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It seems that when they wrote to the government, the British Humanist Association jumped the gun. Now, the BHA have not yet returned my calls or emails, so I might be doing them an injustice, but it seems that they wrote a letter without checking their facts.

The BHA complained to the government that they objected to the accreditation of creationist qualifications. Their mistake was to say that it was out of Naric’s remit to consider the content of a curriculum. This is the impression you would get from reading the TES article (see my further reading page). The BHA want Naric’s remit to be expanded so that this does not happen again.

There’s just one problem: Naric’s remit does cover curriculum content. I spoke to Tim Buttress of UK Naric this morning, and he told me,

“It is something that we consider. Content of a qualification is integral to it, but the point I was making to the journalist is it’s not our job to be setting the curriculum. The confusion possibly arose in what he was thinking I said and what was actually being said.”

Now, I have no idea if Mr. Buttress was misrepresented in the TES article, or if he has changed his story. But essentially, the TES article said Naric’s excuse for validating this pathetic curriculum was: “Don’t blame us, we only look at academic rigour, not course content.”

Whereas now their excuse is, “Don’t blame us, we didn’t write the curriculum.”

This does not seem to be a huge improvement.

So anyway, the BHA appear to have written a letter to the government asking them to change Naric’s remit, when a call to Naric would have confirmed that Naric’s remit already does what it should. Tim Buttress said that Naric was never shown any of the curriculum materials that contain claims about the Loch Ness Monster or apartheid. It seems unlikely that Naric’s inspectors didn’t see any Creationist nonsense in their inspections, though, because the curriculum is crawling with it. Indeed, if the inspectors didn’t see anything like that, they obviously didn’t look very hard at the curriculum.

ICCE chairman [sic] Brenda Lewis would probably say that’s not likely, because she told the TES, “we were taken aback by how thorough they were.”

So one way or another, Naric has made an error. Either they have not looked at the curriculum thoroughly, or they have looked at the curriculum thoroughly, seen the appalling errors it contains, and validated it anyway. Which seems more likely? Well, according to Ms. Lewis:

“Naric were delighted with the school… They loved the atmosphere and ethos… Very surprisingly, the examiners went on to say that they loved the Biblical teaching. They loved the emphasis on Godly character and virtue in the ACE system… It’s amazing.”

Interesting that Tim Buttress didn’t choose to mention any of that to the TES.

Anyway, Mr. Buttress told me that he would try to get a copy of Naric’s original report on ICCE. He also said that, since my letter, Naric has been in contact with ICCE to discuss the points I raised. He said he would make some phone calls and update me when he knows what progress has happened. I will continue to press Naric on this.

The story so far

Here’s a timeline of what’s happened so far. I don’t honestly expect you to read all the links in this story. I’m just showing that I’m hardly alone in expressing these opinions.

In 2008, UK Naric judged the International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE) to be equivalent to Cambridge International (CIE) O-level and A-level. The ICCE is the certificate you get for completing the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) curriculum in the UK. As someone who teaches in further and higher education, it is my professional opinion that this is a travesty.

In July 2009, I wrote a letter to Naric complaining that ACE is academically inadequate, contains distortions of the truth in its course materials, and includes some material that seems to promote religious intolerance and even racism.

Not satisfied that this would get enough attention, I also wrote to the Times Education Supplement and the Guardian.

In August, the TES ran a story in which it revealed that Naric’s benchmarking exercise had validated ICCE, even though ICCE materials include claims that the Loch Ness Monster helps to disprove evolution, and that apartheid was beneficial for South Africa.

This story was picked up by the Guardian, and the Telegraph as well as getting attention from many blogs and plenty of twitter posts.

The following week, I wrote a story for the TES in which I described my experiences at an ACE school and briefly outlined why I think they are unacceptable.

In September, the British Humanist Association wrote to the government, complaining about the accreditation of ICCE.

On September 23rd, a piece by Andrew Copson in the Guardian referred to this accreditation.

On September 29th, the popular Lay Science blog reposted John Gregson’s thoughts on the subject, including reprinting my letter to Naric in full.

I have also written to two teachers at Maranatha Christian School in Swindon, one of the most important ACE schools in the UK. In my letters, I outlined various academic and moral reasons why I am opposed to their school, and I await their response.

That’s enough background for now. It seems ACE is a very difficult thing to take down. In 1984, the Committee on Tolerance and Understanding in Alberta, Canada, chaired by Ron Ghitter, said of ACE “There is no place for curriculum of this kind in the schools of Alberta.” There are still ACE schools in Alberta today.

In 1989, two university professors conducted a thorough curriculum review of ACE on behalf of the Australian government. In a 1993 paper discussing their findings, they said “[S]tudents do not complete ACE schooling with the appropriate knowledge, values, and skills for participation in Australian society.” In spite of that, ACE marches on in Australia.

ACE has received plenty of bad press in the UK, too. In May 2008, Channel 4 aired a documentary called Dispatches: In God’s Name which visited Carmel Christian School in Bristol and gave it a good pasting. That was accompanied by news stories in the Telegraph (and Independent, although that didn’t mention ACE). Professor Richard Dawkins also looked at ACE in his Root of All Evil? series, which you can watch here. That resulted in a follow-up article in the Times Education Supplement. And there was a 2005 piece in the Guardian too, which was mostly negative (and where  it was positive, I argue that it was inaccurate).

My point is that the pesky ACE has been swatted many times, but never knocked out. But that’s OK. It’s my belief that simply raising awareness of ACE’s content would be enough to put off parents from sending their children there. People sign up for the school on the basis of Christian values. Few realise that it uses such discredited teaching methods, or propagates such extreme political views as it does.