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Aheists could set up own schools
Atheists would be able to set up their own schools under the Government's education reforms, Michael Gove has said.
The Education Secretary said he would be "interested" to look at proposals from individuals such as outspoken atheist Professor Richard Dawkins.
Prof Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, said last month that he liked the idea of setting up a "free-thinking free school".
Speaking at a Commons education select committee, Mr Gove said: "One of the most striking things that I read recently was a thought from Richard Dawkins that he might want to take advantage of our education legislation to open a new school which was set up on an explicitly atheist basis.
"It wouldn't be my choice of school, but the whole point about our education reforms is that they are, in the broad sense of the word, small "l", liberal. That they exist to provide that greater degree of choice."
Mr Gove, whose two children attend primary faith schools, told the cross-party group of MPs that he "recognised that there are some people who explicitly do not want their children educated in a faith-based setting".
He said: "One of the principles behind our education reforms is to give people the maximum amount of choice so that those people, and they may not themselves necessarily have a very strong religious faith, but who believe that the ethos and values of faith-based education are right for their child, have that choice but others who want a different approach can take it as well."
Speaking afterwards, Mr Gove said he had seen a reference to Professor Dawkins expressing an interest in establishing a school, adding: "If Professor Dawkins wants to set up a school we would be very interested to look at an application."
Prof Dawkins, a former Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, said in a conversation on the Mumsnet website last month: "I like the idea very much, although I would prefer to call it a free-thinking free school.
"I would never want to indoctrinate children in atheism, any more than in religion. Instead, children should be taught to ask for evidence, to be sceptical, critical, open-minded."
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