education

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The Independent reports (Durham Free School: ‘Creationism taught at’ free school facing closure) that not only did they teach creationism (see Doomed Durham Free School taught Intelligent Design Creationism and Durham Free School creationism), but that:

The school, which has already been ordered to close by the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, has been accused of harbouring “prejudiced views” of children from other faiths that went unchallenged by teachers.

I suppose this is not unconnected with handing control of teaching children to a group advocating a particular religious bent.

Jonny Scaramanga’s blog article about the teacher involved in this episode of teaching creationism (State-funded school in Durham, England employed a creationist science teacher) is well worth reading.

Update 6/3/15 – Jonny Scaramanga has been doing a bit of digging and finds links between Durham Free School and a network of schools in the North East that seem to have a bit of a track record in teaching creationism. (What happens when creationism sneaks into a UK classroom?). Worth reading.

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Jonny Scaramanga has delved into the teaching of creationism in the Durham Free School – State-funded school in Durham, England employed a creationist science teacher – (which I blogged about yesterday – Doomed Durham Free School taught Intelligent Design Creationism).

Jonny has uncovered what looks like a track record of creationist activity by the science teacher responsible for that lamentable worksheet of creationist tosh.

 

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From The Darlington and Stockton Times, Brainwashed: Christian school taught Intelligent Design as fact

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan controversially withdrew Government funding for the Durham Free School after a damning Ofsted report last month.

Last night the school was at the centre of another controversy – that it taught creationism as a scientifically valid subject in direct contravention of Government rules.

The Government has banned schools from teaching creationism – that the universe originated from specific acts of divine creation – as evidence-based theory.

However, a science worksheet obtained by The Northern Echo said: “Only Earth has life on it. God has designed the Solar System so that Earth can support life.”

Teaching creationism as scientific fact would place the Durham City school in breach of the law and its funding agreement.

The story turns up in the Northern Echo, too (I imagine these papers are related – it seems the story originated in the Northern Echo). Both websites have a photograph of the offending worksheet, within the slideshow of glum looking kids and protesting parents.

Nice to see the Government taking the prohibition of teaching creationism as science seriously. It is, however, something of a pity that the Conservative Party have an ideological approach to education that can allow schools to end up in the pocket of those who teach this stuff. In this case the Durham Free School claims it is something of a one-off problem, but even so it does perhaps suggest something wrong in the school’s governance.

The Durham Free School’s website is mounting something of a fightback. But I did spot this:

The School offers a high quality education in a caring, Christian environment in which each pupil is known, valued and encouraged to achieve his or her individual potential. We are committed to outstanding academic performance and to fostering a love of learning in our students.

When I see statements like that, I do wonder about the people in the catchment area who aren’t Christian (or the “wrong type” of Christian). I don’t think for a minute that the “Christian environment” doesn’t have a connection with the teaching of Intelligent Design creationism.

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Yes, it’s the Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm once again. It’s been awarded a Quality Mark by the Council for Learning Outside The Classroom (CLOtC). This is despite the fact it’s pushing a particularly bonkers creationist agenda that flies in the face of all the scientific evidence. This crossed my radar this morning, and as I was pondering whether to respond, I find that the Ministry of Truth blog has done this already (Creationist Zoos and ‘Quality’ Badges) and covers most of the ground.

You may recall Alice Roberts took a pop at the zoo in The Guardian recently (seeAlice Roberts vs. the Christian Schools’ Trust and creationism). What’s particularly bonkers is that CLOtC guidance for a Quality Mark requires the following 6 ‘high level indicators':

      1. The provider has a process in place to assist users to plan the learning  experience effectively;
      2. The provider provides accurate information about its offer;
      3. The provider provides activities or experiences which meet learner needs;
      4. The provider reviews the experience and acts upon feedback;
      5. The provider meets the needs of users; and
      6. The provider has safety management processes in place to manage risk effectively.

Not much there about your actual educational experience…

This seems to be rerun of the last time CLOtC awarded these creationists an award (Noah’s ark zoo farm wins prize). That forum thread includes the correspondence BCSE had with the clots at CLOtC.

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After having a pop at the Noah’s Ark Farm Zoo (Alice Roberts visits The UK’s creationist zoo), Alice Roberts has taken aim at the Christian Schools Trust’s actions in teaching creationism to kids (Alice Roberts: children ‘indoctrinated’ by lessons in creationism). According to the article (which is based on an interview in TES), the Christian Schools Trust is actively teaching creationism:

The TV presenter, who is the new president of the Association for Science Education, said that teaching about creationism alongside evolution risked closing pupils’ minds to scientific discoveries.

Her comments came as it emerged that the Christian Schools’ Trust – a network of 40 independent schools – confirmed that teaching about creationism in science was common in its institutions.

The Trust said there was “strong sympathy to Young Earth, six-day creation” in its schools but insisted this did not amount to indoctrination.

Appalling news. Unfortunately as independent schools, these 40 establishments appear to be immune from the requirements to follow the national curriculum:

The new national curriculum for primary schools, due to be introduced this September, contains a clear requirement for pupils to be taught about evolution.

But the curriculum only applies to state schools, not private schools. State-funded academies and free schools can also choose not to follow it.

This is pretty shabby news, especially the comment that academies and free schools are free to ignore the curriculum and teach anti-scientific bronze age drivel. Perhaps the comments of a high-profile Professor of Public Engagement in Science (and the new President of the Association for Science Education) will have a significant effect.

Update:

A similar article at The Guardian’s website (Ban the teaching of creationism in science lessons, says Alice Roberts) covers the same stuff:

In an interview with the Times Educational Supplement (TES), Prof Roberts, who has presented a number of BBC programmes including The Incredible Human Journey and Origins of Us, said: “There should be regulation that prevents all schools, not just state schools, from teaching creationism because it is indoctrination, it is planting ideas into children’s heads. We should be teaching children to be much more open-minded.

“People who believe in creationism say that by teaching evolution you are indoctrinating them with science, but I just don’t agree with that. Science is about questioning things. It’s about teaching people to say, ‘I don’t believe it until we have very strong evidence’.”

 

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I see from The Guardian that Alice Roberts (Professor of Public Engagement at Birmingham University, and frequent TV presenter) has visited the Noah’s Ark Farm Zoo (Why I won’t be going back to Bristol’s creationist zoo: A creationist zoo in Bristol will bewilder adults and potentially undermine children’s education).

I’ve previously blogged about this zoo and its many issues (Creationist zoo suspended…Creationist zoo causes dismay in the ranks of the humanistsCreationist zoo wins education prizeMore news coverage of the Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm fracasAnne Widdecombe approves of the creationist zooGuardian Blog: Creationists seek to insert their own brand of ‘truth’ into education), and frankly, it’s absurd that this zoo continues to exist after the ups and downs it has experienced (from approval from Widdecombe to winning an education prize (itself completely absurd) to being struck off by the British and Irish Association of Zoos).

Alice Roberts has a jolly good poke at why this “zoo” is so bad, and concludes:

In this zoo, the creationists have built themselves an impressive soapbox. I felt that I had to visit, if only to know what I would be excluding my children from if I stopped them going on school visits to this popular destination. I want my children to learn critical thinking, but the “critical approach” put forward by Noah’s Ark is a disingenuous redressing of a centuries-old story which has its place in our culture but has absolutely nothing to do with science education.

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T. Ryan Gregory announces at Genomicron (Big news about Evolution: Education and Outreach) that the Springer journal Evolution: Education and Outreach will be open access from January 2013.

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There’s an article in today’s Guardian which indicates that all these free schools which form part of Michael Gove’s misguided concept of state centralisation of education must teach evolution (Free schools must teach evolution, ministers announce).

All free schools will be forced to present evolution as a comprehensive and central tenet of scientific theory, ministers have announced, following lobbying by senior scientists concerned that Christian-run institutions could exploit loopholes in the rules to present creationism as a credible theory.

The significance here is clear – for all the free schools founded by the more extreme sectors of evangelical christianity (and, I guess, schools run with any other religious ethos) evolution must be taught as part of the science curriculum. The worry had been that such Free schools such as the Grindon Hall Christian School (see The Grindon Hall Creation Policy document) would teach their (ir)relevant creation myths under the guise of Religious Studies, and then just omit evolutionary biology from their science classes.

Still, worries must arise around just how these religiously motivated Free schools will be inspected – both in terms of how effective this can be and who actually does the inspection.

Wouldn’t it just be easier not to allow these kinds of people to run schools in the first place?

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Among the three Free Schools heavily implicated in creationism that were announced recently is Grindon Hall Christian School. Over at their website (Grindon Hall Christian School – The School), we can read:

A Christian School – this means we affirm Christian truth, employ Christian teachers, hold a daily act of Christian worship and aim to have Christ at the centre of all we do.  It means we pursue excellence in everything we do, from academic life to sport and extra-curricular activities.  It does not mean we only admit children from Christian families: around 80% of our pupils are from non-faith or other faith backgrounds and all are welcome.  And it does not mean that we adopt extremist positions which in our view can often devalue the reputation of Christian education.

So this Free School feels it appropriate to not only indoctrinate non-christian children, but discriminate against non-christian teachers. Has the school turned its back on belief in creationism and an intention to teach it? Interestingly this link leads to a Word document which outlines the School’s policy on creationism. (There doesn’t appear to be a direct link to this policy from the School’s website, so one might suspect that the link has been deleted to try and hide the document. But it was still on their server on 20th July 2012 – though maybe it will be deleted – see update at the bottom of this post). In that document the school’s former anti-science policy is laid bare:

We are therefore very happy to believe that God could have created the world in six days. But we do not feel that it is helpful to affirm it as an unarguable fact.

We do not believe that the very plain evidence supporting a lengthy process of evolution needs to be challenged by Christians.

However, we vigorously challenge the unscientific certainty often claimed by scientists surrounding the so-called “Big Bang” and origins generally.

We believe that no scientific theory provides – or ever will provide – a satisfactory explanation of origins, i.e. why the world appeared, and how nothing became something in the first place.

We will teach evolution as an established scientific principle, as far as it goes.

We will teach creation as a scientific theory and we will always affirm very clearly our position as Christians, i.e. that Christians believe that God’s creation of the world is not just a theory but a fact with eternal consequences for our planet and for every person who has ever lived on it.

We will affirm that to believe in God’s creation of the world is an entirely respectable position scientifically and rationally.

I’ve emphasised in bold some of the text which in my view correspond to the kind of rhetoric spouted by Young Earth Creationists. In my experience there is little correspondence between the strong religious belief held by creationists and honesty. I am aware that the BHA has posted an update to their blog article, in which the Grindon Hall Christian School repeat their assertion they will not teach creationism. But like the BHA, I find their assurances rather hollow, particularly in light of the classic creationist newspeak emboldened above in that document. I would be interested to know why that document, written by Rachel Nurse (who appears to be a school administrator) in 2007 still lingers on their web server.

Will Michael Gove now admit he may well have been hoodwinked by some creationists?

Updated 24/7/12: The school appears to have deleted the incriminating file from their server. Never mind, I have a copy.

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The BHA reports that a creationist group have had their bid to open a free school has been approved. (Creationists approved to open Free School in 2013)

A group of creationists has gained approval from the Department for Education (DfE) to open a Free School from 2013. The group are behind the plans for Exemplar – Newark Business Academy, a revised bid from the same people who proposed Everyday Champion’s Academy last year. Everyday Champion’s Academy, which was formally backed by Everyday Champions Church, was explicitly rejected due to concerns surrounding the teaching of creationism. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has expressed deep concern at the Government choosing to fund a creationist group.

This is a shameful decision by the Government, and one supposes that Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, is motivated more by his ideological drive to remove education from local authority control than in any genuine interest in educational quality. The BHA further comments:

In January the group decided to bid again, this time for Exemplar Academy and without the formal backing of the church. However, the website for the new Academy was initially part of the Everyday Champions Church website; and the plans were launched at Everyday Champions Church, being described as a ‘resubmission’ of the previous bid. The group commented that ‘The school will be run on Christian values and we are proud of that. There is a huge difference between Christian values and Christian theology, which is why the original bid was turned down.’

Visit the BHA article for a comprehensive set of links. I guess we should not be surprised that a politician with a distinct prediliction for faith-based education, and who organised a vanity project to send out unsolicited copies of the bible to schools would take a lax approach to approval of even the more dubious faith-related projects.

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