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Creationist Teaching

Volume 454: debated on Tuesday 5 December 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what estimate he has made of the number of schools teaching creationism in (a) Oxfordshire, (b) the South East and (c) England; (106583)

(2) what estimate he has made of the number of (a) academies and (b) other maintained schools which teach creationism or intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in (i) religious education and (ii) science lessons;

(3) what (a) guidance and (b) advice he has given to maintained schools on the teaching of creationism or intelligent design as a valid alternative to evolution in (i) science lessons, (ii) religious education lessons, (iii) scripture unions or religious clubs and (iv) collective worship; and if he will make a statement.

[holding answer 30 November 2006]: Ofsted, the official body for inspecting schools, has not found any evidence that creationism is being taught in science lessons. The Department has not made an estimate of the number of schools or academies teaching creationism or intelligent design in religious education lessons.

The national curriculum for science clearly sets down that pupils should be taught: how uncertainties in scientific knowledge and scientific ideas change overtime; the role of the scientific community in validating these changes; variation within species can lead to evolutionary changes; and, similarities and differences between species can be measured and classified. To meet the requirements of the national curriculum for science teachers have to teach about scientific theories. Neither intelligent design nor creationism is a recognised scientific theory and should not therefore be taught as part of the science curriculum.

Creationism and intelligent design can be explored in religious education as part of developing an understanding of different beliefs. It is up to the local SACREs (Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education) to set the syllabus for how this should be done. The guidance for schools on collective worship states that every school must provide a daily act of collective worship for its pupils. There is no specific reference to creationism or intelligent design. The Department does not produce guidance on what should be discussed at scripture unions or religious clubs.

The Department is currently working with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to communicate this message to schools.