Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Religion/1: Setbacks for Faith Schools

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Religion/1: Setbacks for Faith Schools

Article excerpt

It has been a bad couple of weeks for religious indoctrination in schools, with four small victories for those of a secular mind. First, the second-hand car dealer and Christian fundamentalist Sir Peter Vardy was forced to give up his attempt to turn Northcliffe School--a council-run establishment near Doncaster--into a city academy that would teach creationism at public expense.

Northcliffe is the only secondary school within reasonable distance of its local village. A group of local parents argued that they were being given no choice but to send their children to a school where they would be fed an extreme form of right-wing Christianity. After being threatened with judicial review by the National Secular Society, the council dropped its proposal to allow Vardy to take over.

However, Vardy is still on track to own and control seven city academies within the next decade, at all of which he will control the curriculum. He can--and will--force children to learn that evolution is just one theory, and that it is equally valid to suggest that God might have created the world in seven days. But Northcliffe represents a small victory for freedom.

Meanwhile, Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, has told four Catholic schools in Essex to stop discriminating against pupils who do not put a Catholic school as their first choice. The National Secular Society says that schools in at least three other dioceses--Westminster, Southwark and Brentwood--discriminate in similar fashion, and it has asked Clarke to extend his ruling to them. …

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