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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Creationist church remains resolute in pursuit of free school

An evangelical church with creationist beliefs in Newark (Notts) which had its free school application turned down has pledged to continue making every effort possible to see a new school set up.

As previously reported, the Everyday Champions Church in Newark had its plans to open a 625-pupil secondary school turned down last week. We now know that the Department of Education rejected their application over concerns about creationism.

The Church published an extract from the rejection letter from the Department for Education (DfE) online. It states:

“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.”

Earlier this year, Pastor Gareth Morgan, the church leader and the driving force behind the free school bid, told the Times Educational Supplement that creationism would be taught across the curriculum, should the school be given the green light.

“Creationism will be taught as the belief of the leadership of the school,” Pastor Morgan said. “It will not be taught exclusively in the sciences, for example. At the same time, evolution will be taught as a theory.”

Responding to their free school rejection, an official Church statement said:

“ECA are pleased to confirm that, despite this initial setback, we are committed to continue making every effort possible to see a new school set up.

“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.”

Stephen Evans, National Secular Society Campaigns Manager said: “We had previously received assurances from the DfE that groups advocating creationism would automatically have free school applications refused, so we are pleased that the Department are staying true to their word. We wholeheartedly agree with the Secretary of State that the teaching of creationist views as a potentially valid alternative theory is not acceptable in a 21st century state funded school.”

Local (Conservative) MP Patrick Mercer is, however, supporting the bid. In a parliamentary exchange with Tim Loughton, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, this week, Mercer said: “I am sure that he will join me in congratulating the al-Karam Muslim school [another free school] in Eaton in my constituency on its extraordinary achievement. Will he be kind enough to give me an idea of what we might do further to help not just that school, but the Everyday Champions school in Newark?”

The Minister did not entirely play ball in his supplementary answer, which included the passage: “I am aware that the Everyday Champions organisation applied for a free school but was unsuccessful, and I think that [Patrick Mercer] has been copied in on the reasons why”.

Published Fri, 21 Oct 2011