Are some private Christian schools operating in secret?

How many ACE schools are there really? In all the press coverage this week, it’s been a bit confused.

The BBC website went with “about 50”. The Daily Mail said “up to 25”. The Manchester Evening News plumped for “22 UK schools”, while the Bristol Post claimed there were 30. As I write this, the CEE website lists 32 institutions, two of which are called ‘tuition centres’ and one of which is a nursery, leaving 29, the figure given by Jeremy Vine. On Newsnight, Anjana Ahuja told the world it was “at least 30”.

So how many are there really?

The truth is that no one (besides Christian Education Europe, presumably) knows, but the official numbers do not add up. It appears that some ACE schools are operating entirely under the radar.

In January 2009, Christian Education Europe told the Human Rights Joint Committee that there were “some 59 schools with an annually renewable contract”.

But if you look on a web archive like the Wayback Machine, you will see that CEE’s schools directory probably never listed that many schools (there is no archive from January 2009, so we can’t check that exact date). The nearest captures are from September 2008 and April 2009.

On September 18, 2008, the website listed 47 schools in Europe, of which 36 were in the UK.

The archive from April 27, 2009 is unchanged from the September 2008 version. Now, I can’t prove that 23 schools weren’t added to the UK directory between September 2008 and January 2009, and then removed again before April 2009, but it seems unlikely, doesn’t it?

Then on the 11 April 2010, the BBC reported that a new ACE school opening in Hull would be the 60th in the UK. That makes sense based on the figure of 59 in 2009. The Wayback Machine’s next archive of the CEE website wasn’t until June 2011, at which point the directory named 34 schools in the UK and Ireland, and a further 11 on the continent. It seems very unlikely that the CEE website listed more than 50 schools at any point between 2008 and 2011.

So we have a question: Did Christian Education Europe lie to the Human Rights Joint Committee and the BBC, or are there secret ACE schools operating around the country?

Here’s the thing: I don’t think CEE lied to the Human Rights Joint Committee. Why would they? What could they realistically gain from it? Why would they violate a central tenet of their religion? Why would they risk losing all credibility with the government if they were found out?

So I think there were 59 schools in 2009, and I think there were 60 in 2010. Which means there are almost certainly more than 29 now. Where are they?

William Todd’s 1984 PhD thesis (a rich source on the early history of ACE in the UK) gives us some clues. In 1984, a number of ACE schools were served with notices of complaint by Her Majesty’s Inspectors, and one closed following this. There was quite a lot of adverse press coverage around ACE at this time, with one article in the Times carrying the headline “Sect School Pupils ‘Regularly Beaten'”. CEE did not want any more scrutiny.

Todd quotes an anonymous representative of Christian Education Europe as saying:

We have a policy of not issuing lists of A.C.E. schools after the critical H.M.I.’s report on one school in Coventry. We felt they were unusually fastidious and fear that political pressure could be brought to bear on our schools, particularly if there was a change of Government.

My understanding is that the list on CEE’s website has always been opt-in for the schools. It isn’t a comprehensive list, only a directory of those schools who wish to advertise their services. This is not that surprising. The vast majority of ACE schools are attached to a church, and some of these churches take the doctrine of ‘biblical separation‘ very seriously. They might well only offer education to children of families who are already members of the church, so they obviously wouldn’t advertise their services more widely. Some of them are also probably just glorified home schools. According to its 2013 Ofsted report, for instance, Oxford Christian School had just ten pupils. And that’s one of the schools which does advertise in the directory. The other invisible schools, wherever they may be, are unlikely to have huge enrolments.

All this raises a question. These schools are private and, they might argue, minding their own business. Why shouldn’t they operate without being listed in any directories?

For campaigners against ACE of course, it is a problem. There could well be an ACE school in your town, teaching homophobia, misogyny and anti-evolution nonsense, and very few people would know about it. You might like to raise awareness of this, calling for closer scrutiny of the content of private school lessons and checking that the schools are being inspected thoroughly. You can’t do this if you don’t know the school exists. You might even say these are Trojan Horse schools.

It makes me uncomfortable that a school teaching extremist positions could exist without any scrutiny, but that scrutiny need not come from the public. All this would be fine if we had confidence that the schools are being inspected thoroughly and fairly. For various reasons, it’s currently difficult to have that confidence.

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About jonnyscaramanga

I grew up as a Christian fundamentalist in the UK. Now I am writing a book and blog about what that's like, and what fundamentalists believe.

Posted on June 19, 2014, in Accelerated Christian Education, Atheism, Christianity, Creationism, Education, Faith Schools, Fundamentalism and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Reckon 60 plus in Uk, but some are tiny.

  2. “For campaigners against ACE of course, it is a problem. There could well be an ACE school in your town, teaching homophobia, misogyny and anti-evolution nonsense, and very few people would know about it.”

    ACE schools teach Biblical values. “Homophobia” is not a biblical concept. You and your homosexual Nazis made that term up. Misogyny is not anywhere in the Bible, either. And ACE, of a truth, teaches both creationism and evolution.

    You are wasting your life and obsessing over something that is actually nothing.

    I wish I understood what “under the radar” means. If you would realize that you are actually a fascist and do not want certain people to have certain freedoms, I think you’ll get farther in life, especially in the area of understanding what makes you tick. I think you need to reflect on what is going on inside your self.

    • ACE teaches that evolution has been scientifically disproved and that evolutionists (that means me, the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the scientific academies of over 100 countries) cling to it despite the evidence as a way of ignoring God. It also teaches that nuclear fusion is a myth made up by evolutionists to hide the fact that the Sun really gets its energy by shrinking and can’t be more than a few thousand years old. But I suppose that’s teaching both sides. The Bible (Leviticus) specifies the death penalty for male-on-male sex, but I suppose that doesn’t count as phobia. And if you really don’t know what “under the radar” means in this context – well, perhaps your Christian education was a little bit too accelerated.

    • One thing I think is important to understand as well is that ACE schools don’t just create issues for non-Christian students. Christian students are being turned away by colleges and universities because their diplomas don’t mean anything to them. So here you have a Christian child who has a calling to attend college for medicine but cannot because the particular high school his/parents chose was not of quality. If you want to place your child in a Christian school, place them in a Christian school that will offer them an education that will be recognized elsewhere. Why pay private school tutition for something subpar? Especially when we can see that the children are capable of academic excellence, we should be giving our children better than ACE. ACE might be easy on the wallet but your children will pay the price later on when applying for college.

    • 1. ACE lies about evolution, pretending that evolutionary theory states things it emphatically does not. These false claims create what debate majors call a “straw man” version of evolution: a ridiculous phony that is easily destroyed. ACE also claims that it is somehow impossible for a Christian to believe the truth about evolution and still remain a Christian, which is probably why so many ACE graduates end up jettisoning Christianity altogether. (I grew up with ACE and A Beka, both of which make the same claims about evolution and the age of the Earth, so like Johnny, I have first-hand experience here.)

      2. ACE teaches that the world is 6,000 years old, which has been thoroughly disproven, and furthermore, is stated nowhere in the Bible. The Irish (Catholic!) Bishop James Ussher made up the 6,000 year figure by tallying up Biblical genealogies (which do not match, because they are incomplete) and guessing how big the gaps were. The Bible itself says nothing about the actual age of the earth; I should know because I’ve read it.

      3. “Homophobia” is a term for “not wanting to treat gay people like PEOPLE, and instead preferring to treat them like scum and pretend that this is somehow loving.” I see an awful lot of this, and most of it is from fundamentalist Christians and Muslims.

      4. Misogyny is the treating of women as being inferior to men. Insistence that women cannot wear women’s pants, that women should cover up more of their skin than usual to avoid “distracting” boys, and the frequent implication that women are only capable of being housewives are all misogyny. Furthermore, “modesty in dress” tends to be incredibly demeaning to men, characterizing them as horrible rape monsters who “can’t help themselves” if they happen to see an inch of bare skin above the knee.

      5. “Under the radar” means that the schools are being secretive. See, if your school practices really are good and Godly, then you should be proud of the number of children being taught in your schools, and willing for there to be greater transparency. The ridiculous levels of secrecy regarding how many ACE schools and home-schools there are, let alone how many ACE students, indicates that you are fearful of the light of truth. This tends to look awfully suspicious.

      6. If it is actually nothing, then why are you so angry about it? Clearly it’s not “nothing” if you’re so willing to click on a stranger’s blog, read at least one of his posts, and then comment on said post. If it were really “nothing,” you would ignore it, laugh, and move on, never to visit this blog again.

      Brother or sister, pray dislodge the plank in thine own eye, that thou might see more clearly the speck that is in thy brother’s eye.

    • Jonathan, I was educated in ACE (my father was actually their production manager in Texas). On a secular level: ACE is one of the worst curriculum around. I could not attend University because of it and I had to go through a series of test to even get into Community College. I have spent my whole adult life educating myself about things I should have learned in school. The entire system is based on memorizing by rote, learning to think logically is not only discouraged but often punished. On a spiritual level: it is downright evil with racist, misogynistic, homophobic teachings that promote hatred and limp sheep that baa in agreement to whatever their minister tells them to believe. Please note: my father left this company because of unbelievable scandals with the founder and his upper echelon and prostitutes. When my father refused to testify for them, we were tormented by the teachers at the school. Finally my father moved away to protect us all.

  3. Presumably one could make an FoI request for a list of all private schools that Ofsted inspects. But one would then have to go through the list and read the text of probably thousands of reports in order to identify which ones used ACE, if that information is given (to be fair, it is there, on p3, in the Ofsted report on Maranatha; link at http://wp.me/p21T1L-fR).

    • Yes, Ofsted reports on ACE schools tend to note that they use the curriculum. But we’ve know way of knowing if that’s always the case.

      ACE schools are never called “xxxx ACE school” — that’s against ACE policy, for reasons I shall discuss another time.

  4. What basis do you have for saying that some schools are operating under the radar? You seem to be making a very big assumption.

  5. Sadly, I am the daughter of the man who was this company’s production manager from 1977-1983. I spent almost all of my school years in this curriculum and can attest to how awful, bigoted, misogynistic, anti education it is. I have spent my entire adult life trying to get ‘caught up” in my education. I am not longer a Christian, but if you are and you feel you must educate your child in a “christian” school, find somewhere that uses a real curriculum and not this trash.

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