No Scientology schools, says U.K. government

By Lewis G. Parker
  • UK Government tells The Kernel: ‘no Scientology schools’
  • Unclear how Michael Gove will stop the cult opening faith schools
  • One Scientology-controlled school already open in UK

This week the highest court in the land ruled that Scientology is a religion and couples can now marry in its churches. But while it was believed that becoming an official religion would allow the science fiction cult to run faith schools, the Department of Education says it won’t let them, according to calls placed by The Kernel yesterday.

But given this week’s Supreme Court ruling, which effectively redefined religion in the U.K., it’s unclear how the Government could stop a Scientology application without finding itself in a long and expensive court case with a wealthy cult whose members include Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

While all free school applications have to be approved by the Department of Education, Scientologists would appear to have a case for religious discrimination should an application be rejected on the basis of the group’s faith.

We got in touch with the New Schools Network, which helps organisations with free school applications, on the premise of opening a publicly-funded Scientology school. The organisation was enthusiastic about The Kernel’s chances of setting up a school based on the teachings of L Ron Hubbard.

While free school applications must adhere to very strict criteria, some other spiritual groups of questionable reputation have managed to wing it with Michael Gove’s department.

The Maharishi free school in Lancashire, for instance, is guided by the principles of transcendental meditation, but it was recently reprimanded for not entering pupils into compulsory SAT exams.

In 2012, the Department of Education approved three free school applications from Christian groups that teach Creationism as science.

The Al-Madinah free school in Derby, which was recently shut down by Ofsted, received the all-clear for its paperwork despite making girls sit at the back of the class and women teachers adhere to Islamic dress codes.

Foxes in the henhouse

In fact, the Government’s statement that it “will not allow Scientology schools” was untrue the moment it was spoken, because Scientologists already run a school in the UK. At the private Greenfields school in East Sussex, 80 per cent of students come from a Scientology background and 90 per cent of its teachers are members of the sect.

While free school applications must adhere to very strict criteria, some other spiritual groups of questionable reputation have managed to wing it with Michael Gove’s department.

Classrooms at Greenfields are decorated with posters of L Ron Hubbard and his ideas. While it follows the national curriculum, Greenfields is deeply embedded in Scientology lingo, with the moral code drawing on Hubbard’s book The Way to Happiness and the teaching methods from Study Technology, an educational approach developed by Hubbard.

Study Tech is designed to help students overcome what Hubbard saw as the three fundamental obstacles to learning: “absence of a mass,” “too steep a gradient,” and “misunderstood words.” Students in Scientology schools spend a lot of time fashioning objects out of clay and learning the dictionary definitions of words.

When Linda Behar-Horenstein, professor of education at the University of Florida was asked to evaluate Study Tech, she described it as “moronic.”

Speaking to the Times Educational Supplement, Greenfields deputy head and former director for Scientology training in the UK, Martin McQuade said: “Some people think it’s simplistic. But it was by using these approaches that John Travolta learned how to fly planes.”