Free school not affected by funding rule

Grindon Hall Christian School in Sunderland.
Grindon Hall Christian School in Sunderland.
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SUNDERLAND’S free school will not be affected by a ruling that evolution must be taught in science.

New rules from 2013 state all free schools in England must teach evolution as a scientific theory – or risk losing their funding.

The move follows scientists’ concerns that free schools run by creationists might avoid teaching evolution.

However, Chris Gray, principal at Grindon Hall Christian School in Pennywell, which recently became one of the region’s first free schools, said they have never taught creationism.

“This clause was part of the funding agreement we signed over the summer,” he said. “So it’s nothing new.

“We had no problems with it. It has no effect on us at all – we continue to do things exactly the way we always have done.”

Mr Gray added: “We have always taught the theories of evolution and the Big Bang.

“We have never taught the kind of young earth, anti-science, six-day creationism which the clause appears to be targeting.

“As a Christian school, of course we believe that God created the world – but we are not arrogant enough to claim we know how that happened. Nor do we dismiss the great minds of the past, some Christian, many not, which have developed the great theories that form the basis of modern science.

“Science and faith pose different questions and should be handled separately in schools, and that is what we do.

“In some ways, although we would see the clause as quite unnecessary in our case, we can see its benefits.

“We are as opposed as anyone to narrow, blinkered thinking and encourage our students to think for themselves.”

So far, 79 free schools have opened in England ,with 118 more due to open in 2013 and beyond.

They are funded directly by central government but unlike other state-funded schools are run by groups of parents, teachers, charities and religious groups and do not have to abide by the national curriculum.

The new rules mean if a free school is found to be acting in breach of its funding agreement, for example, teaching creationism as a scientific fact or not teaching evolution, the Department for Education will take action which could result in the termination of the funding agreement.

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