|I have had a vague awareness of Bridgend Christian Schoolfor some time, but it has only recently been brought to my attention exactly what sort of institution this is in our midst.I will try to keep this as factual as possible, for the time being at least, and based on information in the public domain.Looking at their website ( http://www.bridgendchristianschool.co.uk), we find that this tiny independent school currently has about 40 children on its roll.What else can we glean?First and foremost, it is a school that does not teach the National Curriculum or GCSEs and the like. It delivers the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) programme, and associated International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE) courses, more of which later.There is a link to their most recent (2007) Estyn Report (http://www.bridgendchristianschool.co.UK/estyn-report/) which might have made interesting reading, if it had not been translated into gobbledegook. (Speaking in tongues perhaps.)
Thankfully it is available for us all to read here: http://www.estyn.gov.uk/english/provider/6726090/ . And it does indeed make interesting reading. With months of notice, they still managed to score virtually nothing over a grade 3 (good features outweigh shortcomings) with plenty of grade 4s (some good features but shortcomings in important areas) especially in Geography, History, French, creative and physical development and how well learners are cared for, guided and supported, along with how well the leaders and managers evaluate and improve quality and standards.It has surprisingly little to say about the Accelerated Christian Education programme delivered by the school, and makes no attempt to evaluate this against the National Curriculum or GCSE expectations. It does however have plenty to say about the school’s failure to meet a whole raft of statutory requirements, namely: welfare, health and safety of children; suitability of proprietors and staff; premises and accommodation; provision of information; and the manner in which complaints are handled.
Somehow the the UCAS booklet ( http://www.bridgendchristianschool.co.uk/uni-entry/ ) has been scrambled too. However, I am again happy to help out. You can see this booklet here: https://intranet.arts.ac.uk/registry/staff/documents/ukquals2010.pdf . The school’s website says “Below is the UCAS UK Qualification document that shows which A level grades ICCE percentages are equal to (see page 64).” However, this is hard to substantiate currently. The International Certificate of Christian Education, the qualification delivered by the school, does not get a mention in the list of qualifications currently recognised by UCAS (http://www.ucas.com/students/ucas_tariff/qualifications).
Thankfully, the UCAS staff were very helpful when I called them today. UCAS explain it is entirely at the discretion of the individual institution whether they accept a particular non-listed qualification as relevant to an entry application. As these ICCE qualifications are not on the list that is covered by the UCAS Tariff system, they therefore attract no tariff points. Given the nature of the ICCE qualification, and given that it has been given an approximate equivalence by NARIC (see below), it may be considered, depending on evidence of what was covered and the relevance to the course being applied for. It would seem very unlikely that any University would accept ICCE qualifications in isolation, and that to gain entry to University an ACE educated child would still need to achieve conventional qualifications as well. So at best, the ICCE Advanced Certificate may be considered the equivalent of one ‘A’ level, by a sympathetic university department.
The crude equivalence ascribed to the ICCE is done by NARIC (National Academic Recognition Information Centre). This is the Government recognised organisation that evaluates (for a fee, of course) the equivalence of overseas qualifications. It has come up with its opinion on the value of ICCE certificates, giving some hope for holders of these bits of paper that higher education institutions may consider them. NARIC assessments, however, have only an advisory role, and I have so far failed to find any UCAS institution happy to accept them on their own as meeting entry requirements. (I would love to be corrected on this and find one that does!)
“”Can my child get into University with the ICCE qualifications?. The answer is yes, absolutely” says the website. Economical with the truth, I would suggest.
ICCE are the certificates issued by Accelerated Christian Education, a Tennessee USA (where else?) based fundamental Christian operation (tax-exempt business http://non-profit-organizations.findthebest.com/l/1434409/Accelerated-Christian-Education-Ministries-Inc ), that distributes its wares through Wiltshire based Christian Education Europe.
Its main products are PACE – Packets of Accelerated Christian Education, mostly fill-the-blanks workbooks, explained very nicely here by a young man that was put throuigh the ACE programme, and therefore knows the programme in detail, at first hand:
(Watch it to the end, there is an important message in the last statement.)
How is it delivered? The ACE methodology is clearly shown on their own website: http://www.aceministries.com/curriculum/?content=presentingACE
We could argue about the rights and wrongs of different pedagogies all night, but let us make clear that no reputable education programme uses the techniques seen in this system. It has a great advantage to schools like the Bridgend Christian School in that it does not really require teachers at all, just facilitators with the answer books.
However, we also have to confront the rights and wrongs of lies, miseducation and the plain crazy.
Take a look at these small samples of content of the ACE curriculum:
Now, let us pause, calm down (if you are as agitated as I was when I first saw this litany of nonsense) and collect our thoughts here for a few moments.
Those that know me will know my views on religion. Those that know me well will also know that I do not like banning things, censoring people and imposing limits on freedom of speech. I will defend anybody’s freedom to spout any garbage they want, while equally insisting that nobody has the right to not be offended.
Johann Hari expresses it perfectly (in his column in the Independent talking about Geert Wlders – I have lost the exact reference details – sorry!)
“Free speech is for the stupid and the wicked and the wrong – just as much as it is for the rational and the right. All I say is that they do not have the right to force it on other people or to silence the other side. …. The solutions to the problems of free speech – that sometimes people say terrible things – is always and irreducibly, more free speech. If you don’t like what a person says, argue. Make a better case. Persuade people.”
So here goes. The essence of the problem here is not whether parents have the right to their religion, or even whether they have the right to bring their children up in their religion. The real question is whether or not they have the right to deny their children the right to a balanced education and to also thoroughly indoctrinate their children with what are essentially cult views. Even amongst the masses of the religiously deluded, only a very tiny percentage subscribe to the ridiculous (funda)mentalist views built into the ACE programme. If that is not a definition of a cult, I do not know what is.
So much for ACE education, it is more like CRAP education:
Christian Retrograde Academic Pap.
Green Party Policy is clear and robust on these issues:
ED170 Education should include a celebration and recognition of religious and cultural diversity and spirituality. Education should encourage critical engagement with, and non-dogmatic exposure to, diverse, sometimes competing, world views and beliefs – whether based on culture, religion or spirituality.
ED172 We recognise the importance of human values and the moral dimension in learning, and the role they play in different belief systems.
ED173 We will seek to cater for these rights and needs through ensuring that children and young people can practice their faith in schools, for example by providing prayer space for those who need or wish to practice their religion regularly.
ED175 Religious instruction, as distinct from religious education in understanding different religions may only take place outside of school curriculum time.
ED176 No publicly-funded school shall be run by a religious organisation. Schools may teach about religions, comparing examples which originated in each continent, but are prohibited from delivering religious instruction in any form or encouraging adherence to any particular religious belief.
ED177 Privately-funded schools run by religious organisations must reflect the inclusive nature of British society and become part of the Local authority admissions system. This non-discriminatory approach will be extended to staff who must not be discriminated against in faith schools due to their own faith either in seeking employment or during employment.
ED178 Opt-outs from equality and diversity legislation will not be allowed for faith schools and they will not be permitted to promote homophobia or transphobia on the grounds of religion.
Many would go further. Several authors have been critical of religious indoctrination of children, such as Nicolas Humphrey, Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins. Christopher Hitchens and Dawkins use the term ‘child abuse’ to describe the harm that some religious upbringings inflict on children.They claim that children are especially vulnerable to mental harms related to religion, including:
But as if this was not all bad enough, the ACE curriculum goes beyond religious indoctrination, and as the youtube video above shows, goes into the realms of political Indoctrination too. Good examples were seen in the youtube video above. The programme is vehemently anti-communist and pro unfettered free trade and capitalism. It is also very much anti-Roman Catholicism – so it is not that I disagree with everything they preach!
Their website contains one more set of big surprises – the list of claimed supporters ( )
Most of those listed are not very surprising, but I wonder what big corporations, such as Ford, EMI and Benq, are doing being seen to be supporters of this bunch of crackpots. I will just have to write tom them and find out (watch this space).
Do I want to see these ACE/CRAP schools closed down? No.
Do I want to see these schools close down? Yes.
What is the difference in these statements, you may ask?
Ideally, I want to see the schools close because the parents realise they are paying money for a CRAP education. (The fees for the Bridgend Christian School are a mere £2000 a year, compared to the £10,000 a year you would pay at a typical reputable Independent.) The website tells us the staff are low paid. It leaves us to surmise why. Because of their love of the MIssion, perhaps. Because they have no teaching qualifications, perhaps. I would love to know what qualifications Debbie Merridew, the Science teacher has. The bottom line is you get what you pay for!
They are paying to have their kids exposed to abysmal pedagogy and plain idiotic curriculum, in the name of thoroughly indoctrinating their offspring into their dubious values and ridiculous beliefs. The system is designed on tried and tested methods to subjugate critical faculties and produce blind obedience. It is the way cults have worked for millennia.
The problem, of course, is that the people that patronise establishments are not likely to ‘see the light’. But what about the kids? The Estyn report suggests that they are happy enough and certainly well-behaved and mutually respectful and supportive. There are certainly kids in Bridgend in far more harmful environments. There is no suggestion that Bridgend Christian School utilises biblical punishment regimes, as documented in some similar schools.
So long as not a single penny of public money goes to these charlatans, and so long as we do not shy away from publicly declaring our views on what they are doing, I am not convinced we should do much more. But then again ………
What do you think?
P.S. Bridgend Christian School closed down and the operating company dissolved at the end of the Summer Term 2015.