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Move to more creationist schools meets opposition

Campaigns to block academies planned for Northumberland and London gained pace this week.

More than 1,000 people have signed a petition against an academy proposed for Blyth by the Emmanuel Schools Foundation, a controversial Christian group set up by car dealer Sir Peter Vardy.

In north London, a 95 per cent of staff at Islington Green school opposed its plans to become an academy, sponsored by the City of London and London university.

The campaign against the Blyth academy is being led by Geoff Holmes of the NASUWT. He said people were concerned by the Emmanuel Schools Foundation's support for teaching biblical creationism in science lessons. They feel an academy might undo the success of a recent merger of secondary schools, which had united the town, Mr Holmes said.

"People are concerned about the social effects as well as the links with creationism," he said.

Sir Peter Vardy said the education charity, which already sponsors Emmanuel college in Gateshead and academies in Middlesbrough and Doncaster, was invited to sponsor the academy by Northumberland council because of its strong record.

"We see the proposal as an exciting and positive opportunity for young people and the community at large and we believe it would help to reduce the number of children who are currently leaving Blyth for their schooling," he said.

"It is our experience that hearsay and misinformation are rife in the run-up to a formal public consultation, with people pushing their own agendas."

The campaign against the transformation of Islington Green school, where the Prime Minister declined to send his children, has been led by the NUT.

It organised the staff ballot, which followed an announcement by the headteacher, Trevor Averre-Beeson, that he will be stepping down after five years at the school. He Mr said his decision to leave for a job organising a network of London headteachers had nothing to do with its proposed academy status.

"I can leave, secure in the knowledge that the school will continue to improve," he said. "I'm absolutely certain an academy is right for the school. It will bring fantastic resources to a community that's been starved of educational resources for 25 years."

Mr Averre-Beeson has been credited with transforming the comprehensive, which has gone from special measures to oversubscription during his tenure.

But he said he was most likely to be remembered as the man who introduced the school's purple colour scheme.

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