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Wednesday, 21 March, 2001, 18:35 GMT 19:35 UK
Comprehensive's 1m for new school
head teacher and students
Thomas Telford head Kevin Satchwell with sixth formers
England's top comprehensive, Thomas Telford, is putting 1m into the formation of a new city academy - thought to be the first time one state school has funded another.

If people or organisations are up for it, it's quite possible that you can get on and do things for other kids and other communities

Head teacher Kevin Satchwell
It can afford to do so because of its success in selling its course in information technology over the internet to other schools.

The government has also announced plans for the first two academies to have the new business and enterprise secondary school specialism - in Bexley, Kent, and Southwark in south-east London.

In another first, the city academy in Bexley intends eventually to incorporate a primary school as well as a secondary.

Thomas Telford School was the top-performing non-selective state school in last year's exam results - the first to have 100% of its students achieve at least five good grades at GCSE/GNVQ level.

3m income

The online GNVQ in information and communication technology which it runs through Thomas Telford School Online Ltd will be used by 1,000 other secondary schools from September - at 3,000 apiece.

It wants to use this to continue its own educational development and to set up other schools in its image.

So it is using some of the income to back the new Walsall City Academy in the West Midlands, to be formed as a technology specialist on the site of TP Riley School in Bloxwich.

Another 1m for that academy is coming from The Mercers' Company - the City of London's premier livery company or guild, founded in 1394 - which also co-sponsored Thomas Telford when it was set up as a city technology college in 1991.

Thomas Telford's head teacher, Kevin Satchwell, said: "This is just the beginning. We have aspirations to support the establishment of other city academies and specialist schools, particularly in the West Midlands.

"I believe that this is the first time within our education system that a school has provided 1m towards the establishment of another school."

Business spirit

He said the government's de-regulation of secondary schooling had made this possible.

"The government have lubricated the mechanism. If people or organisations are up for it, it's quite possible that you can get on and do things for other kids and other communities.

"We were set up to achieve high standards through effective practice - then share it."

He is also looking to back some of the specialist schools, which the government intends half of England's comprehensives to become.

And Mr Satchwell encourages other schools to follow suit - and not be worried about getting involved in commercial activities.

"There's nothing complex about business, it isn't rocket science," he said.

"The complexities of running a school in my view are far more demanding and onerous than running a business."

Privatised school

The only other similar instance would be the running of the first "privatised" state school, King's College in Guildford, by 3E's - the enterprise arm of Kingshurst City Technology College, Solihull.

But in that case capital for refurbishment came from the school's local authority owners, Surrey County Council.

The new Walsall academy will follow the Thomas Telford model, which includes a longer than usual study week of 35 hours, four-weekly reports to parents and an online curriculum.

"The prospect of thousands of children over the coming years in the Bloxwich and Walsall area being able to receive the highest quality education available has to be a good thing," Mr Satchwell said.

City involvement

The first business and enterprise city academies bring to nine the total announced since the government introduced the concept last year, building on the Conservatives' city technology colleges.

Ministers describe them as "publicly-funded independent schools", intended to raise achievement in deprived urban areas.

The City of London Academy (Southwark) will be sponsored by the Corporation of London with 2m.

The corporation intends to encourage the involvement of the schools and other institutions it owns in the independent sector, such as the City of London School and the Guildhall School for Music and Drama.

The chair of its policy and resources committee Judith Mayhew, said the business-oriented curriculum of the new academy fitted with its aim of enhancing the City of London's role as "the world's leading international financial and business services centre".

"We expect to demonstrate the value of City-related topics in providing a vital and exciting, yet practical dimension to the school curriculum," she said.

Primary school

"More than that, we see the opportunity to broaden the horizons of young people in a neighbouring borough, to raise their aspirations and achievements and to improve the supply of appropriately skilled local employees for the City."

David Garrard, chairman of property company Minerva plc, will support the new Bexley Business Academy with a capital contribution of 2m.

"I believe that the youth of our country deserves a chance to learn within an environment that nurtures and encourages their enthusiasm, gives them a sense of purpose and pride in their school, their teaching staff and in one another," Mr Garrard said.

The Department for Education said it was intended that the Bexley academy would, "at some future date", take advantage of the proposal in the green paper on the future of secondary schools to allow for all-age city academies, "incorporating a primary school and thus creating the first establishment of its kind in England".

The six proposed city academies already announced are in Brent, Lambeth, Haringey, Middlesbrough, Liverpool and Hillingdon.

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See also:

21 Feb 01 | Education
Comprehensive sells online course
16 Nov 00 | Education
Comprehensive's 100% at GCSE
15 Mar 00 | Education
Anger at scheme for failing schools
12 Oct 00 | Education
Church backs latest 'city academy'
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