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UK bans teaching of creationism theory in free schools

Published time: June 19, 2014 14:44
Edited time: June 27, 2014 07:48
AFP Photo / Timothy A. Clary

AFP Photo / Timothy A. Clary

UK free schools are now banned from teaching creationism as an alternative to evolution. The theory faces rising opposition in the UK, unlike in the US where private schools championing creationism receive millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money.

According to government documents, schools found teaching the doctrine as a fact will be in violation of the state Funding Agreement.

As part of a “broad and balanced” education, British free schools will no longer be allowed to teach creationism as if it were fact. In future, its teaching will be confined to religious education classes, as long as it is not presented as a valid alternative to established scientific theory.

The government has published a new set of guidelines curbing the practice in academies and free schools.

“The parties further recognize that the requirement on every academy and free school to provide a broad and balanced curriculum, in any case prevents the teaching of creationism as evidence based theory in any academy or free school,” the documents say.

Academies and free schools are financed by the state, but have more freedom than other educational institutions as they are not required to follow the national curriculum and are not controlled by elected local authorities. There are around 174 free schools operating in the UK – around 1 percent of schools.

Free schools were initially set up in 2011 and were championed by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government as a way of encouraging innovation outside of state limitations. However, it was revealed by The Guardian in 2012 that three free schools with creationist policies had been approved for opening by Education Secretary Michael Gove.

Since then secular campaigners have been pushing for the government to introduce stricter regulations to outlaw the teaching of creationism as an alternative to Darwinism.

In contrast to the UK, the theory of creationism is much more widespread in the US where millions of dollars in taxpayers’ money is donated to private schools that teach the theory. Also, in the states of Tennessee and Louisiana creationism and intelligent design are legitimately taught in state schools.

Last month, a Gallup poll revealed that the majority of Americans prefer to believe that humanity was created by the Almighty, or guided by God in its evolution. Only 19 percent believe humans evolved from a more primitive form of life without any help from a higher being.