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How now brown-site cow?

Urban schools with links to city farms allowed to apply for rural specialist status, reports Michael Shaw

INNER-CITY schools, even those in the shadow of tower blocks, will be able to apply for the new rural specialist status. The Department for Education and Skills launched the new specialism earlier in the year so schools in rural areas could "reflect local interests".

But officials at the Specialist Schools Trust have now decided to let urban schools also apply because they believe it will appeal to those with links to city farms.

Schools will be expected to bid for another specialism as well as rural status. If successful, they will have to spend part of the extra funding on projects or equipment that bring rural-related elements into the curriculum.

One city school strongly considering applying is Reddish Vale technology college in Stockport, Greater Manchester.

The school has its own working farm where pupils care for animals including pigs, sheep and turkeys. Staff had to cope with an escaped cow during an inspection.

The Specialist Schools Trust suggests that rural specialists could emphasise subjects such as forest stewardship in geography lessons.

Jenny Campbell, deputy head of Reddish Vale, said the school already brought farm animals into many subjects, in discussions on behaviour management. "The farm is central to the school and rural status would allow us to make our work a stronger part of ICT and design and technology," she said.

Other new specialisms which schools can apply for from October include English, history, geography and music. Schools that want specialist status must raise pound;50,000. They then get a one-off capital grant of pound;100,000 and pound;123 per pupil for four years.

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