Millionaire Sunderland businessman wins libel case

Sir Peter Vardy.
Sir Peter Vardy.
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MILLIONAIRE philanthropist Sir Peter Vardy is celebrating after winning a libel case over accusations his four academy schools taught “creationist claptrap”.

Sir Peter, pictured, who was knighted in 2001 for services to education, said the allegations which were printed in the Tribune magazine and attributed to playwright Ed Waugh were fundamentally wrong.

Sir Peter said: “What was being said was that I was building schools and putting £2million into each of them with the specific purpose of teaching children about six-day creationism.

“It is not something I believe myself. I believe God created the Earth and created Man in his own image, but quite how long it took, I don’t know. One day I will find out, because I will ask.

“It could have taken thousands of years, it could have taken millions of years, it could have taken billions of years.”

He said there had never been any attempt to indoctrinate pupils at his schools, Emmanuel College, Gateshead; The King’s Academy, Middlesbrough; Trinity Academy, Doncaster and Bede Academy in Blyth.

Sir Peter said: “We were employing a large number of people in the North East and when they came out of school they were not prepared for the world of work. There was a desperate need to improve the education of these children and improve their life chances for the future and when we got the chance to build schools, it seemed to be the ideal way to do that.

“I built schools in areas of high deprivation to give children in those areas the best possible start in life. The turn around from failure to success has been achieved in a very short space of time and children are going on to the best universities in the country.

“We offer a caring environment in our schools so we can show children that God loves them, but it is not indoctrination - far from it.

“For people to label me as a creationist and say the only reason for my involvement in education was to teach creationism was very hurtful.”

Sir Peter’s lawyers told judges at the High Court in London that the syllabus taught at the schools was ‘entirely orthodox’ and claims that pupils were taught the Book of Genesis was literally true ‘couldn’t be more wrong.’

The court heard Ofsted inspectors had found ‘no evidence at all’ of creationism at any of the schools and heard Tribune editor Chris McLaughlin now accepted the allegations were untrue.

They agreed that Sir Peter - who has also tried to establish an academy on Wearside – was not a creationist and apologised for “any damage caused to his efforts to improve the education of the under-privileged”.

Eloise Power, representing Tribune and Mr McLaughlin, accepted it was the aim of Sir Peter and his foundation to promote the education of needy children and that Sir Peter “has not sponsored schools through his foundation for any other reason”. The Tribune also agreed to pay a sum of damages to a charity of Sir Peter’s choice.