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Last Updated: Friday, 25 July, 2003, 15:36 GMT 16:36 UK
Spy cameras in every class
A new school funded by a Christian charity is to put closed circuit TV cameras in every classroom to clamp down on rowdy pupils.

King's Academy in Middlesbrough is being set up by the Vardy Foundation.

The charity says the CCTV cameras will be there to protect teachers, not to spy on them, and that teachers will see an improvement in pupils' behaviour.

The 22m school is opening in September, with pupils and teachers coming from two schools with poor academic records which are closing down.

At the closing schools - Brackenhoe and Coulby Newham - the number of children getting five good GCSEs is well below the national average - 21% and 28% respectively last year.

The national average was 51.5%.

The charity - established by Sir Peter Vardy - contributed 2m to the school.

Sir Peter's brother David Vardy is the director of the Vardy Foundation's Schools projects.

"It's a state of the art building with sophisticated electronic equipment," he said.

"We needed a security system to make sure the equipment was there for the children's lessons and we also thought about the protection of teachers. It was cheaper and made sense to put it all in now.

"It's not about spying. The classrooms have glazed panels on one side so the principal can walk along and see what is happening anyway."

Disbelieving parents

Teaching unions are unhappy about closed circuit TV cameras in classrooms, because they see it as a way of monitoring teachers, although they recognise the cameras may protect teachers from false allegations by pupils.

CCTV cameras are already used in some schools, especially in corridors and playgrounds, but it is unusual for a school to have cameras in every classroom.

Manchester City Council wants to install cameras linked to web-technology in classrooms in some of its schools.

It has applied for funding from the Department for Education and Skills to put cameras in five schools where behaviour is a problem.

The council says the cameras could be used to show some parents how badly their children behave, because it says some parents do not believe school accounts of what has goes on.

Raising aspirations

The Vardy Foundation was at the centre of a row over the teaching of creationism at the first school it set up - Emmanuel College in Gateshead.

Some scientists criticised the school for teaching creationism alongside evolution.

The charity wants to sponsor more schools in the north east of England and has recently been named as the sponsor of a City Academy planned for Doncaster.

Its aim, David Vardy says, is to improve standards in education and "turn out young, responsible citizens who are an asset to the region".

"We are in an area where schools are often at the bottom end of the table," he said.

"Middlesbrough is not an affluent area. Children need to be given an opportunity to develop their potential, to lift their heads up and see what is possible.

"And we need to let parents see that there is a great future for their children if they can encourage them and support them and their schools."

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