Friday, 14 October 2011

Everyday Champions Church free school application rejected due to creationism

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The application by the Nottinghamshire-based Everyday Champions Church to open a free school in Newark, which we've covered previously both in the magazine and on this blog, has been rejected by the Department for Education on account of the organisation's creationism.

The application had previously progressed to the interview stage, but the Everyday Champions Church have this week reproduced the text from the government's rejection letter on their website:
"The Secretary of State carefully considered your application, the views and beliefs of your organisation as set out in your application, your responses at interview and information about your organisation available in the public domain. He 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."
While many people, myself included, will welcome the news, Everyday Champions are, unsurprisingly, disappointed, and have vowed to try again next year. On their website, they reiterate their argument that they would not have taught creationism in science lessons at the school:
"We feel very sad that the application has seemingly been rejected solely due to the Schools [sic] perceived association to creationist beliefs.

We are proud to be a Christian School, but would like to make it very clear that Creationism will never be taught within the school other than where the National Curriculum requires it, which is in Religious Studies, this being the case in all mainstream schools.

It is a sad fact that certain sections of the press and some internet bloggers have decided that because the Church itself has creationist beliefs, it therefore follows that the school will teach creationism and try to influence the pupils and staff accordingly."
 There's an interesting angle for debate here – do you think an organisation should be rejected on account of creationist views, even if it argues that it will not teach them as science? One for discussion in the comments.

Footnote: on a related subject, the British Humanist Association, which has welcomed the news about Everyday Champions, is currently raising funds for its campaigning on the issue of faith schools. For a few years now, the BHA has employed a dedicated faith schools campaigner (the only one in the world, apparently!), and they need to raise £40,000 to fund the position for another year. If you can help, you can find out more over on the BHA website.
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