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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 April 2006, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
'Creationist' school is praised
Emmanuel College
The foundation behind Emmanuel College has attracted controversy
A college that is sponsored by a fundamentalist Christian foundation has been rated as an outstanding school by Ofsted - for the third time in a row.

Emmanuel College, in Gateshead, is backed by the philanthropist Sir Peter Vardy, and attracts controversy by teaching pupils about Creationism.

The city technology college was called "remarkable" in the latest report.

It is now one of only 12 secondary schools in the country to have received three consecutive top ratings.

Emmanuel College has a strong Christian ethos but has attracted controversy by teaching Biblical creationism as well as evolutionary theory.

In the latest Ofsted report, inspector Andrew Bennett praised teaching at the school, which has 1,231 pupils.

Excellent behaviour and very high levels of attendance emphasise their desire to make the most of what the college offers them
Andrew Bennett
Ofsted inspector

"Students appreciate their teachers' efforts, enjoy their work and are unfailingly supportive and courteous towards one another," he said.

"Excellent behaviour and very high levels of attendance emphasise their desire to make the most of what the college offers them.

"Students feel safe and secure and, while expected to conform to the college's rules and expectations, are encouraged to express freely their own views and articulate personal feelings."

However, there were some criticisms.

The report stated that more time should be spent helping lower achievers to gain higher grades at GCSE.

And the proportion of A and A* grades needs to be raised after a slight fall last year.


The report prompted Emmanuel head Jonathan Winch to say: "Visitors to college often ask what our secret is and inspectors pretty much put their finger on it when they wrote: 'the specific Christian ethos of the college ensures that the students' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development lies at the heart of all that it does'."

National Union of Teachers leader Steve Sinnott recently said wealthy businessmen should not be able to exert "undue influence" over the way academies were run.

Nigel McQuoid, who chairs Emmanuel's governing body, said: "For Sir Peter Vardy, who so often bears the brunt of unfair criticism over his personal financial support of Emmanuel College and its sister academies in Middlesbrough and Doncaster, this is a hat-trick of which he and everyone connected with Emmanuel is rightly proud."

Sir Peter said recently he believed God had created the Earth and man in his own image.

"Quite how long it took him I don't know and frankly I don't care," he said.

If God had wanted to create the Earth in six days he could have done, he added - but he said that he, as sponsor, had no say in what was taught in the schools.

The Emmanual foundation says its schools teach the theory of evolution, as required by the national curriculum for science.

Creation is taught in religious education. But the two concepts "touch" at points, it says.

This approach has the approval of the Department for Education and Skills and Ofsted, it says, so parents can be assured the issue is not presented as "certain more sensationalist commentators" suggest.

The foundation (ESF) "holds that God made the world and all that is in it".

"ESF holds also that the Bible is God's Word to the world and that it is true."

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