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Last Updated: Monday, 28 April, 2003, 15:27 GMT 16:27 UK
'Creationist' schools attacked
Charles darwin
Darwinian theory would be taught alongside the Bible's account

A leading academic has attacked plans to open more schools teaching a 'creationist' view of the origins of life.

The Vardy Foundation, which already runs the Emmanuel College in Gateshead, a non-denominational Christian school, has plans for six more schools in the north-east of England.

The schools would teach creationism - drawn from the Bible's account of the creation of life - alongside the theory of evolution, as developed from the theories of Charles Darwin.

But the plans have been condemned as "educational debauchery" by Richard Dawkins, professor of the public understanding of science at Oxford University.

"To call evolution a faith position equated with creationism is educational debauchery. It is teaching something that is utter nonsense," said Professor Dawkins.

"Evolution is supported by mountains of scientific evidence. These children are being deliberately and wantonly misled."

Under the city academies programme the schools will get some of their initial funding from a foundation set up by Sir Peter Vardy, who has made his wealth from a Sunderland-based car dealership.

The bulk of the money and all of the running costs come from the state.


Sir Peter has defended the way that the foundation's schools present both the Bible account of creation and the Darwinian theory of species evolving over time.

"We present both. One is a theory, the other is a faith position. It is up to the children. We give them an all-round education so both are presented to the students," he said.

"It is a way of improving the level of education for our young people in inner-city areas. Emmanuel has done that. It has a very clean bill of health by Ofsted. It has had the best report that Ofsted has ever written."

The teaching of creationism has previously sparked arguments.

A number of leading scientists last year wrote to the exams watchdog, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, to protest that teaching creationism would confuse pupils studying science.

But a group of scientists responded to this by arguing against any such "narrowing" of the science curriculum - calling for schools to be allowed to examine alternative theories.

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