Government changes rules to require Free Schools to teach evolution

30 November, 2012

The Government has announced today that it has changed the rules governing Free Schools in order to require them to teach evolution. The British Humanist Association (BHA) organised the ‘Teach evolution, not creationism’ campaign, which called for this change among others, and today welcomed the announcement.

The change comes through the insertion of a new clause into the model funding agreement which governs what Free Schools can do, which states ‘The Academy Trust shall make provision for the teaching of evolution as a comprehensive, coherent and extensively evidenced theory.’ The clause will apply for all future Free Schools which open, and was also inserted into Grindon Hall Christian School’s funding agreement just before it was signed.

In September 2011, the BHA launched the ‘Teach evolution, not creationism’ campaign, supported by individuals such as Sir Paul Nurse, Sir David Attenborough and Prof Michael Reiss, and organisations such as the British Science Association and the Association for Science Education. The campaign called for new rules to prevent schools teaching creationism and intelligent design as scientifically valid, and for every school to be required to teach evolution, including Free Schools and primary schools.

In subsequent correspondence with the Government, the BHA suggested an amendment to the Free Schools model funding agreement to preclude the teaching of pseudoscience, and in January, the Government told the BHA it had made this precise change. In addition, in June the Government released its draft primary curriculum, including modules on evolution from age eight.

However, in July, the BHA identified three schools which wish to teach creationism as a scientifically valid theory. These included Grindon Hall Christian School, which had a ‘Creation Policy’ statement on its website saying ‘We will teach creation as a scientific theory and we will always affirm very clearly our position as Christians, i.e. that Christians believe that God’s creation of the world is not just a theory but a fact with eternal consequences for our planet and for every person who has ever lived on it.’

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the BHA, warmly welcomed today’s news: ‘A requirement to teach evolution in Free Schools is an excellent additional safeguard against state-funded creationist schools and must be welcomed. Combined with their ban on creationism as science in the curriculum, and their adding evolution to the primary National Curriculum, the Government has met almost all the aspirations of the ‘Teach evolution, not creationism’ campaign.

‘However, we continue to be concerned about the three Free Schools recently approved which are supportive of teaching creationism as science and which we must worry will continue to find ways to circumvent a ban in practice.’


For further comment or information, please contact Andrew Copson on 07855 380 633.

Read the ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’ statement from scientists including Sir David Attenborough, Professor Richard Dawkins, Sir Paul Nurse and Professor Michael Reiss, the British Humanist Association, the Association for Science Education, the British Science Association, the Campaign for Science and Engineering and Ekklesia at

Read the press release at the launch of the ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’ statement:

Read the BHA press release, ‘Government changes Free School model funding agreement to ban creationist schools’:

Read the BHA press release, ‘BHA welcomes plans to add evolution to primary curriculum’:

Read the BHA press release, ‘Free School due to open in September 2012 “teaches creation as a scientific theory”’:

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on countering creationism:

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.