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From Regis to King thanks to God

A pioneer comprehensive has been saved by a partnership with a Church school. Karen Thornton reports

One of England's first four comprehensives looks set to close - and reopen in an unusual partnership with a Church of England school.

David Blunkett, the Education and Employment Secretary, is "minded to approve" the closure of Regis School in Wolverhampton. Opened in the 1950s, its founding headteacher was the first in the country to be knighted.

Regis school would be born again in September as a denominational school in a joint foundation with St Peter's, its more successful Church of England neighbour. The two 11 to 18 schools would have a common principal but separate headteachers, governing bodies and admissions policies.

Stephen Byers, the school standards minister, said the move would provide a fresh start for Regis - to be renamed the King's School - and was "an excellent example of an authority taking decisive action to improve standards at a school which was in decline".

Regis opened in 1955 under headteacher Godfrey Cretney. He was knighted in 1966 for his efforts to spread comprehensive education and died in post five years later.

But two years ago, an inspection by Wolverhampton education officers suggested the once pioneering school was at risk of failing. There were also concerns about falling rolls.

The authority sought a partner school to help turn Regis around, and St Peter's headteacher Peter Crook was drafted in as acting head. Regis subsequently got through an inspection by the Office for Standards in Education last May without any serious weaknesses being found.

However, the report did focus on the school's ageing facilities. The unusual foundation arrangement means the education authority can reinvest in the school what the Church pays for the site - expected to be around pound;700,000.

The investment will provide a "faith centre", community theatre, and new science and technology laboratories.

The arrangement also permits admissions policies that allow the school to continue to serve an inner-city multicultural community which has no local school of its own, as well as its immediate area.

And it will increase the number of Anglican school places available in Wolverhampton to levels comparable with similar areas.

Bob Jones, the authority's former education chairman, said: "We analysed the options and looked at links with various schools. St Peter's was chosen because it has an excellent record, it was one of the closest, and it had the resilience and senior management team to cope with temporarily helping two schools.

"One of the problems was that the amount of investment required would be a major drain on other schools. By the device of a foundation, we are able to reinvest the price of the school back into it without taking away funds from other schools."

The Reverend Peter Lister, director of education for Lichfield Diocese, said a very positive partnership had developed between the two schools, their governing bodies, the Church and the education authorities.

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