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Sausages for a new academy

A meat magnate has joined forces with the Bishop of Leicester to sponsor the first academy to be given approval since MPs called for a re-think of the controversial school policy.

David Samworth, a nationwide manufacturer of sausages, pies, pasties and ready meals, will contribute capital funding towards the pound;20 million Church of England school in Leicester.

The Government is seeking financial support from a growing range of sponsors to help it hit its target of having 200 state-funded independent schools in development by 2010.

Saga, the company that specialises in holidays for older people, Peter Vardy, the Christian fundamentalist car dealer, and the property developer David Garrard are among the sponsors who have been signed up for the programme.

Football clubs such as Bristol City have also been linked to the schools, which have been criticised for their high cost and freedom from the usual school regulations.

Last month, the Commons education select committee called on the Government to halt the academies programme until it could show that the policy, designed to raise standards in deprived areas, actually worked.

The school will be built to serve 1,000 pupils on two of Leicester's most deprived estates from 2007. "These children deserve the best education we can provide, and the Church of England is proud to be a partner," said the bishop, the Rt Rev Tim Stevens.

Mr Samworth said: "All the partners in this project - the sponsors, diocese, council and the staff and parents - are committed to creating a school that will enhance opportunities."

The academy has been opposed by all the teacher unions.

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