Creationist Schooling in the UK

Richard Dawkins writes a letter to The Guardian about Peter Vardy:

Your readers may remember the case of Emmanuel college, the notorious creationist school in Gateshead. The prime minister (Bush’s praying partner, let’s not forget) defended it on grounds of “diversity” and exam results, but both apologias ring hollow for a school whose head of science dates the origin of the universe some time after the middle stone age. The school’s sponsor, the evangelical car salesman Peter Vardy, is now trying to move in on Doncaster. He has already succeeded in taking over Thorne Grammar school, renamed Trinity Academy.

Now, a worried science teacher informs me, Vardy has his eye on Northcliffe comprehensive too. A group of local parents are concerned about the threatened subversion of their children’s school (

Richard Dawkins
University of Oxford

Not sure what Blair as “Bush’s praying partner” has to with it, but he draws attention back to a controversy that’s being going on now for a few years. Many UK state schools have a church affiliation, but this is a very different development: a private religious foundation is being given state schools to run. As the Northcliffe parents report, as well the Creationism

We have conflicting reports as to whether the new school will follow patterns at Emmanuel like a compulsory GCSE Religious Education Examination, and a compulsory course in Philosophy, Theology and Ethics, at A Level.

At Emmanuel, reported The Observer a while ago, pupils must carry two Bibles at all times (an NIV and a Gideon NT) or face punishment. Plus:

Each week pupils must attend two-hour ‘Special Lectures’ concerning spiritual subjects and use these as the basis of a compulsory long essay at the end of the school year. No backsliding is permitted.

According to the school’s own website (not updated for quite some time):

Finally, and centrally, as part of our commitment to the all-round spiritual, moral and intellectual development of young people, all subjects seek to set their teaching within context in which Christian values and Biblical revelation can be discussed and analysed. It is such a context which gives learning a proper fullness.

Interviewed on the BBC’s Today progamme, Vardy explained that:

We do teach creationism alongside evolution [interruption] – we present both – one is a theory, the other is a faith position and it’s up to the children. We give them an all-round education, so both are presented to the students and we think that is fair education

What he failed to make clear, however, was that the Creationism is taught by a believing science teacher – i.e. as a scientific position; links to a lecture by Stephen Layfield, science teacher at Emmanuel College, that shows this. Layfield stated that science teachers should

Note every occasion when an evolutionary/old-earth paradigm (millions or billions of years) is explicitly mentioned or implied by a text-book, examination question or visitor and courteously point out the fallibility of the statement. Wherever possible, we must give the alternative (always better) Biblical explanation of the same data.

In 2002 Vardy reportedly told Richard Dawkins (see this Guardian report) that Layfield’s “personal view” on Creationism was not taught in science classes. Layfield’s lecture (removed from the website of the Christian Institute when the controversy broke) and Vardy’s statement on Today suggest that Dawkins was lied to.

However, what no-one appears to have noticed is that Creationism is also doing well in independent Christian schools in the UK. For example, Maranatha Christian School, based in Sevenhampton, near Swindon, boasts a

Christian, Creation-based curriculum [that] has been developed over the last 25 years and is now used in thousands of schools all over the world.

Don’t worry if you think your GCSE results will suffer, for instead of the General Certificate in Secondary Education, you can qualify with the National Christian Schools Certificate. According to Paragon Christian Academy, based in Hackney, East London:

The NCSC is accepted by universities in the UK and abroad (including Oxford University), as an alternative to the usual GCSE and GCSE ‘A’ level route (see the UCAS Handbook).

What’s more, according to Maranatha

At the same time a child is taught to read, he will also start to learn some of the sixty biblical character traits which are reinforced throughout the whole School of Tomorrow curriculum…The student will also begin to memorise Scriptures associated with the character trait, building up a deep well of Godly wisdom.

The School of Tomorrow curriculum is derived from the USA, and provided by Accelerated Christian Education:

Accelerated Christian Education’s worldwide team of professional educators currently serves over 7,000 schools, one government contract, and thousands of home educators in 135 countries. This Global Support Team provides curriculum, program, and school services as well as in-service and leadership training for schools and home educators in their areas.

In addition, Accelerated Christian Education’s in-house team of professionals at the International Ministry Offices in Largo, Florida, provide materials and support services to help meet the educational needs of communities everywhere.

In Britain, its products are sold by CEE Ltd (Christian Education Europe Ltd), which holds that

The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the verbally and plenary inspired Word of God. The Scriptures are inerrant, infallible, and God-breathed, and, therefore, are the final authority for faith and life. The sixty-six books of the Old and New Testament are the complete and divine revelation of God to man. The Scriptures shall be interpreted according to their normal grammatical-historical meaning.

The village of Sevenhampton is also home to the British branch of Answers in Genesis, and no doubt this Creationist organisation is also closely linked with Maranatha.

UPDATE: Back in 2003, Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith gave strong backing to Tabernacle School, a small Pentecostal school in Kensington which follows the ACE curriculum (see also here).

NB: Do not confuse the evangelical Peter Vardy with Dr Peter Vardy, the Catholic theologian at Heythrop College, University of London.

9 Responses

  1. Actually, I did get pulled a bit off track; unless he does something newsworthy, this blog is from now on a Vox-free zone.

  2. […] Creationist businessman who is being handed state schools to run by Tony Blair (a policy I noted last month). In the piece, Vardy denies that an aim of his school is promote anti-evolutionism: ‘For […]

  3. My 2 children are just about to start their schooling at maranatha christian school. Much to my relief they are about to commence on an education under girded by the fact that God created them, loves them and that they are not simply the unlikely production of millions of years of meer chance. Unlike secular education at least in christian education the ‘opposition’ is discussed; with students learning why people believe in evolution and entering into discussion on the differences in their beliefs. I incidently was an ardent evolutionist until my conversion to christianity and even though my understanding of creation from a scientific point of view is not complete, i do not understand your intolerance to the idea that creation is not worth pursuing scientifically. After all isnt science supposed to be about investigating a theory, or have we lost the scientific cause on the way blinded by the ‘light’ of evolution?

  4. i do not understand your intolerance to the idea that creation is not worth pursuing scientifically
    Well, here’s a couple pointers:

    1. Because “creation” is a philosophical and religious idea. Even if it is true, it is supernatural and so outside of science.

    2. Because Creation scientists fail to produce any good science – as Rev Steve Chalke recently said when he dismissed Creation Science as “rubbish”.

    3. Creation scientists are usually inspired by reading the Bible. Using a religious text to guide one’s theories towards a pre-conceived conclusion is a perversion of science. Plus, of course, these scientists have no background in the textual origins of the Bible, a text which was derived over many years from the cultures of the ancient Near East.

    all isnt science supposed to be about investigating a theory, or have we lost the scientific cause on the way blinded by the ‘light’ of evolution?

    Yes, but scientists have investigated the claims of Creationists and found them to be wanting. Lysenkoism is not taught as science, despite being a “scientific theory”, because it has been shown to be untenable. Here are a couple of links:

  5. […] students to become citizens, he apparently does not see good science as equally important. As noted here last year, a private educational organisation run by a millionaire Creationist has been given […]

  6. […] Education syllabus in use in fifty independent British schools (see my 2004 blog entry on the topic here). From his Diary in the latest New Statesman, where he discusses his recent TV polemic against […]

  7. […] science teacher at Emmanuel College in Gateshead. As has been widely reported (and blogged by me here), Emmanuel College is a privately-run state school funded by a millionaire creationist businessman […]

  8. […] David Vardy (brother of the controversial Creationist businessman Peter Vardy, whom I blogged on here) as new director. However, negative coverage continued, and in November 2003 the Co-operative […]

  9. […] education. Academies are allowed to depart to some extent from the national curriculum, and back in 2004 it was revealed that one school, under the control of an evangelical businessman named Peter Vardy, […]

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