Christian fundamentalist schools teaching girls they must obey men
Former pupils reveal homosexuality is being taught as unnatural, while Creationism is favoured over evolution in science lessons
Sunday 5 June 2016
Christian fundamentalist schools are teaching children creationism is fact, that gay people are “unnatural” and that girls must submit to men, according to a series of claims.
Former pupils and whistle-blowers have told The Independent that the schools, which originated in the US but are now dotted around the UK and registered as independent or private schools, teach children at isolated desks separated by “dividers” from other students. It is thought more than a thousand children are being taught at dozens of schools, although little is known about them.
“No one outside the schools knows about what happens inside them, that’s why they’ve been able to go on like this for so long,” a former pupil said.
More than a decade after leaving, she says she is now horrified at the education she received.
Called Accelerated Christian Education schools (ACE), the schools originate from an education system developed in southern Baptist
The Southern Baptist church in the USA originated because white southern Baptists did not like criticism of slavery by northern Baptists.
states in the US which has developed off-shoots around the world including in Britain. Between 20 and 60 pupils aged between four and 18 attend each one.
The Independent can reveal a number of serious concerns have been raised about the schools, including allegations that children are given no formal educational qualifications beyond “Christian certificates”, thereby failing to equip them for opportunities and employment beyond the Church.
Former pupils claim a key aspect of the schools’ ethos comes from a belief in individualistic self-salvation, whereby people must actively accept God’s salvation to enter heaven.
By extension, it is believed that children must teach themselves in order to get closer to God. Children are therefore expected to spend the first half of each school day teaching themselves by reading textbooks in silence, while facing the classroom walls in specially designed booths, which mean they cannot see children around them or interact with them. …
Former pupils say this self-teaching format resulted in poor education standards, with pupils who have learning difficulties such as dyslexia often particularly struggling. A number said they felt socially isolated by the segregated booths and failed to develop social skills by interacting with peers.
One former pupil said: “By the time I left the school, I hadn’t really learnt anything that was of any relevance. I was taught facts and figures from reading the books, but there was no social learning in terms of interaction.”
The textbooks used by the schools have also been criticised for providing allegedly inappropriate material. A number of textbooks seen by The Independent and which are reportedly used in schools appear to include worrying content about gay people, women’s rights and also appear to teach creationism as fact.
One textbook says: “Homosexual, adjective: having unnatural sexual feelings towards one of the same sex… Homosexual activity is another of man’s corruptions of God’s plan.
Textbooks say of the role of women and girls and society: “God has given both the husband and the wife certain areas of responsibility in the home. The husband is to be the leader of the home, loving his wife even as Christ loved the church… The wife is to obey, respect and submit to the leadership of her husband, serving as a helper to him… She is available all times day or night.”
A section titled ‘Testimony of a Homemaker’ in one textbook reads: “God desires for me to submit to my husband, train up my children, see that my house is properly supplied, pray without ceasing, teach other women to love their husbands and children, and be discreet, pure and a keeper of my home.”
Former pupil Cheryl Povey who attended an ACE school in Bath, said: “I came across a lot of sexism. I remember as a girl finding it quite shocking. We were taught that if you’re a woman, you should be subservient to men; your husband, your pastor and other male figures.
“There was a strong culture of men being revered and women being dangerously sexual and having to cover up. It made me self-conscious of being a woman.”
Dr Pocock said attitudes towards women and ethnic minorities in the ACE curriculum also worried him. He said: “It taught me men were superior to, and should be in charge of, weak women, that the various different ethnic and social groups were ordained by God to have different roles and positions.”
Another textbook warns that anyone who has sex outside marriage “will someday face God’s judgement”.
Other textbooks seen by The Independent, and which the former pupils claim were widely used as part of the curriculum during their time at ACE schools, appear to state creationism as fact and describe evolution as “absurd”.
One biology textbook states: “Although man’s characteristics are unique, evolutionists still insist that man descended from apes. Even from a strictly scientific standpoint, the theory of evolution is absurd. …
Another textbook states as ‘scientific fact’ that the sun is six thousand years old and the world was created in six days.
Former pupil Peter* (name changed to protect identity) said: “A huge amount of time and effort was given over to arguing against evolution and for creation, it’s a fundamental building block of the curriculum. The curriculum is stuck in the past like the rest of the fundamentalist southern Baptist churches it was born out of.”
Another concern raised about the schools is that the children are allegedly not entered for formal education qualifications such as GCSEs or A-levels.
Former pupils say they are instead taught towards an ICCE- an International Certificate of Christian Education. The ICCE is not an officially recognised qualification meaning those who hold it can struggle to find employment or to be accepted into higher education such as university. Former pupils say this disadvantages children and deprives them of opportunities later, unless they retrain as adults to gain additional, mainstream qualifications as well as the ICCE.
Jonny Scaramanga is a writer and campaigner who has extensively researched the ACE school system. He is a former pupil of an ACE school in England and recently completed a PHD thesis about ACE at the UCL Institute of Education, which included analysis of the ACE textbooks illustrated throughout this article.
He told The Independent: “I have read numerous Ofsted reports in the course of my research, and the issues most commonly raised by former ACE students are almost never mentioned, let alone satisfactorily addressed. In allowing ACE schools’ failings to go unchecked for decades, the government has failed in its duty of care to students in ACE schools. In future, inspectors should be specially briefed on the issues frequently found in ACE schools.”
He added that he is concerned by the ‘Christian certificates’ children sit instead of official qualifications, telling The Independent: “Since 2014, the Advertising Standards Authority has upheld three complaints against ACE schools for exaggerating the acceptability of the certificates [International Certificate of Christian Education] they offer. I have met numerous former ACE students who have had to return to college as adults to gain qualifications that they would have earned as a matter of course in mainstream schools. All English secondary schools should be required by law to prepare and enter students for qualifications recognised by Ofqual, the exam watchdog.”
When The Independent contacted forty UK universities to ask whether they have or would accept pupils on the basis of ICCE awards, none of them said they officially accept the qualification other than in exceptional circumstances or if a student had other additional qualifications such as GCSEs or A levels to support their application.