Exclusive: ‘God designed the solar system,’ says worksheet

  • Durham Free School: homework was ‘isolated incident’
  • Morgan announces on Wednesday that school will close

    Durham Free School will close at the end of this term – and Schools Week can exclusively reveal a science teacher told pupils “God has designed the solar system”.

    The school, which opened in September 2013, was sent a letter on Wednesday afternoon by regional schools commissioner Janet Renou informing it of education secretary Nicky Morgan’s decision to terminate its funding agreement.

    Schools Week has discovered David Hagon, a teacher at the school, in September asked year 7 pupils to complete a worksheet as part of their science homework that stated God was responsible for the design of the solar system.

    The worksheet (pictured) said: “Only the Earth has life on it. God has designed the solar system so that the Earth can support life.”

    Any school, academy or free school that is found to teach creationism as a scientific fact would be in breach of the law and its funding agreement.

    Ms Renou (pictured below) said the school’s representations did not “sufficiently” address “major weaknesses” including the need “to address a culture of intolerance of people who have different faiths, values or beliefs”.Janet Renou

    The school, which is in special measures, said this was an isolated incident and the worksheet was not school literature, but put together by Mr Hagon. Despite repeated attempts, we were unable to contact Mr Hagon for comment.

    Schools Week understands that the content of the homework was raised with Mr Hagon at a school parents’ evening at the end of September. Former headteacher Peter Cantley was also informed of parents’ concerns before he left the school in October.

    Mr Cantley is reportedly the whistleblower who informed the Department for Education and the Education Funding Agency about issues at the school.

    Concerns were raised as part of the “Trojan Horse” investigations last year after it emerged a teacher at Park View School in Birmingham had issued a worksheet to boys in a sex education lesson that told them women had to “obey” their husbands.

    A spokesperson for Durham Free School said: “Legitimate concern was raised over this matter as the worksheet was in clear contradiction of the school’s policy and practice.

    “It was an isolated incident, which the former headteacher dealt with promptly, firmly and appropriately; the worksheet is not used by the school.

    “The teacher referred to taught a very limited science timetable as a subsidiary subject, sharing responsibility for teaching some classes focusing on physics and chemistry.”

    Chair of governors John Denning said the school was seeking legal advice after Wednesday’s announcement of its impending closure.

    Lawyers acting on behalf of the school have already threatened Ms Morgan with a judicial review if she remained involved in the decision-making process.

    The school was expecting a monitoring visit from Ofsted inspectors yesterday, and Ofsted confirmed given the Ms Morgan’s decision the visit would no longer take place. At the time of the last Ofsted inspection the school had 94 pupils; some have since moved schools.

    Ms Morgan said: “The DfE operates on the basis that the interests of children must come first and it is clear that the school is not delivering the high standard of education that parents and I expect. It is also clear that there is no imminent prospect of improvement and I am not prepared to let any child remain in a failing school.

    “While I know this decision will mean some upheaval for those pupils still in attendance, I am confident that it is the right thing to do. We are already working with the local authority to ensure that every child is found a suitable place at another local school.”

    The school will close on March 27.

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  1. Apart from promoting an unscientific creationist agenda there are other problems with this worksheet from a science point of view.

    It’s bad science all round.

    “Only Earth has life on it” -this statement precludes life elsewhere in the universe. As a scientific statement it cannot be supported. ‘Our moon is big which stops us from wobbling’ – well it doesn’t. The earth does ‘wobble’ (the Chandler Wobble – discovered in 1891)- that is due to the fact that Earth is an oblate spheroid not perfectly round and the mass of the earth is not evenly distributed throughout. The moon also ‘wobbles’ and has a slightly elliptical orbit around us, its mass affects the tides and may well reduce the earth’s wobble, but does not stop it.

    The statement about comets and asteroids is also not scientifically accurate. The idea that Jupiter is our protector was developed in the 1940s but this has been challenged with scientists from the Open University modelling our solar system with and without Jupiter to see what effect the planet has on possible asteroid/comet strikes. Jupiter, they concluded, is far from a guardian and in certain models can increase the likelihood of a hit.

    Of course the biggest misconception is that Earth is ‘just right’ for life – well it depends on your perspective! Earth has many environments where life exists that we would (not too many years ago) have dismissed as impossible e.g. around deep sea vents and fumaroles where the energy source is not the sun (which many science textbooks claim is the only source of energy for life). Who’s to say that life doesn’t exist in similar conditions on other planets or moons in our solar system? Creationists often (not always) have a human centric view of life and the universe as if humans were the dominant and only real life force that counts. They should stop being so arrogant. We are but one small part of nature.

    • Amor DeCosmos

      Oh you, Mr. Smaty-Pants. Don’t you be using your rational thinking skills around here. It doesn’t matter what the facts are, if you’re Christian and you walk with Jesus, then whatever facts you make up in Jesus name are real. Also, everyone around here knows that schools aren’t for learning made up, heretical things like science. We should be proselytizing about a supernatural Iron Age martyr. The children are captive and have complete trust in authority.

  2. Deryck Franklyn

    Fairy stories in British school’s science classes? Is this all part of Tony Blair’s Faith Schools legacy I wonder? The mind boggles! Whatever next? David Tredinnick’s Astrology? It’s time to raise MP’s pay because while we pay peanuts we will continue to get monkeys.

    • Geoff

      MPs already receive an excellent deal, taking all their perks into account. As we heard so many times in the Thatcher era, when a job has many suitable candidates for every vacancy it is not underpaid. In the case of MPs, they have to put up a substantial amount of money even to apply for the job.
      Do you really think that paying more would produce better people rather than simply greedier ones?