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Last Updated: Monday, 21 June, 2004, 12:17 GMT 13:17 UK
Protest over new academy
academy coat of arms
Trinity Academy, Doncaster will be the third Vardy academy
Parents and pupils have staged a protest over plans to have their school taken over by a foundation that promotes the teaching of creationism.

Northcliffe School in Conisbrough, near Doncaster, was judged to be failing by school inspectors earlier this year.

Now the Emmanuel Schools Foundation wants to turn the school into its fourth college in the north.

It has colleges in Middlesbrough and Gateshead and plans to open another one in Thorne, also near Doncaster.

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

Sir Peter, a committed Christian, 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.

The young people of Conisbrough and Denaby are growing up in a severely deprived area
Sir Peter Vardy
He insists both views are presented to the children, encouraging them to consider the claims of the Bible alongside the standard national curriculum, allowing them to make up their own minds.

But parents and teachers are concerned there will be no local representation over the running of the new academy-style school.

The project is currently under consultation and public meetings will be held later this month and throughout July.

Some parents, students, teachers, governors and other worker at the school held a public protest on Saturday, with banners saying "save our schools".


The National Union of Teachers representative for the school, Matthew Bailey, said the union was concerned about the privatisation of education.

Mr Bailey said the foundation would have a huge say in the running of the school for a relatively small stake in it.

"And as head of science at the school, I object to the way the foundation urges its schools to place equal weight on creationism over the theory of natural selection," he said.

"Parents' concerns are mixed, broadly about privatisation and beyond that they're concerned the needs of the local community won't be met."

But the local mayor, Martin Winter, said he wanted to see more of the independent but state-funded city academies in Doncaster.

"The new state-of-the-art academy will have an enormous impact on the communities of Conisbrough and Denaby, forging new opportunities and prospects in an area that has faced challenges over the years," he said.

Raising standards

Sir Peter's organisation aims to improve the level of education for young people in inner-city areas.

"The young people of Conisbrough and Denaby are growing up in a severely deprived area," he said.

"Education can make an enormous difference to their futures and they deserve to be given fresh opportunities through high quality education in school buildings that are the best we can provide.

"Doncaster is a forward-thinking local authority and has always understood what the foundation is trying to do to raise educational standards in the North of England.

"Like us, they are determined to offer the best possible future for Doncaster's young people."

'Creationist' schools attacked
28 Apr 03  |  Education
Warning of confusion over Creationism
27 Mar 02  |  Education

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