1. Skip to content

National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Creationism in Schools

We think the teaching of creationist views as a potentially valid alternative theory to evolution is unacceptable in state schools. We campaign to highlight and expose the threat that creationism poses to education, and to promote the teaching of evolution in schools.

The most prominent forms of Creationism are "Young Earth Creationism" (which states that the world was created 6-10,000 years ago), "Old Earth Creationism" (which states that the events described in Genesis took place over a much longer time period), and Intelligent Design (ID), which states that some adaptations in living things are too complex to have evolved.

We are concerned that some organisations applying to run free schools (state funded independent schools) have a creationist agenda. In 2011 we drew attention to one such evangelical group (the Everyday Champions Church) which eventually had its free school application turned down. The group has pledged to continue making every effort possible to see a new school set up and more creationist groups have since come forward with plans to open free schools. We are also aware of organisations whose mission is to get 'Intelligent design' into schools through teaching materials.

The Government's stated position is that creationism is at odds with scientific fact.

The most recent guidance on the place of creationism and intelligent design in Science lessons was issued by the Labour Government in 2007. The guidance makes clear that creationism and intelligent design are not part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and should not be taught as science. However, there are other ways in which schools can teach creationism – either in RE or in assemblies. Furthermore, as academies and free schools are free to deviate from the National Curriculum, there is little to stop such schools teaching creationism if they wish to do so. By accommodating religious views, we fear some schools are still allowing creationist views to be promoted in the classroom.

what are we doing?

What sponsors of free schools say they will do on their applications and what they actually do when they have the school under their control may not necessarily be the same thing. We have therefore called on the Department for Education (DfE) to closely monitor schools when they are up and running to ensure that extremism is not introduced after all the assurances have been given at the initial stage.

In September 2011 we met with the DfE and received assurances from the Department's extremism unit that groups advocating creationism as a scientific theory would have their free school applications turned down. An evangelical church with creationist beliefs subsequently had its application refused.

We have also written to the Secretary of State for Education, his Scottish counterpart and to Learning and Teaching in Scotland (the principal curriculum body) asking them to make it explicitly clear in revised guidance that there is no place for the promotion or teaching of creationism and ID in the classroom.

In May 2011 the NSS backed the launch of the CrISIS Campaign - Creationism In Schools Isn't Science. The campaign was launched after a creationist was introduced to the children as a scientist and allowed to "teach" creationism in a state secondary school.

Evolution is widely regarded as one of the most important ideas underlying biological science. In April 2011, we submitted a response to the National Curriculum Review calling for evolution to become a compulsory part of the science curriculum in primary education. We also recommended that in the teaching of evolution, the difference between a theory and a hypothesis should be made clear, as creationist and proponent of 'intelligent design' often use a misunderstanding of the word 'theory in an attempt to discredit evolution.

If you are concerned that creationism or intelligent design is being taught in your local school please contact us.