Lies, damned lies, and incompetence

More Accelerated Christian Education schools, more misleading advertising. On the Advertising Standards Agency website today, an ‘informally resolved case’ is listed, related to Dewsbury Gospel Church trading as Branch Christian School. Branch Christian School uses the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) curriculum. Rather than preparing its students for recognised exams like GCSEs and A Levels, it offers its graduates the International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE).

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 09.27.25

It will come as a surprise to no one to learn that I was the complainant in this case. It’s a similar story to the last time I pointed out that some ACE schools were misleading parents about the nature of their qualifications, but in this case, it’s more extreme.

When I complained to the ASA about this in July, the Branch Christian School prospectus claimed that the ICCE was recognised by the Government’s National Framework for Qualifications (NFQ).

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There is no such thing as the NFQ.

There is, however, such thing as the National Qualifications Framework (NQF), and the ICCE has never been on it. Nor has the ICCE ever been part of the newer Qualification Credit Framework (QCF), because it’s an unrecognised qualification.

When the ASA followed up my complaint with the advertiser, Branch Christian School clarified that they meant NQF, not NFQ, but assured the ASA that future advertising would not suggest or state that the ICCE appears on the NQF, or that it is recognised by Ofqual. The ASA took this as settling the matter, and didn’t refer my complaint to the ASA Council.

As of this morning, however, Carmel Christian School in Bristol is advertising this:

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 09.49.34The same page says “ICCE appears in the current UK qualifications handbook” which, as we know, is considered misleading advertising.

The latter claim is at least understandable: There is a UK qualifications handbook, and the ICCE does appear in it. It’s just misleading to allow parents to believe that this confers any level of official recognition. The NQF claim, on the other hand, is pure fantasy. In Carmel’s case, the claim is softened to ‘equivalent to’, but this is still nonsense. Even UK Naric‘s benchmarking of the ICCE doesn’t claim equivalence (and doesn’t mention the NQF). Incidentally, Carmel, GCSEs grade D-G are a Level 1 qualification, not Level 2.

Apparently, the ICCE have been coaching their schools over the summer on how to advertise the ‘qualification’, so that fiascos like this don’t happen again. The schools, of course, say that these were genuine mistakes. But it’s difficult to imagine how any of them genuinely misunderstood that the ICCE is part of the NQF, when there’s not even the faintest whisper of truth in that claim. It’s as though they just wrote what they wished were true in their prospectuses.

When commenters accused ACE schools of lying about the UCAS handbook, I defended the ACE schools. I thought they genuinely believed the claims. Here, though, there just seems to have been a totally callous disregard for the truth. They appear to have neglected even the most basic fact-checking. This is such negligence that it almost amounts to the same thing as lying.

In fact, it’s pretty much the same disregard for accuracy we find in their curriculum.


 

I’ve written about the Branch Christian School before. Their 2012 prospectus said:

Since September 1999 it has been illegal for schools to carry out corporal punishment. However, the school still holds to the Biblical principal of corporal correction, and any infringement of school rules that could warrant such correction will be reported to parents.

Sadly, I failed to get a screenshot of this before it was taken down. The URL was http://branchchristianschool.org.uk/prospectus.pdf, which isn’t in any web archive I’ve searched. The claim disappeared from their prospectus shortly after I blogged about it, though of course I can’t claim any causal link.

Instead, the school’s discipline policy now reads:

School discipline and the home

A discipline issue which warrants a response of greater significance than a detention, but falls short of warranting suspension, will be referred to the Principal. He will, in consultation with the parents, agree an appropriate course of action designed to discipline the student and form part of a training process leading to improved attitudes and behaviour.

*Shudder*

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