Academy - The Movie packs families in

The lure of the silver screen, impressive special effects and free popcorn have been packing in audiences at the screening of a new film in Milton Keynes.

But it was not the latest blockbuster that grabbed their attention; it was a parents' evening about a new school.

The Milton Keynes Academy, which opens next September, does not yet have a building to show prospective pupils and parents. In its place, the school arranged the screening of a computer-generated "fly-through" of its grounds and facilities.

Lorna Caldicott, the academy's principal, said its predecessor school would have attracted no more than 20 or 30 parents to an opening evening. By contrast, the event at the cinema had attracted almost 400 adults and children.

"We had hired a cinema holding 234 people but we soon realised that we were going to need another screening," she said.

"It's a really quirky way to launch a school and has never been done before. But as an enterprising, forward thinking school, we felt this was an excellent way to show parents and pupils what we will offer.

"It obviously feels different to trudging around a school."

Parents who had to wait for the second screening of the film were meanwhile given a free drink and free popcorn in the cinema bar.

Rita Himid, a mother-of-two, said that parents had been impressed by the academy's novel way of promoting itself.

The pound;27 million, 1,500-pupil academy, which is being sponsored by the charity Edge, will replace Sir Frank Markham Community School.

It will change its school calendar by introducing six-week terms, a shorter summer holiday and a two-week autumn break.

Pupils will take their key stage 3 Sats at the end of Year 8 instead of Year 9 in order to allow them more time to study for GCSEs.

The school, which will have a business and enterprise specialism, will feature a Roman-style outdoor performance area and all-weather sports pitches. It will also have four main learning blocks, for dance, drama and film studies; science; food and technology; and art.

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