Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

No God-Given Right to University Places

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

No God-Given Right to University Places

Article excerpt

Christian school 'misled' pupils over value of its qualifications

A school that teaches a fundamentalist Christian curriculum, and where course books have claimed that the Loch Ness monster disproves evolution, has been censured by the advertising watchdog for making "misleading" claims about the value of its qualifications.

Emmanuel School in Exeter was told by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that a statement on its website that International Certificate of Christian Education exams "attract Ucas points" was misleading.

The ruling is expected to have a wider impact on other schools that make claims about the ICCE helping students to gain places at university. The qualifications are offered in private faith schools that follow the Accelerated Christian Education programme (see panel, opposite).

Emmanuel School claimed the exams were "formal recognition of the work completed by children on the ACE curriculum" because they were listed in the Ucas International Qualifications handbook, but the ASA ruled that this could wrongly make people believe the qualifications were endorsed by the university admissions service.

In 2009, the UK government-funded National Academic Recognition Information Centre (Naric) controversially deemed the intermediate and advanced ICCE exams equivalent to qualifications offered by the Cambridge International Examinations board.

Amid revelations that some ACE curriculum materials had called evolution an "indefensible theory" and described homosexuality as a "learned behaviour", Naric launched a review of course content, but stood by its original decision.

Concerns were also raised that students used textbooks that said the existence of the Loch Ness monster could help to disprove the theory of evolution.

Despite winning approval from Naric, the ICCE exams are not endorsed by Ucas and it is unclear if any universities formally accept them - although people holding the qualifications have been admitted to undergraduate courses.

Matt Wilson, a spokesman for the ASA, said the organisation would not "proactively pursue" other schools making similar claims but would expect them to be "mindful" of the ruling.

Jonny Scaramanga, who was educated under the ACE curriculum but has campaigned against schools operating it for some years, told TES it was vital that parents were made aware of the true value of the ICCE qualifications.

"There is a risk that children could complete their education thinking that they have a university entrance qualification, but in fact they don't," he said. …

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