The British Humanist Association notes the alarming speed at which secondary schools in England are transferring to Academy status (Expansion of Academies Programme Continues Apace Despite Lack of Safeguards).
The Department of Education has announced that 1 in 6 secondary schools in England have now converted to Academy status (547), a large jump from January this year when the BHA reported that 1 in 10 English secondary schools were now Academies.This week, a report in the Economist magazine predicted that this could be as many as 1 in 4 schools within the year.
From the atheist’s perspective, this is indeed alarming for two reasons.
Firstly the absurd situation in which state funds are used to pay for religiously motivated schools. This leads to difficulties for those who don’t share the two main christian faiths. Furthermore, situations in which more extreme evangelicals seem to be able to insinuate their dotty beliefs into the mainstream can arise, particularly where discussion of origins and evolution are concerned. One recent case involves a Church of England school in Exeter, which has become embroiled in controversy after inviting a creationist, Philip Bell, to discuss creationism (and, indeed, it sounds as though it was presented as scientific fact).
Secondly, that Academies are exempt from the National Curriculum which, if it serves any purpose, must be aimed at minimum educational standards. As the BHA say:
Academies are able to opt out of the National Curriculum potentially leaving students attending some ‘faith’ Academies at risk of being taught that there is scientific validity to creationist myths in science lessons and of not being provided with basic sex and relationship education. ‘Faith’ academies with a religious character are able to discriminate against students from families that are of the ‘wrong’ or no religion in at least 50% of their places.
Why are Academies exempt from the National Curriculum? The potential for serious damage to the UK educational system is really rather serious.