Page last updated at 13:25 GMT, Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Hull parents warned over 'fundamentalist' faith school

The school will follow a curriculum promoting the literal truth of the Bible

Parents have been warned that a private faith school set to open in Hull this year could "indoctrinate" children with "fundamentalist" Christian teaching.

The £2,000-a-year New Life Academy is due to open in Bridlington Avenue in the west of the city this September.

Senior minister Reverend Jarrod Cooper said it would offer "individualised" Christian learning to allow pupils to develop at their own pace.

Opponents say children will be isolated and taught the Bible is literally true.

This is a school which is run by a church which is actually quite fundamentalist
Terry Sanderson, National Secular Society president

The school will follow the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) curriculum formulated by an educational products company in the US.

ACE lists its principles in a "statement of faith" which includes a belief that the Bible is literally true.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: "You do not have to look far on the internet to find people who describe themselves as survivors of ACE education because it is an indoctrination style of work.

"It is tutoring with a very strong biblical flavour that dominates everything.

"A lot of people who have been through this system are saying it stopped them from being able to think for themselves.

"They learn things by rote, not by inquiry and exploration.

'Quite fundamentalist'

"The children are kept separate from each other in what they call cubes; they are not allowed to talk to each other. The tutors come along and help them learn long passages from the Bible by rote.

"I fear for these really deeply religious schools because this is a school which is run by a church which is actually quite fundamentalist.

"They can make their own religious education and it can be anything, it can include creationism and literal belief in Genesis and all this kind of thing.

"I don't think it's fair on children to saddle them with that and then discourage them from questioning it at all.

"Any parent who is thinking of going to this school should think and ask questions about this system before they commit themselves to it."

Mr Cooper said: "We are using the ACE curriculum which is a kind of individualised Christian learning.

This is an individualised learning so every child... learns at their own pace
The Reverend Jarrod Cooper, New Life Academy senior minister

"You need to forget the lecture/classroom type of environment where the teacher is teaching 20, 30, 40 pupils and whether they have all got the subject or not the class is moving on.

"This is an individualised learning so every child has their own learning station and learns at their own pace."

He said he had visited similar schools in Europe and South Africa and "noticed they were raising quite a good calibre of child".

Asked how the school would approach the teaching of science, and evolution in particular, he said: "A lot of people think Christians spend all their time thinking about a seven-day creation; they really don't.

"It is not a main part of the church's everyday thinking."

On sex education, he said: "A lot of people want basic good morality taught and marriage being the bedrock of society, but not in any indoctrinating way."

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