I'm far from convinced that there is any merit in the government plans for "free schools" and "academies" - indeed, there seems to be a lot of well-founded opposition to the plans - but there is at least one bit of good news that has come out of the recent concerns over approval for Free Schools to be run by Creationist groups. In a Guardian article from a couple of weeks ago, a Dept for Education spokeswoman is quoted as saying:
"It is absolutely not true that this free school will be able to teach creationism as scientific fact. No state school is permitted to do this. We have clear guidelines about what schools can and cannot teach. Any free school found to be contravening the guidelines will be in breach of their contract and will be subject to action by the department, including prohibiting them from operating."Happily, this position has been confirmed and strengthened in a letter from Michael Gove (Secretary of State for Education) posted on the Glasgow Skeptics Facebook page in which he states (my emphasis):
There is no place for the teaching of creationism in Free Schools. The Free School application guidance is clear: creationism, intelligent design and similar ideas cannot be taught as valid scientific theories. Furthermore, teaching creationism in science lessons is forbidden by the legal agreement that sets out the conditions by which all Free Schools receive their funding. Should there be evidence of a breach of this clause we would take swift action which would be likely to result in the termination of that funding agreement. This would mean that the organisation no longer had any role in running the school with state funding.Now, we just need to make sure that we hold him (and his successors) to that.
What I am not so sure about is what the situation is for "Independent schools". The implication is that schools without state funding are not bound by these conditions. If this is the case then perhaps state-funded Faith schools are not such a bad thing after all - if the alternative is Independent Faith schools, that is.