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Friday, 10 May, 2002, 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK
Church group to run multi-cultural school
Moss Side
The academy will serve the deprived community of Moss Side
A Christian charity is to take over control of a multi-cultural inner-city school in Manchester.

The non-profit-making Church Schools Company has pledged 575,000 to the costs of turning the struggling Ducie High School into the Moss Side City Academy.


This is not about religion, it's about education

Church Schools Company
The announcement has raised concerns from members of the National Union of Teachers at the school, who fear the ethos of the group may not be appropriate for a school with a high number of ethnic minority pupils.

Ducie High teacher Tony Harper said at least 26 different languages were spoken at the school.

"The development of a white, middle-class Christian ethos would be offensive in a school where more than 60% are from ethnic minorities," he said.

Mr Harper said the Church Schools Company was used to running independent schools "at the other end of the spectrum".

"These are primarily middle-class schools in parts of Britain where there are not many black and Asian pupils.

"So what gives them the experience to come here and do a better job? Do they think we haven't tried everything?"

'Sceptical'

Mr Harper was also concerned that turning the school into a city academy amounted to privatisation.

Staff members at the school were "extremely sceptical" about the whole project, he added.

A spokesman for the Church Schools Company said: "This is not about religion, it's about education."

"It's not about evangelising, it's about teaching to a very high standard," the spokesman said.

"None of our existing church schools is geared at anything other than the lightest touch of Christian ethos."

Economic improvement

Chief executive of the group Ewan Harper said: "We are delighted to be working for children in Moss Side."

"They deserve the best opportunities that a lively, high quality education can offer, so that they will become fully participating members of society," he said.

The School Standards Minister, Stephen Timms, said the project in Manchester would give "a big boost to the life chances of the pupils in Moss Side and Hulme".

"It will also contribute to the economic and social improvement of the local community," he said.

London school

The educational charity, which runs eight independent schools, hopes to sponsor a number of city academies and has already won approval to set up such a school in Lambeth, south London.

City academies are publicly funded, non-selective schools.

The government wants to see at least 20 opened by 2005.

The aim is to raise a educational achievement in inner cities by giving these schools greater freedom than is available to those in the maintained sector - for example, to depart from the national curriculum.

The government is currently working on legislation to introduce city academies for all age groups and to establish them in rural as well as urban areas.

See also:

18 Jan 02 | Education
Church group to run state school
12 Oct 00 | Education
Church backs latest 'city academy'
15 Mar 00 | Correspondents
City academy, US-style
15 Mar 00 | Education
Anger at scheme for failing schools
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