Accelerated Christian Education Under Spotlight

Thanks to Richard Dawkins, the British public are finally taking notice of the Accelerated Christian 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 religion:

One of my TV locations was a London school that follows the (American) Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) syllabus. The day after watching my show, three colleagues told me they had interviewed, for a place at university, a young woman who had been taught (not at the same school) using ACE. She turned out to be the worst candidate they had ever encountered. She had no idea that thinking was even an option: her job was either to know or guess the “right” answer. Worse, she had no clue how bad she was, having always scored at least 95 per cent in exams – the National Christian Schools Certificate (NCSC). Should my colleagues write to Ofsted [the British schools inspectorate] about ACE and NCSC? Unfortunately, Ofsted is the organisation that gave a rave review to Tony Blair’s pet city academy in Gateshead: a Christian school whose head of science thinks the entire universe began after the domestication of the dog.

The school that Dawkins visited was the Phoenix Academy in Edmonton, and a partial transcript of his encounter with the headmaster has been provided by a poster at The

DAWKINS: In one section of the science thing, I was taken aback because I suddenly started reading about Noah’s Ark. What’s that got to do with Science?

[ADRIAN] HAWKES: (LAUGHS) I suppose that depends on your opinion. It could have a lot. If you believe in the story, it could have a lot to do with science.

Dawkins’s programme also led to an article on ACE in the Times Educational Supplement, although I could find only a brief extract.

Another London school which uses ACE is the Tabernacle School in Kensington, which is known for taking on troubled students. The Conservative Party in particular has had a long-standing interest in this school – former party leader Iain Duncan Smith is the school’s patron, and just a few weeks ago Tory Diary noted the enthusiasm of Shadow Education Secretary David Willetts:

He praised the Tabernacle School of North Kensington which, run by an evangelical church, provides a high quality education to children outside of the state system and for lower income parents.

The school has also been recently praised by the right-wing Social Affairs Unit:

I learned that the school taught Creation, but was told that the school:

made the children aware of the existence of Darwin’s Theory. To us it is only a theory.

I would say it is more: it is a heresy, a heresy of Anglicanism so Anglican in flavour as to have become the Official Faith of England. Tabernacle School is better off without it. (1)

The BBC has a profile here.


(1) The Social Affairs Unit has a habit of publishing absurd and pompous articles decrying the supposed deficiencies of evolutionary biology – PZ Myers has demolished a couple. Perhaps they’ve now decided they’re on safer ground if they make criticisms that are so bizarre and vacuous that really nothing can be said about them at all.

(New Statesman hat tip to MediaWatchWatch)