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Monday, 18 March, 2002, 21:13 GMT
School privatisation 'lacks control'
secondary school
Privatisation of state schools has been limited so far
A teachers' leader has suggested that the prime minister's fondness for privatisation, faith schools and "diversity" could see the Unification Church - the Moonies - running state schools in England.

Eamonn O'Kane, who is about to take over as general secretary of the NASUWT union, questioned whether there were adequate safeguards over the city academies being set up with private sponsorship.

"You can't control the policies of people putting in very substantial sums of money," he said, referring to the fuss over the supposed teaching of creationism at Emmanuel College in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear.

"It's quite clear that some of these people have got very strong views and are keen that those views be propagated.

"Is that a direction that state education wants to see?"

Privatisation opposed

He said the Moonies "have got billions haven't they?" - and could present themselves as an alternative provision.

The result of the process was "better-qualified bigots", added the union's general secretary, Nigel de Gruchy.

They were briefing journalists ahead of their annual conference, which will be considering among other things a motion opposing the privatisation of education as "unethical".

Mr de Gruchy said he could not understand why the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and a few special advisers had "bees in their bonnets" on the issue.

Outside backing

Emmanuel is a city technology college - set up with funding from the Christian philanthropist Sir Peter Vardy, head of the Reg Vardy car dealership chain.

It was not suggested that he was associated with the Unification Church, which reveres its Korean founder, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon - "the True Father" - as the messiah.

City technology colleges - a Conservative innovation - are the model for the new city academies Labour is establishing with backing from business and church groups.

One of Emmanuel's most important stated aims is to give its students "the opportunity to come to Christ and to learn lessons for life through the bible" - while stressing that "pupils are never encouraged to believe for the sake of it, and are by no means indoctrinated".


Last week some leading scientists complained that it was teaching a purely biblical explanation of how the world was created.

The college pointed to the requirement of the national curriculum, which says children should be taught "how scientific controversies can arise from different ways of interpreting empirical evidence [for example, Darwin's theory of evolution]".

The college said it took this to mean "that the discussion of the scientific evidences in the Creation/Evolution debate, amongst other things, must form part of all pupils' education".

The college has declined to elaborate upon the statement issued last week.

Questioned about it in the Commons, Mr Blair said reports that it was promoting creationism were "somewhat exaggerated" but that the education system benefited from "diversity".

His government is encouraging the creation of more single faith schools, by increasing the level of public funding they get.

See also:

11 Mar 02 | Americas
Evolution challenged in US schools
18 Jan 02 | Education
Church group to run state school
28 Feb 02 | Americas
Brazil probes Moonie land purchases
07 Oct 99 | Education
Evolution removed from school tests
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