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Last Updated: Friday, 23 July, 2004, 14:08 GMT 15:08 UK
Concern over Bible-based lessons
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Handel: Christian composers are said to provide good study material
The views of a fundamentalist Christian foundation which runs a series of state schools on Biblical principles have come in for renewed criticism.

A curriculum document by Emmanuel College in Gateshead describes how it should seek to infuse all lessons with Biblical Christian thinking.

It asks, for example, whether Hitler halted at the English Channel rather than invading England because of divine intervention.

Emmanuel stresses it teaches the national curriculum, but a teachers' leader fears lessons are being used for "indoctrination".

'Christian Truth'

The document, Christianity and the Curriculum, was published on the college website but has since been removed in a re-design.

A spokesperson said it was "part of the philosophy" of the Emmanuel Foundation, set up by car dealer Sir Peter Vardy.

He sponsored Emmanuel City Technology College and the new King's Academy in Middlesbrough, and plans two other academies in the Doncaster area.

The document says "Christian Truth" has a role in all curriculum subjects.

"Religion and Art are linked together by a common goal: to serve the glory of God and celebrate the complex beauty of His creation," it says.

Business and economics teaching should incude "the power of the media and of revisionist and relativist thinking which would seek to redefine Truth."

A value system "rooted in Biblical Truth" would give students "a solid starting point upon which they need 'lean not on their own understanding' (Proverbs 3.5)".

Science is ... a glimpse into the rational and powerful hand of the Almighty
Christianity and the Curriculum
In history, "we are also able to present to students certain historical actions or philosophies held in the past which are consistent with Biblical Truth".

"In this context, it becomes important to peruse why Hitler paused at the English Channel when an immediate invasion might have lead to a swift victory. Could it be that God was calling a halt to this march of evil?"

'Traditional family unit'

Mathematics is "a disciplined thought-structure which is used to describe the numerical and spatial attributes of God's Creation".

On other religions, the curriculum document says personal faith is "just that" so students should not "put themselves into the shoes" of others.

And "the traditional family unit, heterosexual marriage, faithfulness, the positive option of celibacy/singleness, sexual purity and self-control shall all be presented in positive and sensitive light as God's ideal, accepting that many people today fall short of it."

The study of science is not an end in itself but "a glimpse into the rational and powerful hand of the Almighty".

The document also stresses the importance of pastoral support for students, especially those with special needs.

'Brainwashing' fear

But it has added to concerns of some parents in the Conisbrough and Denaby area of south Yorkshire, where the Emmanuel Foundation plans to open a new city academy.

The parents' action group says that, at a consultation meeting, some people were not troubled by the idea of a Christian fundamentalist outlook, except that it might jeopardise students' examination chances.

Others were worried that "Creationist" teaching and "Biblical Literalism" would give children an unrealistic view of the world.

And some were "outraged" that a form of "brainwashing" may be taking place.

One woman Tracey Morton, whose daughter would be at the new academy, said some children would be extremely vulnerable to such "crackpot" ideas.

Academies - state-funded but independent - did not have to teach the national curriculum, she said.

"At the outset they would be treading quite lightly but 10 years down the line it's appalling to think what freedoms they might have and what they might be teaching in the school."

The general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Mary Bousted, thought the document "extremely worrying".

If people wanted to teach about religion it should be done within the measured framework laid down in the national curriculum, she said.

"To then take the rest of the curriculum and use that as a vehicle for teaching fundamentalist Christianity is using state schooling and the national curriculum for indoctrination.

"It is completely distorting what education should be about," Dr Bousted said.

Popular with parents

A spokesperson for the foundation said this was "old ground" and it had always made clear that its schools had a Christian-based ethos.

"The material doesn't represent what's being taught on a day-to-day basis in our schools. We teach the national curriculum and have always received excellent Ofsted reports.

"The schools' popularity among parents is proven by the many applications we receive, with both schools substantially over-subscribed and achieving outstanding results."

  • The expulsion rate at the King's Academy in Middlesbrough was 2.51% in 2003-04, according to The Times Educational Supplement.

    The average figure for England was 0.23%. The academy says children "exclude themselves" if they break the rules.

    Faith groups back more academies
    17 Jul 04  |  Education
    Protest over new academy
    21 Jun 04  |  Education
    'Creationist' schools attacked
    28 Apr 03  |  Education
    Warning of confusion over Creationism
    27 Mar 02  |  Education

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