Damages win for academy sponsor wins court

A BUSINESSMAN responsible for funding one of south east Northumberland’s newest schools has landed a damages payout over disparaging comments made about his religious beliefs in a magazine.

Emmanuel Schools Foundation founder Sir Peter Vardy came in for criticism in an article by South Tyneside playwright Ed Waugh published in The Tribune in 2009.

The article questioned Sir Peter’s beliefs and claimed that the foundation’s schools, including Blyth’s Bede Academy, opened in 2009, teach creationism.

The left-wing magazine has now published an apology and paid damages out of court, to be donated to charity, following last week’s hearing at the High Court in London.

Sir Peter, of Houghton-le-Spring in County Durham, said: “I have been saddled with this unwarranted and wholly untrue creationist label for many years.

“I felt forced to take this action to set the record straight and finally lay the matter to rest.

“These allegations were not based on any fact and have been extremely damaging.

“The court action reflects the gravity of the matter and the seriously damaging effect that such untruths can cause.

“The Tribune claimed that the schools teach creationism as authentic scientific theory. It has acknowledged this to be untrue and has apologised.

“Indeed, to illustrate how wrong it was, science education at Emmanuel College has just been declared outstanding by Ofsted.

“I have never made a secret of the fact that I am a Christian and that the schools I founded have a Christian ethos, but I have never attempted to impose my beliefs on anyone.

“To suggest that I used the schools as some kind of indoctrination centre undermines their exceptional standards and is insulting to staff, students and their parents alike.

“After 20 years as a sponsor of education, I recently transferred the schools to the United Learning Trust safe in the knowledge that they will continue to thrive.

“I am extremely proud of the positive contribution my foundation has made to lives of thousands of young people.”