Academies of excellence...

Adi Bloom

West London academy is one of nine city academies to open this year.

All are intended to replace struggling comprehensives.

There are now 12 city academies, with a total of 34 planned by 2006. Each has been set up with at least pound;10 million of government funding and pound;2m of private sponsorship.

Sponsors are free to vary teachers' pay and conditions and the hours of the school day. Two academies are considering introducing a five-term year, with shorter holidays.

Capital City academy, in Brent, which opened this term, has already announced that it will offer the International Baccalaureate, in place of A-levels. But the Government's much-vaunted initiative has not run entirely as planned.

Only a week after it was opened last September, Greig academy, in north London, was forced to launch an advertising campaign for pupils.

Of 200 available places, only 120 had been filled. Seven months later, it brought in a team of education experts to improve discipline and teaching.

An unofficial inspection team found that 26 per cent of lessons were poor, and that bad behaviour was linked to weak teaching.

But the DfES has defended the programme. A spokesperson said: "Academies are popular with parents, attracting more pupils than their predecessor schools. Teachers are excited about the new culture in the academies, and pupils are proud of their uniforms and of their schools."

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Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

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