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Last Updated: Friday, 3 September, 2004, 11:02 GMT 12:02 UK
Parents 'auction' school on eBay
Pupils' feet
The government wants 200 city academies by 2010
Parents have put a school up for auction on eBay for 2m in protest at plans to turn it into a city academy sponsored by group which promotes Christianity.

The Vardy Foundation is offering that amount of money to ensure the change of status for Northcliffe school, a comprehensive in Doncaster.

Schools which become city academies are directly accountable to Whitehall rather than local authorities.

Parents say they are worried by a potential loss of accountability.

'Creationsim on the quiet'

The Vardy Foundation was set up by entrepreneur Sir Peter Vardy, who made his fortune with a chain of car dealerships.

A committed Christian, he has defended the way that the foundation's schools present both the Bible account of creation and the Darwinian theory of species evolving over time.

According to the eBay advert, subjects, especially science, will present "creationism on the quiet".

The top bid received when BBC News Online viewed the site was 10 pence.

Tracy Morton, spokeswoman for the Conisbrough And Denaby Parents Action Group, organising the auction, accused the Vardy Group or censorship, saying it had banned Harry Potter books from libraries in other schools with which it was involved.

She said: "We are opposed to the whole idea of city academies.

"It means sponsors are more or less able to take schools out of state hands and put them into private hands.

"It also means concerns are not handled on a local level. City academies are also new, so they've got no track record."


Academies are state-funded and free to students, but have much more independence than mainstream secondary schools.

Sponsors have to put 2m towards start-up costs.

The government says involving outside organisations, including businesses and charities, will allow schools to serve the community more, improving performances in inner-cities.

Last week it highlighted the improved GCSE scores at several schools which have become academies, including the King's Academy in Middlesbrough, which is sponsored by the Vardy Foundation.

But critics say the severing of links with local authorities gives sponsors too much power.

The first city academy opened in 2002, with 200 planned by 2010.

Last November, inspectors found Northcliffe was a failing school and placed it in special measures.

Ms Morton said: "The school hasn't had a lot of time in special measures. Before the inspection, it had been praised."

The Vardy Foundation, which is sponsoring the academy via its offshoot the Emmanuel Schools Foundation, declined to comment.

However, the Emmanuel Schools Foundation website says the organisation has been "pilloried as a creationist propaganda machine, seeking to infiltrate state education and poison children's minds".

But none of its schools had "ever sought to operate as faith schools" , as they had not provided a "specific brand of religious teaching to a specially selected and exclusive intake".

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28 Jun 04  |  Education

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