All free schools will be forced to present evolution as a comprehensive and central tenet of scientific theory, ministers have announced, following lobbying by senior scientists concerned that Christian-run institutions could exploit loopholes in the rules to present creationism as a credible theory.
The tightening of the funding rules for free schools comes after representations to the Department for Education by the Royal Society and its president, the Nobel-prizewinning geneticist Sir Paul Nurse, as well as by secular and humanist groups.
The DfE has approved three free schools run by groups with openly creationist views, although only one of them, Grindon Hall Christian school in Sunderland, has so far opened. Under the original agreement, these schools would receive state funding only if they pledged to teach creationism strictly as a religious concept in RE lessons, and not as part of the science curriculum. However, Nurse told the Guardian that the Royal Society felt this did not go far enough.
He said: "What they had done was only focus on part of the problem. They had, quite reasonably, controlled the possibility that creationism might be taught as science, but what hadn't been protected was that evolution should be taught at all.