CAMPAIGNERS who called for an official ban on teaching creationism in schools have welcomed a "clear statement" from a Scottish Government minister it should not be taught in science classes.

The Scottish Secular Society (SSS) lodged a petition with the Scottish Parliament calling for guidance to be issued to bar the presentation of creationism as a viable alternative to evolution in schools.

Earlier this month, MSPs on the Education and Culture Committee ruled out introducing new guidance, saying that schools should rely on teachers exercising their professional judgment, rather than introducing legislation.

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However the SSS have pointed to a letter sent to the committee by Alasdair Allan, minister for learning and science, which stated there are already a number of safeguards in place designed to ensure young people receive a balanced education.

The letter added: "Guidance provided by Education Scotland, set out in the "Principles and Practice" papers and the "Experiences and Outcomes" documentation for each of the eight curriculum areas does not identify Creationism as a scientific principle. It should therefore not be taught as part of science lessons."

Chemistry Professor Paul Braterman, scientific advisor for the SSS, said the Scottish Government's official position had previously stopped short of giving any guidance about the teaching of creationism in science lessons.

He said: "Now we have, at last, a clear statement from the responsible minister that creationism should not be taught as science."

However he said he still had concerns about how creationism is presented in religious and moral studies classes in schools in Scotland.

In England and Wales, the teaching of creationism as scientific theories is prohibited in schools.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: "Education Scotland does not identify creationism as a scientific principle, and it does not form part of the learning and teaching of science in our schools.

"Teachers use their professional judgement, experience and understanding of their pupils to respond sensitively to complex and challenging issues, such as those posed by differing perspectives."