Free Schools/Faith Schools

The return of the Conservative Party to government in the UK, albeit in coalition form, has brought with it the possibility (some would say threat) of considerable social change.  Germane to the subject of this blog is the impact the coalition plans to wreak on education.  Those of us in higher education are acutely aware of the impact of the Government’s drive to contain the budget deficit (whether or not one considers the strategy to be driven principally by ideological and not fiscal grounds).  The Government also plans changes to the delivery of school level education, perhaps less driven by economics and more by ideology.

In rapid policy shift reminiscent of a party of school kids let loose in a sweet shop, the Rt. Hon Michael Gove has begun the implementation of a Free School policy that risks the unwise establishment of schools barely controlled by the national curriculum and potentially driven by religious and other ideology.

The British Centre for Science Education (also see their forum and blog), of which I am a committee member, has written to Mr Gove (Michael Gove, Free Schools, Everyday Champions Academy and Creationism) to raise the issue of religion-driven agenda, particularly as it relates to the teaching of biblical creationism as an alternative to evolution.  The BCSE’s letter is accompanied by a memorandum citing evidence pertaining to a number of cases, including the Everyday Champions Church proposal for a free school.  Rather than merely restate the text here, visit the link above, and in particular review the memorandum attached to the letter.

[Also worth reading is James Gray’s excellent article for The New Humanist magazine: Free to teach creationism?]

It is essential for all those with an interest in science education (not just biology, as all science education is threatened by such bad education) to be vigilant against incursions of old religious world view into science education.  We need to be vigilant especially as Government policy seeks to discard political responsibility for governance in such ‘local’ matters and hand over control to local groups.

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