Tagged: Education

Bad news on academies

Thank you if you emailed your MP about the Academies Bill in response to an urgent appeal a few days ago, but it doesn’t look as though we’ve had much success. One of our members had an email from his MP, as follows:

Thank you for your email … and I note your concerns.

However, I have a different view to you on this matter and am a great advocate of faith schools.

I think you will find that there are safeguards for a balanced curriculum and I will not be tabling any amendments.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Therese Coffey MP
Suffolk Coastal

The Academies Bill is being rushed through Parliament with undue haste to try to get it sorted before the summer recess, which starts on 27 July. Amendments tabled by Dr Julian Huppert MP, vice chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group, would have prevented or restricted religious discrimination in the new Academies’ admissions policies.

Educational confusion

SchoolchildrenI enjoy visiting schools and talking to students but I’m so glad I’m not a teacher any more. All the teachers I know have complained about frequent changes of government policy, masses of paperwork, and SATs testing (Standard Attainment Tests), which have reduced young children to gibbering wrecks with the stress.

I’m glad I’m not the parent of a school-age child either. There’s been a lot of talk about parental choice, but from what I’ve read, your choices have been limited. If you’re not religious, for example, and all the local schools have a religious ethos, you can either do what many parents do, and pretend to be religious to get your child into the best school, judged by its exam results and Ofsted reports, or what? Find the money to transport your child to a school that’s free from religion? It’s become so complicated that pushy parents are having to devote a lot of time to researching their options.

Leaving SACRE

After many years as a Humanist representative on Suffolk’s Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education (SACRE), a full member* for the last two years, I resigned at today’s meeting and recommended Andrew Morrison, our group chairperson, as my replacement. I’ve enjoyed my involvement with SACRE, though there are so many changes in the offing that I’m happy for Andrew to deal with them. He’ll be fine!

BBC Radio 4 – play about the 1925 Scopes ‘Monkey’ trial

In 1925, one of the most unusual trials ever seen in a United States courtroom took place. Earlier that year, the state of Tennessee had passed the Butler Act, which made the teaching of evolution illegal. In the stifling July heat, and in a courtroom hung with banners proclaiming ‘Read Your Bible Daily’, 24-year-old teacher John Scopes stood trial.

For celebration, amusement, or just to pass the time

A few of the stories that have caught my eye on the Interweb this week:

* As an antidote to the depressing news that a significant proportion of British people think that creationism ought to be included in school science lessons, we can celebrate a development in education. Evolution will be in the national curriculum for primary schools when the new version is published soon. Andrew Copson from the BHA wrote in the Guardian:

The new primary curriculum, together with the 2007 government guidance that prohibits the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in science lessons, should put English schools in the forefront of education about evolution. Coming in the month which marks the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species, and at a point when good science education is a matter of urgency, it could not be more timely.

* We will have to remain vigilant, however, when loonies of all sorts seek access to our classrooms. The Times Educational Supplement reported a couple of days ago that …

A school initiative that trains children in “energy therapy” has been criticised as unscientific by two senior academics.

The creationism in schools debate on BBC Radio Suffolk

I was on BBC Radio Suffolk today, talking about the MORI poll that shows 54% of Britons think creationism & ID should be taught in school science lessons.

You can listen again via the website. It’s on the James Hazell programme, from about 10.10am. The other contributor was Prof. Michael Reiss, who resigned from his role as the Royal Society’s director of Education over the issue.

Listen to the phone-in after the interviews.

54% of Britons need remedial science education

54% of Britons think creationism and intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution in school science lessons, according to a MORI poll commissioned by the British Council, which suggests that those 54% didn’t pay much attention to their own science lessons, or weren’t taught well.

If the school curriculum was determined by parental choice, ignorance would be perpetuated ad infinitum.

Myth-busting with Dawkins

RainbowRichard Dawkins has struck a book deal with Transworld, part of the Random House group, with a title aimed at teenagers, due out in autumn 2011:

Aimed at the adult and young adult market, the book addresses big questions about the natural world, including What is a Rainbow? Why are there Seasons? and Who Was the First Man and the First Woman? Each question is answered first by myth and legend, and then by lucid scientific explanation.

No. 10’s response to e-petition on evolution in the primary school

The Prime Minister’s Office has responded to an e-petition that read:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to include the teaching of evolution by natural selection in the new national primary curriculum.

Details of Petition:

Scientists are agreed that all today’s living organisms have evolved over millions of years from simpler organisms. This evolution is best explained by Darwin’s theory of natural selection and its subsequent refinement. Natural selection is the most powerful tool for understanding living things. The current draft curriculum includes living things but omits evolution and natural selection. These ideas are needed to lay a foundation for later studies and to help children see their place in the living world and the universe.