Thursday, 4 March 2010

Fundamentalist school to open in Hull this year

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Update: When I was blogging about this earlier (see original post below), I was struck by a claim made on the New Life Academy's website for the Accelerated Christian Education technique:
"New Life Academy is a school that operates using the ACE system of individualised learning. OFSTED approved, and with an excellent track record, it means the school may look quite different at times to a main stream school, but produces excellent results."
What struck me was the phrase "OFSTED approved". Really? To my knowledge OFSTED only inspects schools, and doesn't "approve" anything per se. What could New Life Academy mean by this? Do they mean that the school itself "is OFSTED approved, and with an excellent track record"? Since the school isn't open until September, and therefore can't have a "track record" in anything, this statement clearly can't relate to the school.

In which case, it must relate to the Advanced Christian Education curriculum. But OFSTED doesn't "approve" curricula, does it? I went away and did some research, and was confirmed in my initial suspicion. OFSTED does not provide approval, and as far as I can establish does not have record of the New Life Academy. And even if it did, that is beside the point, as the statement on the school's website is implying that the Advanced Christian Education curriculum is approved by OFSTED. Which simply can't be true, because OFSTED doesn't approve curricula.

Quite a misleading claim for a school to make, wouldn't you say?

Original post - From September of this year, residents with a spare £2,000-a-year in the Hull area will be able to ensure their children receive an education according to a curriculum "written from the literal Bible Creation base" by sending them to the New Life Academy, a new private school which will use the controversial Accelerated Christian Education technique. Under ACE, the “core curriculum is an individualized, Biblically-based, character-building curriculum package”, which in plain English means that the children are taught individually rather than together in classes, in what critics say basically amounts to learning by rote.

It's a technique already used in other private Christian schools in the UK, as well as many more in the US, and while the Hull school's prospectus (PDF) throws little light on what's involved, it does contain the a clear clue in stating that it will achieve its aims by "giving a Christian perspective on academic subjects". In short, schools that use ACE teach creationism – take a look at the science curriculum on the American ACE website, and how it sets youngsters up for glowing careers in the sciences by teaching them "the facts of Creation as presented in the Bible" and the wonders of "Geologic changes after the Flood". And when they're a bit older they can learn how "attributes essential to life are seen in relationship to the Bible and biblical Creation" and all about "the perfection of God's design for the universe". All of which they learn in "their own learning station", which you might argue ensures that they simultaneously miss out on both a proper education and the character-building experiences that come with interacting with other children.

If you want to read more about ACE, the Wikipedia page is a good place to start. This quote from education researchers D. Flemming and T Hunt seems to sum up what goes on in these schools:
"If parents want their children to obtain a very limited and sometimes inaccurate view of the world — one that ignores thinking above the level of rote recall — then the ACE materials do the job very well. The world of the ACE materials is quite a different one from that of scholarship and critical thinking."
Of course, the New Life Academy (whose founders must have been delighted with this puff piece in their local paper) is a private school, so there's no cause for outrage at the encroachment of creationism into our state education system, but it's worth knowing that these things are out there. There was some controversy about ACE last year when it emerged that the curriculum's International Certificate of Christian Education qualifications had been recognised by a government agency as equivalent to international A-levels. The agency in question, the National Recognition Information Centre, pointed out that curriculum content was outside its remit. Reporting on it at the time, the Guardian quoted a passage from an ACE textbook, about the Loch Ness Monster, no less:
"Could a fish have developed into a dinosaur? As astonishing as it may seem, many evolutionists theorize that fish evolved into amphibians and amphibians into reptiles. This gradual change from fish to reptiles has no scientific basis. No transitional fossils have been or ever will be discovered because God created each type of fish, amphibian, and reptile as separate, unique animals. Any similarities that exist among them are due to the fact that one Master Craftsmen fashioned them all."
Just an example of the kind of knowledge that's on its way to the city of Hull.


David Waldock said...

I was educated in an ACE school. Some of the basic ideas are good (theoretically, students get to work at their own speed), but the school's ethos was one of bullying and abuse; I was an intelligent child and left school with three 'C' grade GCSEs and a fear of academia.

I could talk extensively about this, but I will say that parents who send their children to these schools think they are doing what is right for their children and bringing them up in "the ways of the Lord". Of all of the students who went to my school (<10 students per school year; about 60 students at a time in the school), I am one of just two I know who have actually left their rather radical form of Christianity. In addition, because the church said it was the right thing to do, my parents (I was the eldest of 5) were spending £thousands on a poor-quality education (although I've since been told that their tithe was deductable from the school fees) instead of providing us with a basic socialisation.

I would be happy to answer any questions that people may have relating to ACE schools.

LongSteve said...

When anyone says "No transitional fossils have been or ever will be discovered...", point them to

martianrobot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

You write: "there's no cause for outrage at the encroachment of creationism into our state education system"
Technically you are of course right, but isn't it an outrage that parents are entitled to lock their kids into their belief system and preventing them from confrontation with anything different from their particular subculture. At any regular school, kids meet with a whole lot of different people, and they have to get along with them.
Not to speak of the career prospects of locekd in kids...

Emma Drinkwater said...

Has OFSTED been informed about this?