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Sunday, 31 March, 2002, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
'Creationism' in schools attacked
Conference
The conference gave a warm welcome to Phil Willis
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Sean Coughlan
BBC News Online at the NUT conference in Bournemouth
line

Religious fundamentalism should not be allowed to interfere with science lessons, the Liberal Democrat education spokesman has warned.

Addressing the National Union of Teachers' conference in Bournemouth, Phil Willis launched a stinging attack on the government's plans to extend faith schools.


It is unacceptable to allow creationism to be taught as superior when teaching science in state schools. It makes a mockery of scientific knowledge

Phil Willis, Liberal Democrat education spokesman

And he highlighted the dispute over Emmanuel College in Gateshead where it has been claimed the Biblical creation story has been given preference over the theory of evolution.

"We must not stand by and see our children become the fodder for the extreme views of religious fundamentalists or their wealthy backers," he said.

Extremism

Mr Willis challenged Ofsted inspectors to "root out such practices and not ignore or encourage them".

And he called on the government to review Ofsted to find why "extreme fundamentalist views" had not been identified in the inspection of Emmanuel College.

While defending the contribution of church schools, he said that this should not be allowed to compromise the content of education.

"It is unacceptable to allow creationism to be taught as superior when teaching science in state schools. It makes a mockery of scientific knowledge," said Mr Willis.

And he warned that the government's plans to attract financial backers for city academies would risk the further introduction of "fundamentalist beliefs on creationism".

"The current debate about creationism is no longer academic, it goes to the very heart of the government's policy on diversity and its love of private partnership," he said.

The combination of "religious segregation and privately sponsored academies" was a "dangerous cocktail", he said.

Mr Willis's speech, which drew a standing ovation, also called for improved pay for teachers, reduced workload and an increase in London allowances.

See also:

11 Mar 02 | Americas
Evolution challenged in US schools
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