Dawkins attacks creationist plans
Richard Dawkins 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 Genesis 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."
A row originally erupted last spring when the Guardian revealed that some evangelical teachers at Emmanuel did not believe in evolution and were undermining the scientific teaching of biology.
A number of leading scientists then 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.
The national curriculum requires schools to teach evolution but does not ban them from teaching creationism as well.
The new schools will be funded by a foundation set up by Sir Peter Vardy, who has made his wealth from a Sunderland-based car dealership and 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," said Sir Peter.
"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."