Tony Blair seeks "compromise" to protect creationist teaching [Daily Telegraph, 31/3/02]

Ofsted give the OK to Emmanuel College [The Guardian, 26/3/02, 24/5/02, correspondence between Ofsted and Sir Peter Vardy]

The Official Position - parliamentary statement about selection, the national curriculum, science, and human rights.

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Updated 23/5/03; minor update 25/7/05