The British Humanist Association has provided written evidence for the Education Select Committee inquiry into Academies and Free Schools.
They are concerned about the process of “approving, compelling and establishing academies and free schools”, and about the role of sponsors.
The way “academy chains” operate, the responsibilities of local authorities, and the issue of gaps in support for schools at the level between schools and the government is also considered.
The BHA is especially concerned about the way religious groups are using the Free School route to increase the number of schools under their control. There is particular concern about the way schools are teaching creationism as a valid alternative to evolution, despite the repeated claims of the government that they will not fund any group wishing to teach creationism or intelligent design.
Such ideas have been found in policy documents on a school website but go unnoticed until highlighted by the BHA. The creationist ideas favoured by many of the proposed schools are not being picked up.
In addition this evidence highlights the way Steiner schools are being allowed to open “…despite widespread and well -reasoned local opposition”.
The Steiner Free School in Frome was approved. According to the BHA;
“… its impact assessment shows that it was opposed by most of the respondents to its consultation, by other local schools, by the local authority, and by the NHS Trust, with the Trust opposing because of ‘the possible effect that a number of unimmunised children in one area could have. They are of the opinion that a Steiner school would attract children of families where immunisation is not the norm’. However, all these concerns were ignored and the school was approved anyway”.
The fact that Steiner schools prefer families to use the school doctor (an anthroposophical doctor) contributes to the way health issues such as vaccination can become controversial.
Clarence Harvey, acting principal of the Steiner Academy Hereford in 2012 was quoted in an article in the Times Educational Supplement entitled; “Homeopathy? Sorry, we’re just not swallowing it”
“It is not our aim to promote scientific orthodoxy, but rather to enable pupils to think and engage in independent verification of reality.”
(This the Steiner version of reality, including the elemental beings, remember)
This article also mentions that Herford Steiner academy “asks parents permission to use homeopathic remedies on children for various ailments including burns”.
No state school is allowed to teach homeopathy as scientific fact.
As I have mentioned, a look at the curriculum for Steiner schools confirms that they have little interest in teaching mainstream scientific theories (saying that “the task of teaching adolescents should not be to suggest that these are true”) and spend time on homeopathy, “counterspace” and dodgy anthroposophical ideas about human history.
A final concern of the BHA is that some community schools have been compelled to become Academies and to have a religious sponsor. They give examples and say that safeguards seem to be inadequate in stopping sponsors from imposing religious governance and a religious ethos on the sponsored school.
The BHA have provided valuable evidence showing that the Free schools and Academies are providing a route in to education for religious groups, including Steiner Waldorf, who have their own agenda for influencing children.