‘No Free School is allowed to teach creationism.’

Further to the recent discussion thread here, I utilised the BHA-provided e-mail facility for expressing concern to Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove. And have today received the following reply:


Dear Dr Turnpenny

Thank you for your recent correspondence, addressed to the Secretary of State, expressing disagreement with his decision to support a number of Free School projects that you believe intend to teach creationism. I hope you are able to appreciate the Secretary of State for Education receives a vast amount of correspondence and is unable to reply to each one personally. It is for this reason I have been asked to reply.

No Free School is allowed to teach creationism. The Free School application guidance published by the Department now specifically says creationism, intelligent design and similar ideas cannot be taught as valid scientific theories.

Furthermore, the funding agreements for all Free Schools state that divine creation should not be taught as an ‘evidence-based view or theory’ (a scientific theory) in any lesson: so if a school did do this they would be putting their funding at risk. We are confident that the Free School projects you mention will follow the rules, having explored these questions robustly with them at interview.

Prior to entering into a funding agreement, the Academy Trust is required to carry out a consultation about their plans to open a Free School. Consultations can be run in a number of ways including surveys, the launch of a simple website, meetings of key individuals and open public meetings.

Academy Trusts also need to demonstrate that they have considered the views of their stakeholders. Most do this by publishing a report setting out the key findings of their consultation.

Every application approved, including those mentioned in your letter, has had to demonstrate that the new school will provide a broad and balanced curriculum. Free Schools are subject to Ofsted inspections in the same way as all other state schools, and the government has powers to intervene in a school where there is significant cause for concern.

Please be assured that the Department will be working with the projects mentioned over the coming months to ensure that the assurances they have provided us with are honoured.


As part of our commitment to improving the service we provide to our customers, we are interested in hearing your views and would welcome your comments via our website at: www.education.gov.uk/pcusurvey

Yours sincerely

Public Communications Unit


14 responses to “‘No Free School is allowed to teach creationism.’

  1. i sure wish we could get something like this in the US. Schools and states are working to ban the teaching of evolution and some have passed laws allowing the teaching of creationism / ID as a competing theory.

    in the US, we need to take education out of the control of states and put all the planning in the hands of the federal gov’t under the board of education, following the laws of the separation of church and state, requiring ALL schools teach evolution in science class and offer no competing mythology as science.

    looks like we have a lot of work to do both sides of the pond.

  2. Quite.
    What you do have in the US is constitutionally-enshrined separation of church and state, so those laws can be over-turned in court (as has happened, to my knowledge, no?).
    Here, we don’t have that separation. And so we have (an increasing number of?) faith-affiliated state schools. And now creationist organisations being funded to set up Free Schools. The “Don’t worry, they’re not allowed to teach creationism” line is not wholly reassuring.

    • Lee, Yes we do have a constitutional separation of church and state, unfortunately however, its a pretty blurry line w/ enough loops holes that churches actually use our schools on sundays and they host after school programs that are directly marketed to students and parents.

      we are lucky that teaching creationism has been illegal in public schools for a long time, but many schools are working on ways to sneak it back in and states like Texas, Tennessee and Louisiana work in laws that allow teachers to take a stance against evolution and tell students that its “only a theory” etc. They place stickers on textbooks warning students that evolution is only a scientific opinion on what could have happened.

      Its amazingly frustrating when your laws say one thing and then let another happen. In a country thats actually supposed to be secular, we let the Christian right run the show. but….

      I will agree that in the UK you will have it much harder, when your laws state an official religion, the argument for a secular education I will imagine falls onto many deaf ears.

      If you have not read it, I highly recommend reading “The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children” by Katherine Stewart

      Its all about how churches here in America are making their way into our schools and proselytizing our kids, legally in our public schools and their clear mission to “take back” the public schools. The book has taught me a lot I didn’t know about our school system and its the kind of book you put down every few chapters because your blood is boiling so much you can’t read another word.

  3. Let me be very clear about the fact that creationism (“intelligent (sic) design”, and the like) has no scientific credibility whatsoever. Basically, it is utter bullshit, and we should make fun of it, ridicule it, etc.

    However, not in any way does this justify a ban on teaching creationism (or similar nonsense). There is no logical connection between (a) the fact that something (from a scientific point of view) is nonsense and (b) the decision of (not) teaching it.

    Decisions about what “we” (be it as parents or as society) should be teaching “our” children is not a scientific (but rather a moral or societal) question.

    People pleading for an educational monopoly of some sort (arguing, for example, that it should be forbidden to teach creationism) should realize that there are no scientific arguments to support such a claim (although there might be moral arguments in favor of such a ban or restriction).

    • I guess it depends what it is taught as, and where. Religious education? Surely its shallowness should keep it out of those classrooms also. You’re damn right on it being a moral argument – against feeding children nonsense (as part of an over-riding ethos). If a school is doing a good job of teaching science – thus equipping children with the wherewithal to recognise pseudoscience – then creationism/ID becomes ‘Exhibit A’. But as a valid explanatory alternative, in so doing bastardising scientific ‘Theory’, then that is falling into the trap. Whether that is a ‘scientific argument’, or an argument from science…?

      • Evolution is not a theory anymore. It’s a historical fact. It’s true in every sense of the word, regardless of your accusations of “Cartesian” whatever.

        Creation is indeed not a scientific alternative. But it isn’t a religious alternative either. What some atheists haven’t gotten their head around is that Genesis is no longer a legitimate part of religion. Religion doesn’t run on a book anymore.

    • if you are going to have a class that teaches what creationism is, that same class needs to discuss all creation myths from all religion. In Cultural Anthropology, we discuss many different cultures views on religion, gods, and their beliefs on how we got here.

      That is not whats at stake here though, the christian right is not pushing for all religions to be taught as a class, they are fighting to have creationism taught as an opposing view to evolution in science.

      decision about what we are teaching our kids is scientific however when we are discussing science. What is moral about creationism vs creationism? there is no morality in either of them. Nature isn’t moral or immoral its different.

      If you want to discuss morality, than its just like Lee said, lying to kids, teaching them false science, giving them a terrible education because some people refuse to give up on the garbage beliefs involved in creationism/ID.

      They are not valid beliefs on any plane and should be treated as nothing more than myths in the same way in junior high we learned all about greek gods, we didn’t learn about greek gods as an alternative to other gods, but as a myth.

    • An interesting point you raise here, Kris. I think students should be taught creationism. They should know what other people believe in and understand the appeal it has to those people. You have to understand others in order to be able to communicate to them after all.

      However, creationism should NOT be taught as a scientific principle. It should be made very clear that it has no scientific basis and adequately compared to evolution which is backed by overwhelming evidence.

      • Not quite sure I understand you there, Khalil. That it is okay to teach creationism, but not as evidential science? Okay, then how do you demarcate that? Consider the dissonance that creates. That’s the ‘wedge’ (which the above letter reads as permitting).

        It is all well and good understanding others and their beliefs. (By such reasoning, we would give ‘respectful’ lesson time to homeopathy, and all manner of other nonsense.) But the thing with (young earth, evolution-rejecting) creationists is that you can’t communicate with/to them.

        • Demarcating is very important, I agree. I think the simplest solution would be to teach those non-scientific ideas as a special topic. When the topic is introduced, instructors should stress that creationism, homeopathy, etc are not based upon scientific principles, etc.

          I disagree that you cannot communicate with creationists. Obviously some won’t budge but those who are unsure may well be convinced about the merits of science. I can’t recall the exact statistics but this bunch of people make up a significant proportion of the US population at least (around 1/4 if I’m not mistaken).

          Regardless, if we want to tackle all those pseudoscience, etc, we need to start somewhere.

  4. A free enterprise, such as a family or a private school, can indeed have its own standards of what to teach.

    To provide basic education to most people, in a way that seeks to remove caste barriers, it is necessary to have public schools. However, even if only as a concession to those who would call it such, one must admit that public education is “propaganda”. Any subject that goes into the public curriculum gets besmirched with the accusation of malignantly controlling people. So a public school cannot be a free enterprise, because nobody who honestly wants to promote an idea would choose that route.

    The question of whether it’s morally favorable to edify religion is irrelevant, because those who seek to put creation into public schools are not edifiers. They are purveyors of the Catharic heresy.


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