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Church cements link with builders

The biblical wise man who built his house on firm foundations could be a role model for pupils at a new Christian academy. Clare Dean reports

THE Church of England is to help set up a city academy specialising in the construction industry.

It is to put pound;1 million into the project, which will combine a Christian ethos with a curriculum that includes building, surveying and technology.

Education Secretary Estelle Morris will be sent proposals within the next couple of months and church leaders hope the 1,000-place academy will open in 2004.

The new secondary school is planned for east Leeds and will also be sponsored by Intercity, a property developer. The Liverpool company has no links with the church.

Ian MacKenzie, education director of the diocese of Ripon and Leeds, said the academy would be entirely compatible with the Government's policy of promoting vocational qualifications.

"Intercity wants to assist in the regeneration of the inner city and ensure there is a good supply of young people who are interested in making a career in building.

"We see this as compatible with the Government's agenda for 14 to 19 and we are delighted to assist with it. Our job is to influence the ethos of the place."

The plan for the academy for 11 to 18-year-olds has yet to get Government backing but it has won the support of city councillors in Leeds.

The Construction Industry Training Board estimates that 370,000 new recruits are required by 2005. No doubt St Vincent Ferrer, the patron saint of builders, would approve of the Leeds plan.

Details emerged as education minister Stephen Timms said that too many young people are being required to do things at school which are not relevant to them.

"As a result they become fed-up and disillusioned and opt out," he told the Society of Education Officers' winter conference in Manchester last week.

With thousands of students due to start vocational GCSE courses in September, Mr Timms said there needed to be a change in attitude to the new qualifications.

A Green Paper on government plans to reform 14 to 19 education and training is due to go out to consultation later this month, opening up debate on how to increase choice at 14 and break down prejudices.

At its heart will be an overarching diploma or English baccalaureate with three strands: core subjects of English, maths and IT; other subjects and extra-curricular activities such as voluntary work.

Mr Timms told the SEO: "It is going to be very important when we identify vocational pathways that there are routes into higher education.

"The problem has been since the war that we have taken a dim view as a society on vocational qualifications. We shouldn't."

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