Evolution now officially part of British primary-school curriculum

September 2, 2014 • 11:30 am

From the British Humanist Association comes an announcement about the advent of an evolution curriculum in British primary schools, so that evolution education, as of this year, begins at age 10 or 11 instead of age 14-15:

Today sees a new national curriculum in English schools come into force, and for the first time this includes a module on evolution in primary schools. The module on evolution and inheritance is part of the year six programme of study (ages 10-11). The British Humanist Association (BHA) has long campaigned for such a change, and has welcomed another of its goals being realised.

In 2011 the BHA launched the ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’ campaign, with support from four organisations including the British Science Association and the Association for Science Education, and from 30 leading scientists including three Nobel prize winners, Sir David Attenborough, Richard Dawkins and Michael Reiss. That campaign had two simple goals: to see new rules introduced to ensure that creationism and intelligent design ‘may not be presented as scientific theories in any publicly-funded school of whatever type’, and to see evolution added to the primary national curriculum instead of being taught from year ten (ages 14-15).

The first of those goals was realised in June 2014, and the second has now been realised as well. The current year six will be taught the old programme of study, with the new programme of study being taught from September 2015.

Here are the official guidelines taken from the link above:

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 7.10.21 AM Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 7.10.30 AM

And not a word about “critical thinking about the theory” or “teaching the controversy”!  I could carp a bit about adaptationist story-telling, and stipulate that “students might think about how to test their hypotheses,” but, all in all, this is great, and far, far better than standards in the U.S.

h/t: Matthew Cobb

37 thoughts on “Evolution now officially part of British primary-school curriculum

    1. No, only if you think that ‘same kind’ implies that there exist a fixed number of permanently distinct ‘kinds’. Such an assumption needs to be stomped when it appears.
      See e.g. here and here.

  1. Hooooraaaay!
    This is good, especially important for children being brought up in religious households; if they are introduced to evolution in primary school hopefully their religious upbringings might take less of a hold over their minds.

    I heard on BBC 6Music today about Alice Robert’s new book- I’ve been thinking since that it sounds like it’ll be just the sort of thing that will benefit children with religious parents- it was only a very brief interview with her and I missed the very beginning but I think it sounds like it’s fully illustrated and focuses on evolution and embryology – it’s not out quite yet, I think it’s called The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being – I’m going to check it out now I’ve been reminded.

      1. I’ve just been to look at it*, sadly it’s not an illustrated book (I’d imagined them so vividly!) and perhaps it won’t be so suitable for children then but it does look really good and I’ll definitely be getting it when it comes out- it’s got a blurb by Dawkins too.

        *Alice Roberts’s new book

  2. Excellent. However, my kids (10&under) get weekly doses of evolution from this website, Dawkins’ books, and general YouTubes. Parents should always play an important role emphasizing who we are with respect to the rest of life on planet earth. (And kids should always go to school, i.e., with their peers, not home-schooled).

    1. (And kids should always go to school, i.e., with their peers, not home-schooled)

      I rather suspect that there will be an increase in “home schooling” in Britain because of this. Which would have the small benefit of putting the children involved on watch lists for the authorities, and may constrain some of their parent’s other forms of child abuse. But that won’t help much. There will also be an increase in children going to private, non-state schools which will simply dodge the curriculum, or slant it into uselessness. Leaving the children hopelessly ill equipped for future life.
      Caveat : yes, individual children are individual ; but these are standards for dealing with children by the classroom-full, when regression to the mean means that you can treat them to the mean. And after dealing with the 80% in 20% of the time, the remaining 20%, for whatever reasons can get the remaining 80% of the time. (Remembering that the original purpose of intelligence testing and all this palaver was to identify children who needed additional assistance at school.)

      1. Because of the way funding works in the UK, most religious schools are partly funded by the state. Also, home schooling is much less common than in the US. There has been an increase in the number of Muslim charter schools in recent years, which receive some state funding, and I suspect the desire of the government to stop the rise of Muslim extremism has a lot to do with this decision.

    1. Honestly, I feel that success would be the worst thing for the religious folks. It’s easy to rail against the secular state, but when it’s time to start a theocracy, you have to pick and choose, and even the biggest denomination in the US is a minority of the whole. All the Protestants together are just barely a majority, but you’re going to have to make decisions on stuff like predestination, and that’d fracture everything. Much easier to be the eternal opposition and criticize rather than try to make something that works.

    2. Damn you : my mission for tomorrow is to work “antidisestablishmentarian” into a geology report and make sense. I shall have to come up with something worse for the Safety Officer.

  3. This is about the ‘National Curriculum in England’. Therefore about English schools, not about British schools. England and Scotland are independent as to school system; I don’t know about Wales.

      1. (I’m not up to speed on the situation in NI but I’m guessing there might be more push back from the religious)

        Racing certainty. I can hear Paisley (fils) revving up from here, and I’m on the far side of the Equator!

  4. That’s great news! I can’t recall when I learned formally about evolution. I don’t think until Grade 10 science. I was self educated up to then anyway and can’t recall if it was all me or some school in the elementary years.

    1. My ‘evolution moment’ happened aged 7: seeing a chimpanzee with genitals nearly identical to mine doing a poo. That was a combination of structure and action too similar to my and my schoolfriends’ to be coincidental.

  5. As a long-standing governor of an English primary school, I cannot say how delighted I am at this good news. The new curriculum has some great resources available, and we look forward to using them from this autumn term…starting this week!

  6. I don’t often defend the current government but I am glad to see that Gove (and his successor) actually got something right ….

  7. Interesting to see Michael Reiss as a signatory. He’s a bioethicist, but he’s also an Anglican priest. Got into trouble, a bit unfairly, for suggesting a few years ago that “creationism” be discussed, but as a view of the world, not as science. The idea was to engage intellectually those who have trouble with evolution. But, as Swift said (the phrase has been oft repeated), “it is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a position he was never reasoned into.”

    1. Ah, that’s a Swiftism? I knew the line – used it more than a few times myself – but didn’t know that it was from MR Baby Fricassee himself.
      And, as Mr “Bury my Cheese in the Garden” would put it, “So to the galley”.

  8. I understand your carp about the emphasis on adaptation, but I wonder if this might be the easiest way to introduce evolution, especially at age 10-11. I only became comfortable with drift and nearly neutral theory when I met Motoo Kimura’s equations, and most 10-11 year old children might never even go on to study this level of maths. For example, the examination of the limiting cases requires the expansion of the exponential function.

  9. and from 30 leading scientists including three Nobel prize winners, Sir David Attenborough, Richard Dawkins and Michael Reiss.

    Minor correction, none of these three worthy gentleman are Nobel Prize winners.

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