Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, has rejected calls from leading scientists, including Steve Jones and Richard Dawkins to reinspect Emmanuel College, but is to ask the college to explain itself.

An Ofsted spokeswoman said: "The chief inspector [Mike Tomlinson] has decided to write to the chairman of governors to ask for clarification of the school's policy on science teaching and is asking to see the schemes of work in science. He will decide whether any further action is necessary when he has seen these documents."

[Reported in The Guardian, 26/3/02]


Ofsted OK creationism in college

David Bell, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools, said today that OFSTED would not be following up its inquiry into the teaching of science at Emmanuel College, Gateshead.

In a letter to Sir Peter Vardy, the chairman of Emmanuel College governors, David Bell said he was satisfied with the school's response to OFSTED's request for information about the way the school meets the requirements of the science curriculum as they apply to technology colleges.

OFSTED had asked for assurances about the school's approach to the teaching of science following public allegations that the school promoted creationism at the expense of evolution.

In his letter David Bell said: "I appreciate the trouble you have taken to explain the philosophy and policies of the college as they apply to controversial issues and freedom of debate. I do not feel that I need to pursue this matter further with the college."


1.Former Chief Inspector, Mike Tomlinson, wrote to Sir Peter Vardy, Chairman of Governors at Emmanuel College, Gateshead, in March seeking information about how science is taught in the school.

2.This followed allegations by prominent British scientists that teachers at Emmanuel were steering their pupils towards a biblical explanation of how the world was created.

3.The scientists called on OFSTED to reinspect Emmanuel College, which had been inspected in January 2001. That report said that the college - a City Technology College - achieved very high standards in GCSE and had good teaching. It was described as a 'very effective school.'

4.In his letter to Sir Peter, Mike Tomlinson sought assurances that the school did not breach the requirements of science in the National Curriculum and that the beliefs of the school's head of science did not conflict with the governors' and the school's policies.

Ofsted press release 2002-93, 22/5/02 - click here for full text:

Letter from Sir Peter Vardy to Ofsted (without named enclosure) - pdf

Letter from Ofsted to Sir Peter Vardy - pdf

"Good grounds for losing confidence in Ofsted"

Professor Richard Dawkins described Ofsted's decision as "good grounds for losing confidence in Ofsted. . .

"It is a matter of public record that the Head of Science at Emmanuel, Steven Layfield, is a Young Earth Creationist who believes that the Universe is only a few thousand years old, contradicting not just biology but physics, geology, geography, cosmology and archeaology too. When I raised this preposterous fact with Sir Peter Vardy, he said that 'Whilst he is entitled absolutely to his own personal view, he is not teaching this in the College's science lessons.' So that's all right then!

"But if the Head of Classics went on record as believing that Tennyson was the author of the Iliad, should we be reassured if he promised to keep his private beliefs to himself and not mention them in class? On the contrary, we would agree that anybody capable of having such screwy beliefs is not qualified to teach classics. If Ofsted have not similarly lost confidence in Steven Layfield's ability to run a school science department, this seems to be good grounds for losing confidence in Ofsted."

[Adapted from The Guardian, 24/5/02]