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Last Updated: Friday, 29 December 2006, 14:00 GMT
MP withdraws her son from academy
Karen Buck
Karen Buck said she supported the idea of city academies
The government has defended its programme of city academies after it emerged that a Labour MP was taking her son out of an academy in London.

Karen Buck, a former transport minister, said she will move her son, aged 12, to a local comprehensive after one term at the Paddington Academy.

Ms Buck said the teaching facilities and accommodation were "appalling".

The Department for Education and Skills said the academy had made a "sound start" in difficult circumstances.

The Paddington Academy, which is run by an Anglican charity, the United Learning Trust (ULT), was due to open this September in a new 25m building, with the latest in computer and internet technology.

But problems with one of the sub-contractors meant it was not ready in time and it had to open in the buildings of the old North Westminster Community School - the school it was replacing.

The school closed with one of the biggest budget deficits in England and a rate of only 25% of pupils gaining five or more GCSEs at grade C or above.

This compares to 59% of England's secondary school pupils achieving these results in 2006.

'Personal dilemma'

Ms Buck stressed that she supported Tony Blair's vision for city academies, but had concerns about the Paddington Academy's progress.

Tony Blair
City academies are part of Tony Blair's drive to improve schools

"I've been making representations to the sponsors and to the Department of Education for over three years around some of these difficulties," she said.

"You know, I've personally found it extremely difficult, to be making those representations and arguing for resources whilst being a parent.

"It's not an in-principle objection to the government's academy programme. It is an expression of concern over this particular academy."

'Sound start'

The Department for Education and Skills said ULT was making a number of improvements.

"The academy has got off to a sound start in turning around the very difficult situation it inherited," he said.

"The department is working closely with ULT to support the academy this year and to ensure that the academy's outstanding new buildings are completed in time for next summer." Academies were "transforming results" across the country, he added.

The problems at Paddington City Academy were investigated in a recent BBC Newsnight documentary.

According to documents seen by the programme's makers, the school's toilets were an alleged health hazard, less than half the computers worked, rubbish was dumped on the premises and graffiti written on its walls.

Ms Buck resigned as transport minister in February.

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