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30.11.12

‘Evolution clause’ introduced into free schools agreement

All free schools will now be explicitly required to teach evolution instead of creationism as scientific theory, following concerns over Christian-run schools finding loopholes in the wording of their agreements with the DfE.

Scientists raised concerns that certain institutions could present creationism as a credible theory. The DfE has approved three free schools run by groups with openly creationist views, which will only receive state funding if they pledge to teach creationism as a religious concept in RE, and not as a part of the science curriculum.

Geneticist Sir Paul Nurse told the Guardian: “What they had done was only focus on part of the problem. They had, quite reasonably, controlled the possibility that creationism might be taught as science, but what hadn't been protected was that evolution should be taught at all.

“You could have ended up, if a school was so minded, not to teach creationism in science but to discuss creationism as the basis of the origin of species in religious studies, and not talk about evolution in science studies. In that case, the only message would have been about creationism and the message about evolution by natural selection could have been completely lost.”

The new clause in funding agreements says free schools must “make provision for the teaching of evolution as a comprehensive, coherent and extensively evidenced theory”.

Lord Hill, the schools minister, sent a letter to Sir Paul this week saying: “While we have always been clear that we would expect to see evolution included in schools' science curricula, this new clause will provide more explicit reassurance that free schools will have to meet that expectation.”

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