Saturday, 28 August 2010

News : BHA calls for inquiry as documentary reveals creationism in 'faith' schools

BHA news : BHA calls for inquiry as documentary reveals creationism in 'faith' schools:

The BHA has called for a full parliamentary inquiry into ‘faith schools’ following revelations in a new television documentary to be screened on Wednesday August 18 at 9pm on More4.

‘Faith School Menace?’, presented by BHA distinguished supporter Professor Richard Dawkins, features interviews with religious lobbyists, parents, pupils and experts including BHA chief executive Andrew Copson.

In the film Professor Dawkins discovers that RE lessons in some ‘faith’ schools present creationism as scientific fact, directly contradicting the evolution components of the national curriculum. In a particularly shocking scene, he finds that all 60 Year 10 science students at a Muslim secondary school reject the theory of evolution in favour of the Qur’an's story of Creation. The episode leads Professor Dawkins to call for RE to fall under the National Curriculum and for RE teaching in ‘faith’ schools to be inspected by Ofsted, a policy the BHA has advocated for many years.

The programme also presents the findings of an exclusive ICM poll, in which 59 per cent of the public said they were opposed to any form of state funding for ‘faith schools’.

The screening of the documentary comes as the BHA launches a major new fundraising campaign to support its work against state-funded ‘faith schools’.

BHA chief executive Andrew Copson said:

‘The programme confirms what the BHA has known for many years – that ‘faith’ schools can cause religious and socio-economic segregation and lead to thousands of pupils being denied a broad, balanced and inclusive education. What’s more, as this new poll demonstrates, they are opposed by a clear majority of the public.’

‘Throughout the BHA’s many years of campaigning on this issue, parents, teachers and pupils themselves have consistently opposed ‘faith’ schools. The reasons are clear – they are divisive, discriminatory and unable to fully recognise the rights of their pupils. Unfortunately, with the coalition government’s massive deregulation of education, the situation is only going to get worse.’

Speaking on the teaching of creationism in English ‘faith’ schools, Mr Copson commented:

‘The programme highlights why we urgently need a tightening up of the legal requirements to prevent creation stories being taught as anything other than religious beliefs. If, as this film seems to suggest, creationism is already being taught as fact in conventional ‘faith’ schools then how does the government propose to keep it out of religious ‘free’ schools, which will not have to follow the National Curriculum and are outside local authority control?’

Explaining the BHA’s call for a parliamentary inquiry, Mr Copson continued:

‘We are calling on the newly-formed education select committee to conduct a full inquiry into ‘faith’ schools, looking particularly at their impact on community cohesion, their effect on pupils’ rights, their effect on a balanced curriculum of objective teaching about religious and non-religious beliefs, and the extent to which science teaching may be undermined. Now is the time for politicians to take a critical look at the role of ‘faith’ schools and ask if they really are serving the best interests of children and the wider community.’

Describing the BHA’s new ‘faith schools’ fundraising campaign, Mr Copson said:

‘The documentary comes at an opportune time for the BHA as this week we launch a major new fundraising drive to ensure we can continue to employ our dedicated ‘faith’ schools campaigner for another year. We hope the documentary will act as an incentive for all those concerned about the power and influence of religious groups in our schools to support our work. We must act now to ensure a fairer, more inclusive education for our children in the future.’

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