This article belongs to BUSINESS MONTH: Education theme.

Should the state take responsibility for the education of its youth? Should children be taught a broad, well-rounded curriculum? Should children be educated on all areas of both fact and faith, rather than any form of religious bias? Should children be counted as individuals rather than statistics?


Yes to all of the above. At least that's what I've always believed and, until recently, what the institution of the United Kingdom has believed. For several decades the British nation has proudly flown the flag of socialism, supporting acts that see the ruling bodies take charge over the welfare of the public. The National Health Service is our proudest achievement, actively securing the ‘right to health' for all people of the kingdom and ensuring the same level of care for all. This has also been so for our ‘right to education', that is until recently.

The government's new ‘City Academies' have effectively ended that responsibility and sold the future of huge numbers of children to whichever corporate giants (or charities) are willing to take them on.

The new academies are partially funded by the government but not run by the government. Instead large companies have stepped up to administer the schools and take a profit for the service. But is it healthy to run a school like a business? What are the outcomes of this harebrained, capitalist scheme?

Well at first the idea of running a school like a business might sound sensible. Independent businesses have proved to be more effective in attending to their own affairs than nationalised institutions in many different fields. When the UK's rail network and car manufacturing industries were nationalised the result was a drop in quality of service and a massive overspend of tax payer money. Re-privatising them proved to be one of the better decisions we've ever made, encouraging competition and the benefits that go with it. So if schools are forced to compete in a similar way the quality of education might improve.

The problem with this reasoning is that the new City Academies will not be actively competing with each other. In fact they don't have to compete with anybody. Each one of the academy projects has involved the demolishing of several schools in the area, creating one huge and shining new building in which to merge them. Parents often have no choice in which school they send their darling little ones to. This might not seem so bad at the moment; the academies are still gleaming with new glass and boasting the top facilities with which they've been fitted. But several years down the line things may be very different indeed. Imagine knocking down all the coffee shops in one town and building one huge Starbucks in the middle. Starbucks could make its coffee from recycled deer droppings but people would have no choice but to drink it.

So the schools do not compete like businesses. Neither do they make money like businesses (they are in fact more like charities than anything) So what's in it for the business leaders taking charge? Well the opportunity to make an impression on the youth of the nation of course. Children are impressionable, some might even say gullible, and for millionaire Sir Peter Vardy, of car dealership giant Reg Vardy, who runs the City Academies in Doncaster, Middlesborough and Gateshead this is the perfect opportunity to teach his evangelical beliefs, namely creationism.

In reality, Vardy's academies are more like missions than schools. Funding is raised through the charitable Vardy Foundation which has the final say on who runs the schools and who they employ, eliminating community administration. The school then uses the typical Christian guise of ‘charity' to indoctrinate the children under their care.

This is a little like demolishing houses in Africa, building a mission in their place and making sure that all the refugees get fed by your charity alone. Then you can read from the bible and splash holy water over them as they gratefully gobble down the bowls of rice you handed out.

But so what? What does it matter that the school preaches evangelism, so long as it educates our children well?

So long as they truly are educating children properly. Investigative journalism by the Britain's Channel 4 has found several children from the schools who claim that their teachers failed to teach the theory of evolution, as the law dictates they must. These now ex-pupils have claimed that their teacher instead produced a bible form his desk draw and read exerts from Genesis, proclaiming that the good book told the real truth without even attempting to outline the scientific theory.

One teacher, who was also interviewed by Channel 4, said that she had felt pressured into teaching evangelism and that she was forced from her position at the school when she refused.

Reports of overly harsh punishment have also been brought to light – with some claiming that these instances are cases of abuse rather than strict discipline – leaving the parents of many pupils angered.

What right do these institutions have to teach religion to our children without consent? Of course parents always have the alternative of moving to a different area or even home-schooling their children, but for many families living in the inner city areas where the academies have been established, this is simply not an option.

But perhaps we shouldn't get so stressed about the issue because, in the words of one of the pupils at Doncaster's Trinity Academy, "stress is caused by the devil."

The pupil who said that is my very own cousin. When I argued that stress is caused by too much hard work, and that toiling in the fields is supposedly our punishment from God, rather than his counterpart, for eating apples, my cousin would not agree. "Stress is caused by the devil," he repeated with no relevant evidence to prove the point. "I know it's true because I learned it in school."