Creationist Free School bids rejected as other ‘faith’ schools advance to interviews
Bids to set up creationist Free Schools have been rejected by the Department for Education (DfE). In particular, the DfE have turned down a high-profile bid from Sheffield Christian Free School, which would have been affiliated to the Christian Schools’ Trust (CST) network of largely creationist private schools. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has welcomed the news; however, at least 15 other proposals to open ‘faith’ schools in 2013 have advanced to the interview stage.
Considering different creationist bids:
• Creationist Everyday Champions Church’s bid to establish Exemplar Academy appears to have been withdrawn, with the website having vanished prior to the application deadline.
• The fate of other proposals from CST schools such as Destiny Christian School in Bedford and Barnsley Christian School is unknown, but it is unlikely that they were successful.
• Similarly, it is unknown whether CofE school Clayton Academy, proposed by creationist Jesmond Parish Church – who have strong links to the Christian Institute – has progressed.
• Interestingly, creationism is not given as a cause for Sheffield Christian Free School’s rejection, in contrast to when Everyday Champions Academy’s bid was rejected last year.
In terms of other faith-based bids:
• 5 CofE schools have gone to interview: Bradford Girls' Grammar School; Fulham Boys School; Bristol Cathedral Choir Primary School; University Cathedral School, Chester; and St Mary's Hampton Church of England Primary School, Richmond. Proposals for an Anglican school in St Albans have been put back to 2014.
• 1 Greek Orthodox proposal, St Andrew The Apostle Greek Orthodox School in Trent Park, has likewise progressed.
• 5 other Christian proposals have also gained interviews: Sevenoaks Christian School; Durham Free School; Oasis Community School, Southwark; Kings School, Hove; and Tyndale Community School, Oxford. The Proposed Priorslee School plan is also progressing, although as the impetus for that is from the local authority, it is unclear as to what extent that is occurring within the Free School schedule. Oasis Southwater Community School (with Horsham Churches Together) was withdrawn for 2013 and Weston-super-Mare Christian Academy was rejected; both will now be proposed in 2014.
• 3 Jewish proposals: Leeds Jewish Free School ; South London Jewish Primary School, Wandsworth; and The New Jewish Primary School Finchley have gained interviews.
• 1 Sikh proposal, Leicester Sikh School, has also gained an interview.
In addition, 3 Steiner groups and 1 Maharishi proposal have progressed. The fate of other proposals is unknown. The BHA believes it has only been able to identify about one-third of all proposals.
BHA Faith Schools Campaigner Richy Thompson commented, ‘We welcome the government’s continuing opposition to proposed creationist schools, and are glad to see that no such proposals have been accepted. We hope that the new rules introduced in January to preclude the teaching of pseudoscience should discourage groups from even applying next year.
‘However, we remain concerned at the number and diversity of faith-based proposals for Free Schools. The speed with which new “faith” schools are opening continues to accelerate. The BHA is not opposed to Free Schools, but worries that they have the potential to teach skewed curricula from unqualified teachers.’