Blair adviser sent to settle school creationism row

TONY BLAIR is brokering a secret compromise deal with an evangelical Christian businessman to allow the promotion of creationism in state-funded schools.

The Prime Minister has despatched one of his most senior lieutenants to defuse the growing row over whether children should be taught that God created the world in six days in science lessons.

Andrew Adonis, the head of the Number 10 policy unit, has been called in to negotiate with Sir Peter Vardy, the car dealer who helps fund the school at the centre of the dispute, Emmanuel City Technology College in Gateshead.

Mr Adonis is expected to reassure Sir Peter, who put 2 million into the school and has offered to fund five more, that the Government will not intervene to prevent it teaching creationism.

He is, however, hoping to make it clear that the Government has no plans to downgrade lessons on the theory of evolution to make way for the creationist message. Teachers at the school have been encouraged to promote the literal truth of the Bible's creation story as a "superior" theory of the origins of the universe. . .

Estelle Morris, the Education Secretary, hopes that a compromise can be reached before the [Education] Bill returns to the Commons after the Easter recess. Privately, officials admit that the handling of the affair has been taken out of their hands by Mr Blair.

"This is something that Downing Street and Andrew Adonis are getting involved in. We are reluctant to intervene publicly," said one senior figure in the Department for Education and Skills.

Mr Blair has been careful not to criticise the school in public. Challenged in the Commons recently, he said that reports that it was teaching creationism had been "exaggerated" and praised its exam result record.

The basis for a compromise was laid last week when Mike Tomlinson, the head of Ofsted, wrote to the school inviting it to "clarify" its position. It is thought that Mr Adonis is seeking to help the school frame a reply that will end the controversy. . .

[Daily Telegraph, 31/3/02]