|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.
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At least their website is better than yours!
If that is the best you can say for them, I rest my case!
This assessment is ignorant of the great value of the school. It is also hostile and should be disregarded outright. Sadly, this piece is meant to hurt not help. I know the school and have received much benefit from being involved.
Hateful web content is abundant because no policies are enforced.
I am am perfectly well aware of people that have gained great value from the school, and never pretended they do not exist. It is highly critical for sure – but you try and defend the indefensible if you like. Do I want it closed down – I say quite categorically “No”. I would suggest your reaction is more hostile than anything I have said.
I do not want to hurt anyone. Quite the contrary. I am looking to stop the miseducation of young impressionable people. You may have received much benefit from being involved in the place (in what capacity you do not say), but if you were a pupil there you may one day come to realise that they are the peddlers of ignorance and mythology.
You have my pity, not my apology.
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Whilst you raise some interesting points, there are major flaws in your knowledge of the ICCE certificate. I attended this school and yes, the ACE curriculum is not for everyone and I strongly disagree with their notions of right and wrong and Christianity, however saying that, I’m now due to graduate university a year early and I’m sure without this school this would not be possible. I chose to leave this school as it wasn’t for me and went to go and A Levels, however ICCE DOES attract UCAS points and I actually had near 600 UCAS points (near double the required points for my chosen course). Following this, my brother was offered at place at UWIC (University of Wales Institute Cardiff) at 16 due to the qualifications he had received from the ICCE certificate (he had more than enough UCAS points at 16). I also want to add that I’ve worked in admissions at a Univeristy and therefore can further confirm these qualifications are accepted (maybe at the discretion of admission staff at some universities, however everyone from this school who wanted to go to Uni got in on UCAS points from ICCE).
I also have another little bug to pick: Debbie Merridew. An absolutely fantastic science teacher. Who are you to question her scientific integrity (FYI – she is a haematologist).
However, on the other hand, I do believe there are shortfalls. The narrow view provided by ACE was unbearable at times (all Rock music is evil – even Christian Rock music – I think not!) The staff did try and address issues such as this. Despite this however, the views held by the staff were often still too narrow minded and unrealistic and something I have not subscribed to in my adult life. Yeah, the facilities weren’t that great, but I never found issue with that as a kid.
My main issue with this school is their ideology. This was my biggest struggle. However for those either finding themselves ahead in state school or those struggling, this place is great if you take out the issue of ideology.
Thank you for your valuable contribution, and especially your perspective on ICCE. I have acknowledged that ICCE are accepted by some universities. I am not aware of any survey that shows the extent of their acceptance, but I have doen enough research to know that it is far from automatic. It depends alot on what course ICCE holders are applying for, as I am sure you would acknowledge. I would shocked to hear of someone with only ICCE getting into university to do a science degree, for example.
This brings me to Debbie Merridew. I am happy to hear that you found her a fantastic science teacher, and I have long known about her being a haematologist. This is a career that would be impossible for someone with purely an ACE/ICCE education. She is therefore, in my opinion, a hypocrite at best. She must understand that much of the content of ACE/ICCE is garbage, but somehow manages to resolve this in a way that allows work for the school. It is not her scientific integrity I challenge, it is her moral integrity.
You have clearly come through the whole experience well enough, and I do not question that the sort of environment it provides may be better for some young people than ‘mainstream’ schools, but, as you yourself at least partly acknowledge, the ideology of the place is unacceptable – that of a wacky cult minority – and has no place in a school.
I wish you well in all your future endeavours.
Whilst I take on board your comments I have to say I feel that the article is unbalanced. We made the desicion to sent both our children to the Christian School after mainstream schooling failed to deliver the education we wanted for them. Indeed the head mistress to the school my children were attending before they were transferred said to me “if they were my children, I wouldn’t want them in my school”. I won’t say it was plain sailing in the Christian school, we did have to fight against narrow minded Christian views which as a Christian I found to be over the top, having said that both my children have gained a lot from the school, growing up into rounded, well adjusted adults with good values. My son was offered a university place at UWIC at the age of 16, with the ICCE alone, and my daughter gained admission to University a year early with more than double the UCAS points thanks to points gained from ICCE qualifications and A levels. Other skills gained from the school such as goal setting, delivering presentations, managing work load etc have given both my children an added edge allowing them to excel in the work place and chosen career paths.
Thank you for your contribution. The sadness here is that ‘mainstream’ schooling failed your children, probably because it focuses too much on the ‘main stream’ and does not offer enough for those that, for whatever reason, are not of the main stream. With all due respect, this is no excuse for exposing your children to the ridiculous doctrines and beliefs of this cult group. You would appear to have done a reasonable job of countering their more extreme nonsense, and your daughter seems to be intelligent enough to have been able to see through the ideological claptrap and come out of it remarkbaly well-adjusted. Just because they do not succeed in thoroughly indoctrinating all their charges does not excuse anything. Your children’s positive outcomes are clearly in spite of the ideology of the school, not because of it.
This post was written in 2012. FYI the ICCE is now mentioned in the UCAS guide to “International Qualifications for entry into University or college in 2014”. The UCAS guide can be downloaded at :
Click to access international-qualifications-2014.pdf
FYI this changes nothing from the post written in 2012. It was mentioned in the 2012 guide. The entry then and now simply describes the qualification. It is still entirely at the discretion of the University wheteher they recognise it or not and, if so, what value they place on it. I still want to hear of any faculty in any UK university that will accept a student with ONLY ICCE qualifications. As far as I can ascertain, there are very few faculties that would give it any credibility or value at all. Please give me the details if I am wrong.
I have not found any University mention the ICCE in their admissions pages, but not all universities publish a list of international qualifications they acknowledge. International qualifications have always been assessed on a case-by-case basis. So far, I can only find one – University College Cork in Ireland – which has an admissions page about the ICCE and how it measures up to the Irish Leaving Certificate here :
So according to them, they think PACE qualifications are equivalent to the Irish Leaving Certificate?
From what I’ve found out so far, NARIC has assessed the ICCE twice (the second time prompted by an outcry of disapproval from anti-ICCE people, IIRC)… and upon their second review, they still found the ICCE to be comparable to the Cambridge International O and A level exams, as the link here says :
Obviously there are those who are unhappy with NARIC’s assessment and decision, as can be seen on the blog entry here :
People have written to NARIC to protest, but still it seems NARIC’s assessment of ICCE hasn’t changed.
OFSTED inspectors seem to think the ICCE curriculum is decent enough. I found this OFSTED inspection report on the Emmanuel School (a private fee-paying Christian school in Exeter) done in January 2012, which you can download from the link on the school’s page here :
The report deemed the school to be only “Satisfactory” but that does not seem to be due to the quality of education, if you read the report and the school’s explanation. On page 8 of the OFSTED report, It lists the areas of improvement to the school to be the following :
“ensure assessments in all afternoon subjects provide detailed information about pupils’ achievement and progress”, and
“further improve the quality of schemes of work in afternoon subjects to ensure progression routes are clear and well defined.”
With regard to the ACE/ICCE education on offer, the OFSTED report, under the “Quality of Education” heading, says :
“the ACE curriculum helps pupils to make good progress because it is well structured and taught. It is used well by the school to meet the varied needs of all pupils, including the youngest children, to help them acquire sound mathematical and English skills. The ACE curriculum suitably covers mathematics, English, word building (vocabulary and spelling), social studies and science and the majority of individuals learn at a good rate during these morning sessions. The Christian nature of the school, the ACE provision and the good role models provided by adults create a good framework for personal, social and health education so that pupils develop a strong spiritual understanding and good social and emotional skills.”
“Ongoing assessment of pupils’ progress through PACEs is detailed, accurate and
includes regular opportunities for pupils to assess their own progress. Pupils apply
themselves well to their PACEs work, setting themselves challenging personal goals,
organising their morning learning and marking and correcting their work. Supervisors
have secure subject knowledge to teach the ACE curriculum and suitably support its
I’ve also found that several other UK Independent/Fee-paying schools also use the ICCE/ACE curriculum. For example the King of Kings school in Manchester, and the School of The Lion in Churcham, near Gloucester. I’m just thinking that the curriculum can’t be all that bad if schools that rely on fee-paying parents are using it and preparing their students to gain ICCE qualifications. If the qualification was really that bad or useless for gaining entry into universities and colleges, these schools would have closed down by now since fee-paying parents will just send their kids elsewhere, and it is not in an independent school’s interest to lose customers like that.
I’m just as curious as you are as to how many of these ICCE-qualified children actually go on to further education and where their destinations are, but I am personally am not for or against this curriculum as I’ve seen and heard both positive and negative reviews from people who have used it. People’s opinions of this curriculum are pretty mixed.
Thank you for this full response. Some useful links, but nothing I was not already aware of.
I still maintain that it is scandalous that these ‘qualifications’ are assigned any worth at all. I find it impossible to condone the deliberate miseducation of vulnerable young minds with what is essentially irrational, primitive, ridiculous garbage. That some survive realtively unscathed from the experience is not something to celebrate. Even amongst the religiously inclined, very few indeed will defend this nonsense, so pretending opinions are ‘pretty mixed’ is, quite frankly, being economical with the truth of the matter. Truth is the first casualty at the hands of these purveyors of childish fantasy.
I guess it will be difficult to outlaw this curriculum as governmental agencies seem to approve it. Collective worship is still compulsory in state schools. Until the government decides to make a clean separation between church and state, it is not likely any Christian influences in children’s education will go away?
Hi I am Olivia Bassett I am dyslexic and nearly 15 years old. I am participating in the ACE curriculum and have found it to be helpful in my learning(I struggled with learning in my previous state school) and I attend Bridgend Christian School. I find what you say extremely offensive. The ACE curriculum, I agree that some of it is outdated, but if you were to go to a normal state school and look in to one of their text books you will see that some of their data is out dated as well. The ACE curriculum was made to specifically help children with learning difficulties, as the education in state schools can be very challenging for children with difficulties reading, writing and or math equations. My school has personally asked you to come in for the day and review how we work, but you became quite aggressive when you apparently discovered one of our sponsors was a member of the Green Party and you hesitated, after a while our sponsor agreed for you to come in and review the school, but only if you went for a coffee with, a person we would class as teacher and friend to the whole school, Mr Sheils, but you hesitated again and backed out completely. I am not sure why you did, I’m guessing you felt very intimidated. In the end our teacher, Mrs James, was glad you had backed out as she didn’t feel like she wanted someone as nasty, mean and argumentative as you to be let loose on the children, but I am quite sure that if you would like to have a nice, calm chat with our teacher, I am sure she would welcome you with open arms. The other issue of you implying I and or the other students, or my friends at the school are brain washed and spoon fed the education of Christianity and the bible is I think a little outrageous, I am quite sure I am not being mind controlled, if you would like to visit our school, I would love to continue our conversation, please contact us at 01656 768028, or you can email us, if you would prefer not to speak over the phone, at email@example.com. I would hope you contact soon because we would love to ask you a few questions as well.
Olivia Bassett aged 14yrs
Thank you for taking the trouble to contact me and invite me to your school. There is a lot of mis-information in what you have written about me, but not to worry. I had no idea that you had a sponsor who is in the Green Party, but that makes no odds to me either. The Green Party is a broad church, if you will excuse the pun. I do know of a local Green party member who has done some work at the school and speaks highly of some aspects of what happens there.
I do not know who Mrs James is either, so I am not sure how she finds me to be ‘nasty, mean and argumentative’. I was a secondary school teacher for 20 years and I still work in education, specialising in working with adults with learning difficulties such as dyslexia. I suspect Mrs James has been jumping to conclusins a little bit. I would not be remotely intimidated by visting any school – what could I be intimidated by? The fact of the matter is that I gave up waiting for an invitation to be offered to me.
I would love to vist the school and to continue this conversation. I will happily answer any questions you might have. I will try to arrange this as soon as possible as it is not long to the long summer holiday. I look forward to meeting you soon.