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Page last updated at 18:00 GMT, Wednesday, 14 April 2010 19:00 UK

Candidates debate Portland's new 30m academy bid

Dorset South's three main candidates have been discussing the planned £30m academy on Portland, which has received a mixed response in the constituency.

Jim Knight, the sitting Labour MP, said academies had "transformed education and raised communities' aspirations".

Conservative candidate Richard Drax said his party generally supported academies "but not all were a success".

Liberal Democrat candidate Rosamond Kayes said her party was worried about other schools losing out on funding.

The academy, which was given the go-ahead by the government in July last year, would replace the island's six schools from September 2011.

It will cater for babies to 19-year-olds.

Mr Knight told BBC Radio Solent: "As schools minister, I was responsible for the academies programme for a couple of years and I have seen they have transformed education and raised aspirations for whole communities.

Facebook debate

"I don't think this is an issue that substantially divides the three parties.

"Certainly the Conservatives want to see a rapid expansion of the academies programme."

However, Mr Drax added: "Not all academies are succeeding across the country and there are a significant number of people on the island who do not agree with this.

"They agree, for example, that their school St Georges [Primary] - [which is] trying to get foundation status - is independent and runs an extremely good education system.

"They are concerned about being consumed into, in effect, a sort of state-run huge umbrella over the whole island, where babies go in one end and adults come out the other."

A Say No To Portland Academy Facebook page has attracted more than 280 members, while and a Portland Says 'Yes' to the academy Facebook page has attracted more than 124 members.

Junior school pupils writing
The new academy will cater for 0-19 year olds

Ms Kayes told BBC Radio Solent: "I think [Mr Knight] has made a fundamental error there.

"One of our concerns about the academies is, as with the grant maintained schools under the previous Conservative administration, that they draw funding away from other existing schools in the mainstream system.

"What we want to see is an equality of funding spread overall rather than some select schools even if they are in areas where there is a distinct amount of social deprivation."

Green Party candidate Brian Heatley told BBC News: "I am not on the whole in favour of academies.

"State-funded schools should be under the ultimate control of democratically elected local authorities, not under the control of a sponsor."

UK Independence Party candidate Mike Hobson said: "England needs as much educational and technical assistance as possible in the future.

"Portland is ideally placed for expansion in the South of England, and with the right teachers and backing to university standards will bring England to the fore."

  • The candidates announced for Dorset South so far are: Labour: Jim Knight; Conservative: Richard Drax; Liberal Democrats: Rosamond Kayes; Green Party: Brian Heatley; UK Independence Party: Mike Hobson.

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