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Creationist row: Headteachers removed from school

Kiktonholme Primary School in East Kilbride, where two headteachers were removed after allowing US sect members access to their classes. Picture: Andy Buchanan

Kiktonholme Primary School in East Kilbride, where two headteachers were removed after allowing US sect members access to their classes. Picture: Andy Buchanan

  • by SHÂN ROSS
 

TWO headteachers at a Scottish primary school who allowed members of a US creationist Christian religious sect into classrooms have been removed from their posts, it emerged last night.

Headteacher Alexandra MacKenzie and her deputy Elizabeth Mockus – who job-share at Kirktonholme Primary School in East Kilbride – are to be “redeployed” to backroom duties while South Lanarkshire Council carries out an investigation,

Education chiefs want to determine why the Church of Christ sect had been allowed into the school to work as classroom assistants for the last eight years.

South Lanarkshire Council last night issued a statement confirming both 
senior teachers had been removed from their posts and temporary headteachers put in their place.

Both Mrs MacKenzie and Mrs Mockus continue to work for the council in an education role, but the council did not say where they were working or what they were doing.

Jim Gilhooly, the council’s director of education, said: “A full investigation into the management practices within the school has been instigated.

“In order to assist with this, the current headteachers have been moved from the school and redeployed to other duties within education resources, with immediate effect. A temporary senior management team has been put in place.

“The council will continue to work with the parents to ensure that Kirktonholme Primary School now moves forward with educating and caring for the community’s children.”

The Alabama-based sect’s presence at the 400-pupil school came to light when pupils took home creationist books they had been given at assembly, as reported in Saturday’s Scotsman.

The creationist books given to pupils were How Do You Know God is Real? and Exposing the Myth of Evolution, 
denouncing the theory of evolution and warning about a world without God.

The sect does not believe in evolution and denounces homosexuality as sinful.

Alex Gear, from the Church of Christ, had been invited into the school by Mrs Mackenzie to take on the role as one of the school’s chaplains. He regularly spoke to pupils about beliefs as part of their religious education lessons.

After details about the sect came to light a number of parents complained to the council, while others threatened to take their children away from the school. Parents at the school were yesterday given a letter from Mr Gilhooly outlining why the teachers had been removed.

In it he said: “I have instructed that an investigation into aspects of the management practices within the school takes place. In order to assist with this process, I have decided to redeploy Mrs MacKenzie and Mrs Mockus to other duties elsewhere within education resources.”

He added that alternative arrangements would be made for the management of the school for the duration of the investigation and that Andrea Reid, who worked as a quality information officer, would take over for the “interim period.”

The director also told parents the East Kilbride school would no longer be used to hold a youth club which was run by Mr Gear on Monday evenings

A source close to the school said: “The majority of parents think Mrs Mackenzie and Mrs Mockus do great work, but have been naive about this business.

“The parents all knew there was an American or two in the school helping out, there was a constant stream of them, but most just thought they were teaching assistants undergoing training. The current ones are a young man and woman.

“They went on trips with the kids to things like cinemas and worked for a couple of days a week or just half days.”

Last night, Linda Fabiani, MSP for East Kilbride, revealed she had been contacted by parents whose children attend other schools in the area alarmed that their children may be exposed to a similar situation.

She added: “They (parents) should always be aware of who is dealing with their children on a regular basis, and of course what materials are being used in class and given as gifts.”

Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: “I very much welcome an investigation. But I hope it doesn’t just focus on one school, but take in other schools so that pupils aren’t exposed to this sort of extremism.”

Mr Gear also worked as chaplain at Greenburn Primary School, a special-needs school, also in South Lanarkshire.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “Officials have been contacted by concerned parents in the school and have indicated their support for the actions being taken by the director of education.”

 

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