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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 July, 2004, 00:07 GMT 01:07 UK
Faith groups back more academies
student writing
Christian groups see opportunities in the new academies
A Christian charity is setting up a consultancy to advise church groups on running city academies in England.

Faithworks said it would advise Christian organisations "interested in looking into the opportunities provided by the city academy scheme".

City academies are independent state schools with outside sponsorship set up to replace failing schools.

Faith groups are involved in two of the 12 that have opened and 13 of the 31 in development.

For the most part these are backed by Church of England organisations and Roman Catholic dioceses.

'Inclusive admissions'

The government has said it intends to have 200 academies by 2010, to include refurbishing old schools as well as rebuilding them.

The Faithworks consultancy service, which will begin operating from September, follows this week's announcement that the Oasis Trust, of which it is a part, will be sponsoring a city academy in Enfield, North London.

The Oasis City Academy - a partnership between the trust, the Department for Education and Skills and Enfield Council - is due to open in September 2007.

The trust was founded by a Baptist minister, Steve Chalke, and says it now has more than 400 staff, students and volunteers, "pioneering educational, healthcare and housing initiatives in the UK and across the globe".

He said the Enfield academy would have an inclusive admissions policy, accepting pupils regardless of their faith or academic ability.

Biblical authority

"This is a wonderful opportunity for Oasis to demonstrate that at the heart of the Christian faith is the imperative to serve others," he said.

"Our goal is to ensure that the Oasis City Academy is an example of innovation and excellence."

Another group, Christian Vision, plans to sponsor two more academies, in addition to the Grace Academy already due to open in Chelmsley Wood in Solihull in the West Midlands in 2006.

It believes that "the Bible was fully inspired by God and is the ultimate authority in matters of belief and behaviour."

It was founded by car-import and property entrepreneur Bob Edmiston, who says the academies will be based on Christian principles but will not be faith schools.

There are parallels with the academies set up by the Vardy Foundation, based on the Reg Vardy car dealerships in the North East, which caused controversy by teaching creationism alongside scientific accounts of evolution.

The developments upset the National Secular Society, which is opposed to the influence of religion in education.

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