BHA: Government caves to religious groups on evolution in Science

The new national curriculum has been published today, which includes a module on evolution in the primary curriculum for the first time (in year six).

While this represents significant progress over the current national curriculum (which first includes evolution in year nine), it is also a serious step back from the draft programme of study, which also included a module on evolution and inheritance in year four. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has accused the Government of paying too much attention to religious groups in formulating the final document.

In the equalities impact assessment, the Government justified the change (and also the lack of progress on sex education):

‘Representatives of some religious groups expressed concerns over aspects of the prescribed content which run counter to the core beliefs of their communities – chiefly the inclusion of evolution and sexual reproduction in key stage 2. It was argued that sex education should be included in PSHE only, to preserve the right of parents to withdraw their children from those lessons. Other stakeholders were critical of the focus on sexual activity being only on the context of reproduction (thereby excluding gay pupils) and was suggested that same-sex relationships should be specified as part of the theme of human reproduction in key stage 3.

‘We share the view of the scientific community that evolution is one of the fundamental strands of knowledge in biology. Leading scientists regard it as highly appropriate to include the subject in the primary science curriculum, and there are examples of other high-performing educational jurisdictions (e.g. Massachusetts) that introduce the subject at the equivalent of key stage 2. On same-sex relationships, our view is that it is most appropriate for schools to cover this topic as part of PSHE education, where it can be adapted more effectively to suit the needs of particular groups of pupils.’

BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal commented, ‘There is an overwhelming scientific consensus that evolution is the only evidence-based theory we have, and that creationism and intelligent design are not valid scientific theories. The Government has recognised this itself, so it is baffling to see it now give credence to those holding the opposite view in deciding to remove evolution from year four.’

The BHA coordinates the Teach evolution, not creationism! campaign. This is supported by thirty leading scientists including scientists including Sir David Attenborough, Professor Richard Dawkins, Sir Paul Nurse and Professor Michael Reiss, along with the Association for Science Education, the British Science Association, the Campaign for Science and Engineering and Ekklesia.