From the Sunday Telegraph;
Richard Dawkins among academics calling for compulsory evolution teaching at primary school
Evolution should be taught to all primary school pupils, according to leading scientists and academics.
Experts including three Nobel laureates and Richard Dawkins, the prominent atheist, are calling on the new Government to make teaching of the theory a compulsory part of the curriculum.
They say it is necessary because of the increasing number of schools that do not have to follow the curriculum, and because of the “threat” posed by the religious concept of creationism.
It comes after two proposals to ensure pupils are taught Darwin’s theory of natural selection were dropped, one by Labour and the other by the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition.
The 26 signatories to the letter sent to Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, say they are “deeply concerned that evolution and science form a core part of any revised primary curriculum”.
They wrote: “Evolution is the most important idea underlying biological science. It is a key concept that children should be introduced to at an early stage.
“Whatever curriculum reforms are made, we urge that there is teaching of evolution for all school-age children, and especially in the primary curriculum.”
Most English schools teach evolution, the theory developed by Charles Darwin that organisms develop over time with only the most successful mutations surviving.
But in recent years its position has been challenged by the increasing popularity of theories supported by devout Muslims and Christians.
So-called “young Earth” creationists believe the story of Genesis is literally true and that God made the world in six days, although both the Vatican and the Church of England insist that Darwin’s thinking is compatible with Christianity. Intelligent design theory holds that the universe is so complex it must have been made by someone.
Two years ago a survey found that one in three teachers believed creationism is just as valid as evolution, while the Rev Prof Michael Reiss lost his job as director of education at the Royal Society after suggesting that creationism should be discussed in science lessons. He is one of those to sign the new letter.
In response, campaigners lobbied Labour ministers to include explicit teaching of evolution for all ages in the Children, Schools and Families Bill but it fell by the wayside as the law was rushed through just before the election.
Labour had also accepted the recommended by Sir Jim Rose, in his review of the primary curriculum, that young pupils should be taught evolutionary theory. But his plan, which would have come into effect in 2011, is not being carried out by the new Government.
This has prompted the new campaign to see evolution enshrined in the primary curriculum, which is being led by the British Humanist Association.
Andrew Copson, its chief executive, said: "It was a real victory for good education to have biology's 'big idea' included in the primary science curriculum for the first time last year, and it was with huge disappointment that we saw those reforms lost.
"The teaching of science equips young people with the skills they need to understand the world around them in a critical way, and opens up the natural environment for inquiry.
"The skills children learn from science are life-skills and it is of the utmost importance that, whatever reforms are made to schools and curricula, science keeps a central place.
"As the central concept underlying biology, we want evolution to have an explicit inclusion in the curriculum in all schools.
"As increasing number of schools, such as the new academies, will no longer have to follow the national curriculum, it is imperative that there is a firm basis for teaching evolution and natural selection, not least in light of the threat of creationism in science lessons in some schools."
The Department for Education said it would respond fully to the demands made in the letter but added that it would also review the curriculum for primary school pupils.