New Christian academy rejects creationism as 'rubbish'
A new Christian academy which unlike many church schools will operate a truly inclusive admission's policy has said that it will not be teaching creationism because such a view is 'rubbish'.
The Oasis Trust announced yesterday it was to become the latest organisation to establish one of the government's 200 new academy schools.
The Rev Steve Chalke, founding director of the Oasis Trust, told EducationGuardian.co.uk that it is planning to open the school in Enfield, north London, in September 2007. It will have a specialism in business and will be a faith-based academy, but will not teach the creationist view of the world.
He also insisted he would not be running the school independently of the local authority, as the benefactors of the academies are able to do. Without engaging the local authority and other interested agencies, he said, a new school in the area risks creating "sink" schools around it.
Last week, the government announced there would be 200 new academies developed over the next five years in areas where schools are failing. For each academy, an independent organisation donates £2m and the government puts in £200m to build it. The school is run by the donor outside of local authority control, but within national regulations.
The Oasis trust already helps to run a number of education, health and social welfare projects in England and around the world, said the vision for the academy is one that provides not only teaching for 11 to 18-year-olds in an area with a shortage of school places, but health and social care too.
The trust, which runs government-funded projects, but generally works from donations, says it can use some of its own funds to meet the £2m investment. "I'm going to run the marathon next year," said Mr Chalke. "The world record for fundraising from a marathon run is £1m for a single runner. I'm going to break the record."
Asked whether the academy would advocate the teaching of creationism, which has been taught alongside scientific explanations of how the world came into being at other academies sponsored by Christian organisations, he said: "No. We will develop an open and honest curriculum and we will not impose our views on anyone.
"My personal belief is that... those who wish to read into Genesis chapter one that God made the world in six days... are not being honest and scholarly. It won't be taught in the school because I think it's rubbish. It's a bizarre thing to claim the Bible suggests that. Genesis is saying that behind creation is a good God."
He added that the trust's charter included a phrase that prohibited them from "proselytising" or imposing their view of the world on anyone they work with.
He said that the organisation "wasn't interested" in running an independent school. "We want to operate very closely alongside the other schools and the local council and we've arranged the steering group to ensure that the leader of the council can always be there if he wants. We want the curriculum to be developed by the whole group.
"One of the problems we confront is that it's easy to start a brand new shiny school with money pumped into it which then turns other schools in the area into second or third choice... All they do is create a sink school. I fundamentally disagree with creating an oasis for some people, which create a desert for others."
Councillor Glynis Vince, cabinet member for education, at Enfield borough council, said: "I am delighted to hear that the plans for the academy are coming on well. This new school will give young people a real choice about where to study. In addition DfES funding for the feasibility studies will also enable us to involve the local community and other local schools in our plans."