A Christian school that will re-open as a free school next year has hit back at claims it was run by creationists and will teach the doctrine in its classes, saying the allegations were "mischievous and untrue".
Chris Gray, principal of Grindon Hall in Sunderland, told The Huffington Post UK that creationism would "never be taught in science lessons" an issue they had already been "quizzed to death over", when the Department for Education was considering giving the institution free school status.
"Our science teachers would not teach creationism in science lessons" he said.
"There are valid places for those discussions and they will never take place in a science lesson."
He added that the school was not run by creationists and neither he nor his staff believed in creationism. Gray said that the issue of creation would be touched on "at most once or twice" in the lifetime of a child at the school.
His comments came after the British Humanist Association claimed that Grindon Hall was one of three free schools due to be run by groups with creationist views. The association named two othersone in Sevenoaks, Kent, and one in Nottinghamshire.
The website for Sevenoaks Christian School says in an FAQ: "Christians believe that God made the world, loves the world and is pleased with his creation. In RE we plan to teach about this and our responsibility as stewards of this precious earth.
"The government has said that free schools cannot teach ‘creationism’ or ‘intelligent design’ in science lessons as an alternative to the theory of evolution and we are content to accept this."
A report in The Guardian over the three schools has sparked debate online with some people tweeting their outrage over the report, while others mocking the creationist view that the world was made by God in seven days.
Chief executive of the British Humanist Association Andrew Copson said the schools' decision to teach creationism in schools was still concerning.
"This approach is often used by American creationist groups to get creationism taught in schools. Creationists do not argue that evolution should be taught; they simply argue that there is genuine scientific debate over the origins of the Universe and the Earth, and that therefore creationism should be taught alongside evolution"
Controversy was sparked earlier this week after it was reported that Education Secretary Michael Gove approved The Exemplar Academy in Nottinghamshire to receive government funding, an academy reportedly run by creationists.
"It is still far from clear why Michael Gove should agree to open a school run by people with such extreme religious views, when there are so many other groups he can choose to support," claimed Richy Thompson, faith schools campaigner for the BHA, said on Monday.
The Department for Education said:
“It is absolutely not true that this Free School will be able to teach creationism as scientific fact. No state school is permitted to do this.
"We have clear guidelines about what schools can and cannot teach. Any Free School found to be contravening the guidelines will be in breach of their contract and will be subject to action by the Department, including prohibiting them from operating.”
Although some users expressed outrage on Twitter, the suggestion that there may be two free schools prompted amusement from some quarters.
Clarification: An earlier version of this article stated that Grindon Hall would be run by creationist groups and would teach children that the world was created in seven days in RE lessons. Principal Chris Gray has since told the Huffington Post UK that Grindon Hall is not run by creationists and that seven-day creationism would never be taught at the school even in RE lessons.