[img]https://humanists.international/uploads/creationist.jpg[/img]Plans for a badly needed new school for a small village in the middle of England recently hit the national headlines and even made some international magazines. Why? The school is to be built because of a financial contribution made by a sponsor who wants Creationism to be taught there. If the plan goes ahead, the existing state-run school in the village will be closed down, giving parents little option but to submit their children to be educated by those who think that the Earth is just a few thousand years old.
The village of Denaby grew up around a huge coal mine, but this has now closed. The locals are used to struggling against hardship, and they know how to fight. They are furious about the new school and the parents have mounted an amazingly successful campaign to raise awareness of their plight. They have had letters of support from around the world and been featured on radio and TV, in practically every national newspaper, and even the internationally respected Economist magazine. One of their coups was an article in a top national newspaper written jointly by world famous biologist Richard Dawkins and a liberal Anglican bishop. Professor Dawkins is an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society who has been helping the school with their campaign.
If only the problem were confined to one school. But the same sponsor has already opened two spanking new Creationist schools, and plans to take the total of his schools to seven. He is car dealer Sir Peter Vardy, an evangelical Christian.
These schools form part of an ‘Academy’ initiative, promoted personally by the British Prime Minister Tony Blair. In return for paying only 10% of the building cost, sponsors are able to control the schools, select which pupils can attend them – and peddle whatever antiscience they wish. Central government pays the remaining 90% of the construction costs and then pays the salaries and running costs of the schools in perpetuity.
The Academy initiative is expected to expand to 250 new schools, and the Government have welcomed with open arms a proposal by the UK’s established church, the Church of England, to open 100 new secondary schools with similar control and also with absurdly generous subsidies. What a devout country, you must be thinking. Well, actually not. The BBC’s recent world religion study revealed the UK to be the most religiously sceptical country it surveyed. Following 60 years of decline, only 2% of the population attends a Church of England church on an average Sunday, and 40% of the population do not believe in God, according to a Government sponsored survey. But in Mr Blair we have the most Christian prime minister for over a hundred years, and his ‘New’ Labour party has a majority of 150 seats in Parliament.
The odds are stacked severely against the Denaby parents, but the National Secular Society is working with top lawyers to work out how a legal challenge can be mounted.
[i]Keith Porteous Wood[/i]
Executive Director, National Secular Society, UK