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Thursday, 14 March, 2002, 11:19 GMT
School attacked over evolution teaching
Fossil
There are struggles in the US over evolution lessons
Leading scientists are calling for school inspectors to re-examine a UK faith school over the way it is teaching evolution.

Professor Richard Dawkins and others claim fundamentalist Christian teachers at the top school are steering children towards a purely biblical explanation of how the world was created.

Professor Dawkins, the famous genetics author from Oxford University, says children at Emmanuel College in Gateshead are being taught "ludicrous falsehoods".

The row mirrors those in the United States, between religious groups, which want Creationism taught in schools, and scientists.

Christian school

In the Commons on Wednesday, Prime Minister Tony Blair defended Emmanuel College saying reports that it was promoting creationism were "somewhat exaggerated".

The school is a City Technology College, set up with private money, and it does not have to follow the national curriculum. It is also a non-denominational Christian school.

Professor Dawkins says the schools' inspectors, Ofsted, who gave Emmanuel College a glowing report, could not have understood the school's approach to science and should re-inspect.


These children are being taught ludicrous falsehoods

Professor Richard Dawkins, Oxford
He told BBC Radio Four's Today programme: "I am very aware that it got very good ratings in the previous inspection.

"I can only think that the inspectors overlooked or were not shown what was going on in science teaching.

"I think the same could be said of Tony Blair in the House of Commons yesterday.

"He, no doubt, had seen the Ofsted report. He naturally has to take what the report says."

Professor Dawkins has written to Ofsted asking for the school to be re-inspected.

Other leading scientists who have made the same call include genetics expert Professor Steve Jones of University College, London (UCL), and Professor David Colquhoun, also of UCL.

Professor Dawkins said he had proof that Emmanuel College was telling its teachers to question any references in textbooks to the world being billions of years old, because creationism suggested the Universe was no more than a few thousand of years old.

Willing

He told Today: "These children are being taught ludicrous falsehoods.

"This is not a matter of one scientific position against another scientific position.

"There is no scientific position which states that the Earth is a few thousand years old. Any bishop would say the same."

The school's head teacher declined to comment, but Sir Peter Vardy, who donated 2m to help fund the school, said it was more than willing to have Ofsted return to see what it was doing.

See also:

11 Mar 02 | Americas
Evolution challenged in US schools
07 Oct 99 | Education
Evolution removed from school tests
17 Dec 99 | Education
Creation story still banned in class
24 Nov 99 | Education
Ten Commandments schools back down
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