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Islington academy plans back on track

An academy planned for the London borough of Islington looks like going ahead, despite its original sponsor pulling out of the scheme.

The change of plans for the school in north London came in another busy week for academies in which several new backers stepped forward for projects across England.

Ark (Absolute Return for Kids), an international charity chaired by Arpad Busson, the millionaire financier and husband of model Elle MacPherson, withdrew sponsorship of an academy to replace Islington Green secondary and Moreland primary after a study identified problems establishing a 3-18 school on a split site.

But Islington council and the Department for Education and Skills said they had already begun talks with a potential sponsor about creating an 11-18 academy to replace Islington Green.

The DfES is in talks with prospective sponsors of more than 100 academies and the 63 already open or in development, suggesting the Government could meet its target to create 200 by 2010.

Two private schools are also supporting academies - but with their expertise rather than cash.

The pound;20,000-a-year Millfield school in Somerset, the UK's largest mixed boarding school, is backing the City academy in Bristol, opened two years ago. Marlborough college, the pound;21,000-a-year boarding school in Wiltshire, which numbers Princess Eugenie among its pupils, is planning a similar link with an unnamed academy in the Home Counties.

In Coventry, Bob Edmiston, a Christian evangelist millionaire, is to sponsor an academy to replace Woodway Park school.

A single academy will replace two other Coventry schools: Barr's Hill and Sidney Stringer, where Estelle Morris, a former education secretary, once taught. The council has yet to find a sponsor.

The DfES confirmed this week that it had decided to pay off the pound;1.4 million debt of one of the least successful academies so far, Unity in Middlesbrough.

However, the Office for National Statistics denied reports that it was to end the academies' "independent" status as a result of the incident because it had always listed the state-funded schools as government expenditure.

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