Skip to comments.Fundamentalist education raises eyebrows in Britain (U.K. Gov't sponsors Christian schools...)
Posted on 08/02/2005 4:46:44 AM PDT by gobucks
With all the prizes handed out and after a few words from the principal, the end of term ceremony ends with a prayer. Heavenly Father, intones one of the governors of the Kings Academy in Middlesbrough, north-east England, You are the foundation of all we do here.
Prayers are not unusual in British schools. Unlike many other European countries and the US, the UK does not seek to keep religion out of state education. Churches operate state schools, religious education is on the national curriculum and prayers are an optional feature of morning assembly.
Yet the celebration of God at the Kings Academy has raised eyebrows since the secondary school was opened two years ago as one of the flagships of a government programme to transform the UKs worst schools in the state sector with the involvement of private money and expertise. The school, free of charge and non-selective, is one of 17 city academies, a number the government hopes to multiply.
On the outskirts of Middlesbrough, an ailing industrial city, the school is backed by Sir Peter Vardy, the multimillionaire head of one of the UKs biggest car dealerships and an evangelical Christian.
Teaching unions, already suspicious of private sector involvement in state education, claim Sir Peter is using his influence as sponsor to promote Christian fundamentalist beliefs and in particular creationism. Creationism follows a literal Biblical interpretation of the genesis of humanity as opposed to the widely accepted theory of evolution.
I dont think our members understand why rightwing Christian fundamentalists can pay £2m [$3.5m, 3m] of £20m [school] start-up costs and have control of a curriculum that posits creationism, says Mary Bousted, head of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.
Sir Peter rejects such claims, saying he accepts evolution theory and is not some sort of nutcase.
He notes that while city academies such as Kings are free from the control of local government, which usually has responsibility for education in Britain, it chooses to follow the national curriculum, which teaches evolution theory.
Pupils are also told of alternative viewpoints, including creationism, and encouraged to consider the claims of the Bible along with the national curriculum. A Christian ethos is present in many aspects of school life for example, in a biblical proverb on a plaque commemorating the opening of the school by Tony Blair, the UKs prime minister.
Kings is the second school backed by Sir Peter. A third opens in September and he says he would like to open several in the next few years. Bob Edmiston, another multimillionaire car dealer, based in the English Midlands, last month announced plans to open two Christian ethos academies.
Nigel McQuoid, Belfast- born principal of Kings, says the Christian view is the driving force behind an emphasis on values such as hard work, honesty, courage, respect and a sense of purpose. I am not a great worshipper of science, he says, adding that while secularists may be willing to explore the idea of the existence of extraterrestrial existence, they will not accept a fifth dimension may be God.
The bookshelves in his office include titles such as Responding to the Challenge of Evolution and Darwin and the Rise of Degenerate Science. He says he wants a school where people are talking about these things but that no particular views are imposed on children.
They do give you a different perspective, says Andrew Emmerson, a sports-mad 16-year-old, who describes himself as not at all Christian. Since starting at Kings last year, he says he has become a lot more aware of religious issues.
Of greater concern for Mr Emmerson was the lack of flexibility over the blazered school uniform pupils must wear. It is an expression of the traditional values Kings espouses. Others are strict discipline and organisation of pupils into houses that generate internal competition.
Sir Peter and Mr McQuoid say such things improve behaviour and academic achievement. But critics say claims that academies achieve better results are unproven and that they have unfairly benefited from generous government spending on buildings and facilities. Research showing that exam scores for 16-year-olds from academies have improved faster than the national average are based on a limited number of examples, critics claim.
Kings says parents want many features associated with traditional education that have disappeared from many UK state secondary schools. At the prize-giving ceremony some parents expressed approval of the regime, though some said they found it a bit strict. But, at best, only half joined in the prayer.
England has an established Religion.
FA Premiership Football?
there's hope for england yet.
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