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Academy taps into wealth of the past

SPECIALIST schools are forging links with ever more diverse partners, from sailing clubs to the Royal Academy of Music.

Now the vast educational resources of the capital's finest museums will be on tap for a science academy being planned in west London.

The Chelsea Academy will be the only sixth-form college to have its specialism formally linked to the world-famous institutions - the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Victoria amp; Albert in South Kensington.

Kensington and Chelsea council said its plans received a fillip this week when the Department for Education and Skills approved preliminary work on the scheme.

The academy is expected to open in 2005. One possible site is in Hortensia Road in Chelsea, only a few minutes' walk from the museums.

Barry Wood, a council spokesman, said: "Many schools have yearly trips to these museums, but our intention is for pupils at the new school to have daily access to their facilities."

One of the scheme's sponsors, City financier Martyn Arbib, has promised pound;2 million towards the building costs. The local authority has been trying to establish a new secondary school since the early 1990s. Fewer than 30 per cent of pupils from the borough's primaries go on to its four secondaries.

Council leader Merrick Cockell said: "It is a source of regret that when many of our 11-year-olds leave for secondary school not all their destinations meet royal borough standards. Our challenge now is to create a school worthy of the borough, its children and of Mr Arbib's generosity."

Other links forged by specialist schools include the partnership between St Augustine's CofE School in Westminster and the Hilton hotel chain. The technology school has a catering suite funded by the company.

Copthall School in Mill Hill, London, specialises in business and enterprise. Its sponsor, the Royal Bank of Scotland, provides business "mentors" to advise students.

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