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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 February, 2005, 11:26 GMT
Call for growth in city academies
There are calls to expand so-called Christian city academies in the north-east of England.

Church leaders in Newcastle are urging city councillors to agree a deal with North East businessman Sir Peter Vardy.

The Vardy Foundation has already set up schools which adopt a controversial "creationist" curriculum.

Neighbouring Sunderland City Council is also being urged to accept an offer from Sir Peter to establish a similar city academy on Wearside.

Schools in deprived urban areas can apply to become academies if they raise 2m from private sponsors.

The government then tops this up, typically by about 25m.

Newcastle and Sunderland know I'd be willing to help with an academy
Sir Peter Vardy

But some teachers fear they may be paid less and have their rights undermined because academies can opt out of national pay negotiations and set their own curriculum.

Newcastle has already agreed in principal that a "non-religious" city academy be built with cash help from Scottish multi-millionaire Lord Irvine Laidlaw.

But a group of church leaders have called on the Lib-Dem-controlled authority to switch to one funded by the Vardy Foundation.

Newcastle's proposed academy would replace West Gate Community College and be located on a different site, with 90% of pupils taken from the local area.

Religious beliefs

Newcastle City Council says is not considering any faith academies, but stresses the government will make the final decision.

In neighbouring Sunderland, a group of opposition conservative councillors are lobbying for the Vardy Foundation to be allowed to set up a Christian city academy in the borough.

They say the academy could replace an existing failing school in the city.

Reverend Paul Merton, of Westgate Road Baptist Church in Newcastle, said: "We believe that a school with a strong respect for religious beliefs, morality and discipline is the sort of school that many, if not most parents want for their children."

Sir Peter Vardy said: "Newcastle and Sunderland know I'd be willing to help with an academy.

"You've got to help the North East's youngsters first."




SEE ALSO:
School plan axed after protests
14 Oct 04 |  South Yorkshire
Concern over Bible-based lessons
23 Jul 04 |  Education
Academy would mean school closure
09 Nov 04 |  Tyne/Wear
City academies 'worry teachers'
01 Nov 04 |  Education
Blair in academy talks with heads
26 Oct 04 |  Education


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