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Last Updated: Monday, 7 November 2005, 12:51 GMT
Private school's academy plans
Belvedere School
Belvedere School could become a city academy by 2007 [School photo]
An independent school for girls is in negotiations over plans to join the state system as a city academy.

The Belvedere School in Liverpool could be the first school to respond to government moves to allow private schools to opt in to the state sector.

Belvedere is one of 25 schools run by the Girls' Day School Trust - and already operates a means-tested fee subsidy scheme for talented pupils.

The trust says the education department has been "very positive".

Letters about the discussions over the school's future are to be sent to parents, says a spokesperson for the trust (GDST).

'Positive outcome'

So far no decisions had been reached, but "intensive discussions" with the Department for Education and Skills were underway which could lead to the school's joining the state sector in autumn 2007 at the earliest.

The GDST says it is confident of a "positive outcome of these discussions".

The government's White Paper, published last month, set out plans for independent schools to be invited to become self-governing city academies - on condition that they ceased to charge fees and did not select on ability.

The GDST says there are proposals for the school to adopt "banding" for its admissions system, allocating places to pupils of different abilities.

And the school would specialise in modern languages, which would allow it to select up to 10% by aptitude.

If the plans go ahead, the GDST says it would "continue to run and manage the academy".

The GDST says the Belvedere School is the only one of its institutions making plans to become a city academy - and that the Belvedere School's interest reflected its current approach to admissions.

It has an "open access entrance exam" - which offers places to the most able pupils, based on tests taken by applicants.

Any of the girls who qualify for a place are able to receive a means-tested subsidy for all or part of the fees.

This financial aid is provided by the Girls' Day School Trust and the Sutton Trust education charity.

The Sutton Trust's chairman, Sir Peter Lampl, says he welcomes the plan for the school to become a city academy.

Sir Peter says he had previously objected to the high cost of setting up city academies - but this conversion process would "create a low-cost academy from a school with a high academic reputation".

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